Wilmer Mizell

Wilmer Mizell

Wilmer David Mizell
Born: (1930-08-13)August 13, 1930
Vinegar Bend, Alabama
Died: February 21, 1999(1999-02-21) (aged 68)
Kerrville, Texas
Batted: Right Threw: Left
MLB debut
April 22, 1952, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last MLB appearance
July 25, 1962, for the New York Mets
MLB statistics
Win-loss record 90-88
Earned run average 3.85
Strikeouts 918
Career highlights and awards
Wilmer David Mizell
Mizell during his time in Congress
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1975
Preceded by Nick Galifianakis
Succeeded by Stephen L. Neal
Personal details
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Nancy Mizell (1st wife, died), Ruth Mizell
Religion Protestant

Wilmer David "Vinegar Bend" Mizell (August 13, 1930 – February 21, 1999) was an American left-handed pitcher in major league baseball who went on to serve three terms as a Republican U.S. congressman from North Carolina between 1969 and 1975. He represented North Carolina's 5th congressional district, including Winston-Salem.

Early life

Mizell was born near Vinegar Bend, Alabama, the source of his nickname. He was reared in nearby Leakesville, Mississippi, where he graduated from high school in 1949.


He was a professional pitcher between 1949 and 1963, although he served in the United States Army during 1953 and 1954. "Vinegar Bend" began his Major League Baseball career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1952, continuing through 1953, and then again (following military service) from 1956-60. Mizell then joined the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1960–1962, winning one championship, and spent time with the expansion New York Mets in 1962 before retiring.

In a nine-season career, Mizell was 90-88 with a 3.85 ERA in 268 games, 230 of which were starts. He pitched 61 complete games, including 15 shutouts. He allowed 654 earned runs and struck out 918 in 1528 and 2/3 innings pitched.

After leaving baseball, Mizell worked in sales and public relations for the Pepsi-Cola company in Winston-Salem until 1967.


Mizell entered North Carolina politics in the 1960s. He was elected to the Davidson County board of commissioners in 1966. He was the chairman of the board for the two years when he was a member.

In 1968, Mizell, a Republican, was elected to represent the 5th District in the 91st United States Congress. A previous Republican candidate, G. Fred Steele, Jr., had polled 46.9 percent of the vote in District 5 in 1966; Steele's showing helped prepare the district for a party transformation in 1968. Mizell defeated Democratic nominee Smith Bagley, an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company official, 84,905 (52.4 percent) to 77,112 (47.6 percent). The previous 5th District representative, Democrat Nick Galifianakis, was moved to the 4th District for the 1968 elections. Mizell was the first Republican to be elected in decades from the 5th District, which was based in Winston-Salem and included much of the northwestern part of the state. He was one of the most popular congressmen in Washington and one of the most conservative.

Mizell's 1972 Member of Congress license plate

In 1970, Mizell defeated Democrat James G. White, 68,937 (58.1 percent) to 49,663 (41.9 percent). In 1972, he trounced former liberal Arkansas Congressman Brooks Hays, who had moved to North Carolina, 101,375 (64.8 percent) to 54,986 (35.2 percent).

Mizell may have thought that his 1972 margin would insulate him from further Democratic challenges in 1974. The Watergate scandal had an impact on Republican House members. Mizell was unseated by Democrat Stephen L. Neal, 64,634 (52 percent) to 59,182 (47.6 percent). In his 1974 defeat, Mizell polled less than three fifths of the total votes that he had received in 1972.

President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., a former House colleague, appointed Mizell as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, a post he held from March 1975 to May 1976.

In 1976, Mizell challenged Neal again and lost, 83,129 (45.6 percent) to 98,789 (54.2 percent). Neal, a strong supporter of the Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter, polled almost the same raw vote as Mizell had four years earlier, when he was running on the Nixon--Agnew slate.

In 1981, Mizell was appointed

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