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Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame names executive director

JACKSON — The accomplishments of the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame (MMHOF) since its inception just five short years ago are nothing short of amazing.

A book and a compact disc honoring great Mississippi musicians have already been released, and three annual induction ceremonies have been held. More than 60 Mississippi musicians are currently listed in the hall of fame and more induction ceremonies are planned for the future.

And now as the organization’s prestige grows, the board members of the MMHOF have selected a well-known Mississippian, Malcolm White, to serve as executive director.

White, the owner of Hal & Mal’s in Jackson, is perhaps best known for his work with such music festivals as Jubilee! Jam, Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade & Festival and the Elvis Presley Festival. Being selected to head up the MMHOF was an honor for White, but also a challenge.

“It is both invigorating and overwhelming at the same time,” White said. “It will be a monumental task to define the MMHOF, find an appropriate home for the public to visit, celebrate and experience this abundant heritage and to fundraise toward those ends in this economy.”

White became involved with the MMHOF through the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who have been in dialogue with the MMHOF for the past two years in an effort to help the organization realize its dreams of having a facility in Mississippi that will house the state’s musical heritage. White was originally approached to consider a food and beverage operation in conjunction with the museum experience. The idea of his becoming executive director came from discussions with the Choctaws and with Dr. Jim Brewer, MMHOF chairman of the board. Brewer said White is perfect for the job.

“I can’t think of anyone else more qualified to do this,” Brewer said. “We think he’s the right man for the job.”

MMHOF board member and associate professor of music at Jackson State University Dr. London Branch agreed.

“He is enthusiastic about the possibilities and brings a wealth of talent and skill to the position,” Branch said. “He is knowledgeable about Mississippi music and the musicians who made it. He is a tireless worker whom I am certain will take this wonderful project to the next level.”

White plans to continue Brewer’s work and the work of the MMHOF board in identifying, inducting and honoring Mississippi’s musicians and ultimately “finding a public space for the experience and raising the money necessary to construct such a facility.”

Currently the Delta, Jackson, Northeast Mississippi and Philadelphia are among the locations under consideration for the home of the new hall of fame. And while only one location will be chosen, the economic impact will stretch far beyond its walls.

“Cultural tourism is very important not only to the state’s economic development but also to its cultural pride and self-esteem,” White said. “Mississippi has for too long now simply given away our rightful musical heritage to neighboring states. The combination of positive imaging and tourism dollars sings only praises to the ears of all Mississippians. The missed opportunity is the story here.

“We have simply stood by and watched our heritage being marketed right from under our noses. The potential economic impact is our mission.”

Branch said that potential economic impact is endless. He suggested Mississippi could even become a center of musical commerce, developing a considerable recording industry in the state.

“Even now Malaco Recording Company of Jackson is possibly the largest independent recording company in the country and employs many Mississippi musicians and singers,” Branch said. “It is possible that increased entertainment and the presence of influential musicians who are willing to invest in Mississippi that a large entertainment industry will develop, thereby providing employment opportunities for both local musicians and Mississippi musicians who no longer live here.”

Brewer is looking forward to finding out what the future will hold for MMHOF under the new leadership of White.

“Mal has a proven record for making things happen,” Brewer said. “There is no question that he will take our organization to the next level of honoring our state’s great and unique musical heritage and its world renowned musicians. We are so pleased that he has agreed to be the executive director.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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