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Boteler, convicted of stealing highway funds, dead at 96

LELAND — E.L. Boteler Jr., a former highway director and state House member who went to prison after being convicted of embezzling public money, has died.

Senate President Pro Tem Terry Burton, a Newton Republican, said a grandson told lawmakers that Boteler died Thursday at his home in Leland. He was 96.

A memorial service for Boteler is scheduled Tuesday at Leland Presbyterian Church.

Boteler served in the state House from 1956 to 1972, later becoming director of what is now the Mississippi Department of Transportation. There, Boteler was indicted for stealing $200,000 in public money in 1975. Boteler said the department was repaying him for money he had given to Northern District Highway Commissioner Herschel Jumper to lobby for highway bridges across the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

The trial caused ripples in Washington, D.C., after Boteler’s defense implied that some of the money had gone to then-U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph of West Virginia. The chairman of the Senate Public Works Committee, Randolph gave a floor speech denying he had taken any money, with Mississippi Sens. James Eastland and John Stennis vouching for his integrity.

Boteler unsuccessfully appealed his case to the state Supreme Court. In upholding his conviction, the Mississippi court said, “There is no doubt from the testimony in this case that (Boteler) converted the funds to his own use.”

Boteler was paroled from prison in 1980 after two years, and then-Gov. William Winter restored his civil rights in 1983.

His first wife died in 1983. He is survived by his second wife Mary Boteler, whom he married in 1988, and by 10 children, 22 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. After moving to Leland, he and Mary Boteler restored a historic house and cultivated a garden that was featured in Southern Living in 2001. He also was active in the Presbyterian church.

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