'Whirly' proteins comprise a plant-specific protein family whose members have been described as DNA-binding proteins that influence nuclear transcription and telomere maintenance, and that associate with nucleoids in chloroplasts and mitochondria. We identified the maize WHY1 ortholog among proteins that coimmunoprecipitate with CRS1, which promotes the splicing of the chloroplast atpF group II intron. ZmWHY1 localizes to the chloroplast stroma and to the thylakoid membrane, to which it is tethered by DNA. Genome-wide coimmunoprecipitation assays showed that ZmWHY1 in chloroplast extract is associated with DNA from throughout the plastid genome and with a subset of plastid RNAs that includes atpF transcripts. Furthermore, ZmWHY1 binds both RNA and DNA in vitro. A severe ZmWhy1 mutant allele conditions albino seedlings lacking plastid ribosomes; these exhibit the altered plastid RNA profile characteristic of ribosome-less plastids. Hypomorphic ZmWhy1 mutants exhibit reduced atpF intron splicing and a reduced content of plastid ribosomes; aberrant 23S rRNA metabolism in these mutants suggests that a defect in the biogenesis of the large ribosomal subunit underlies the ribosome deficiency. However, these mutants contain near normal levels of chloroplast DNA and RNAs, suggesting that ZmWHY1 is not directly required for either DNA replication or for global plastid transcription.