Jackson businessman and philanthropist Ben Puckett will receive the second-annual Rube Award at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum’s induction banquet Aug. 2.
The Rube Award, named for long-time Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum executive director Michael Rubenstein, is awarded to the person whose love and passion for — and contributions to — Mississippi sports have made a meaningful difference. The first Rube Award went to Boo Ferriss, former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and legendary former Delta State University baseball coach.
The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum’s board of directors selects the winner.
Puckett and two business partners formed Gilchrist Tractor Co. – which eventually became Puckett Machinery — in 1962 when they bought the old Stribling Bros. Machinery Co.
Puckett Machinery, which specializes in heavy equipment manufactured by Caterpillar , has become a Mississippi business institution.
Puckett, a Mississippi State University graduate who died June 2, spearheaded Mississippi’s Olympic efforts for 26 years. He served as the United States Olympic Committee Mississippi State Chairman for 16 years and as co-chairman for another 10 years. The Ben Puckett family has sponsored the Olympic Room in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum since the shrine opened on July 4, 1996. In 1996, Puckett led a successful effort to have international Olympic teams come to Mississippi to train for the Atlanta Olympic Games.
Cal Wells, a Jackson attorney and long-time friend of Puckett’s, remembers Ben’s passion for life and the Olympics.
“Ben had an energy level that was unbelievable; nobody could keep up with him,” Wells said. “I think his love for the Olympics went back to the first games he attended in 1968 at Mexico City. He loved the competition. He was a competitor himself and he loved watching great athletes compete.”
Puckett was a huge supporter of Mississippi State athletics. Said long-time Mississippi State athletic director Larry Templeton, “Mississippi State was his school, and he was proud of it, and he was 100 percent behind us all the time. He was a great fan, one that never complained and always wanted to help. He made his contributions behind the scene. He didn’t want publicity; he just wanted to make us better.”
Puckett also gave his time and his money to support high school sports and the YMCA.
Tickets to the August 2 induction banquet are available by calling 601 982-8264.
Joining the late Rubenstein as inductees in the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 will be former East Mississippi Junior College and Delta State basketball star Bill Buckner, former Alcorn State and NFL tight end Jimmie Giles, former Ole Miss and NBA basketball player Gerald Glass, , former Southern Miss athletic trainer Larry “Doc” Harrington and former Ole Miss sports information director Langston Rogers.
The Rube Award is one of several new features added to the Hall of Fame by executive director Rick Cleveland, a former sports columnist for The Clarion-Ledger who took the job a little more than a year ago. The museum’s Olympic Room has been updated to reflect additional medalists from Mississippi. The interactive kiosks have been modernized.
A display featuring the Hall of Fame’s new members has been added to its front entrance, something Cleveland told the Mississippi Business Journal recently will be updated annually.