Hey, Mississippi, we did it and we got it right

(Today, I am cleaning out my home office and just found my column from the Oct. 13, 1992, Clarion-Ledger. Your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame opened its doors on July 4, 1996.)

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Much-maligned Mississippi has given so much to the world. From Elvis, to B.B., to Muddy Waters, to Leontyne Price.

From William Faulkner, to Richard Wright, to Miss Eudora, to Willie Morris, to Richard Ford.

From Bruiser Kinard, to Bailey Howell, to Archie Manning, to Walter Payton.

Mississippi, poor in so many material ways, has given its richest resource: our people. Our entertainers, writers and athletes are among our greatest gifts and a source of tremendous state pride. We should do all we can to honor them, but its exceedingly more difficult with our athletes.

After all, the singers leave behind their music, forever kept alive on vinyl. My son, who is 6, can sign along with Elvis Presley, although The King died long before my son was born. The authors are immortalized by their books and stories.

The athletes leave behind their records and memories. Unfortunately, records are broken and memories die with people. Many old-timers, most dead now, have told me that Bruiser Kinard was football’s greatest-ever lineman. My question: Who will tell the next generation?

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I have written in this space before about Mississippi’s need for a proper way to honor its sports legends. We do have a Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, but the plaques currently hang between a men’s room and a storage area on the first floor of the Mississippi Coliseum. Many are faded by the sun and scratched. We can do better.

HOF logoIf a group of Mississippi sports enthusiasts has its way, we will do better. The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, a non-profit, publicly supported charitable organization, envisions a Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Museum. The proposed museum would house not only the plaques, but memorabilia as well to commemorate our heroes.

The site is a natural — adjacent to the Jim Buck Ross Agricultural and Forestry Museum and across the parking lot from Smith-Wills Stadium. The proposed Hall of Fame Museum would incorporate the Dizzy Dean Museum, an almost forgotten jewel containing priceless artifacts and mementos that many organizations, including baseball’s Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, would love to have.

The catch, as usual, is funding. Approximately $100,000 in federal grant money has been secured to move the Dizzy Dean Museum. Preliminary plans call for a 2 million dollar facility. The Sports Hall of Fame Foundation’s aim is to raise money through public and corporate donations. The group kicked off its fund-raising drive Monday at the proposed site.

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The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Foundation envisions a museum that would include old footage of the great Bruiser roaming from sideline to sideline making tackles… of a museum that would tell children about Babe McCarthy’s powerhouse basketball teams of the ’60s… of a museum that would showcase the uniform and shoes Walter Payton wore when he became the leading rusher in pro football…of a museum that includes Dizzy Dean singing the Wabash Cannonball…of a museum that shows how then NAIA-member Mississippi Southern knocked off Alabama and Georgia in one season…of a museum with clips of that historic Alcorn-Mississippi State basketball game…of a museum that plays The Ballad of Archie Who while Stan Torgerson describes Manning running and throwing for touchdowns…of a museum that would tell how tiny Delta State, led by big Lusia Harris, won three straight national college basketball championships… and mostly of a museum that would both educate and inspire today’s young people and future generations.

Let’s do it.

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And now here we are nearly 23 years later. We did it.

To support your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, click here.

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