Cleveland named Mississippi's Hall of Fame director

By David Brandt/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Longtime Jackson Clarion-Ledger sports columnist Rick Cleveland has been named the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

During a Wednesday press conference at the Hall of Fame, Cleveland said he looked forward to helping the museum continue its mission of preserving the state’s sports history.

“This is not an Ole Miss museum,” Cleveland said. “This is not a Mississippi State museum. It’s not a Southern Miss museum, a SWAC museum or a Delta State museum … This isn’t a black museum or a white museum, a male or a female museum. This is a place that shows off what Mississippi does so very well, and I could not be more proud to lead it.”

Cleveland, 59, takes over for the late Michael Rubenstein, who had been the Hall of Fame’s only executive director since it opened in 1996.

Oscar Miskelly, the chairman of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors, said Cleveland was “the right man at the right time” to take over the top position at the museum.

Cal Wells is also on the board of directors and was head of the search committee that picked Cleveland. As a columnist, Cleveland was a long-time supporter of the creation of the Hall of Fame, and wrote passionately about it in The Clarion-Ledger on several occasions.

Wells said it was one of many reasons Cleveland was perfect for the position.

“Rick Cleveland has really been a part of this since the beginning,” Wells said. “So it’s a blessing that at this stage of his career he’s decided to bring his incredible knowledge about sports in this state to the museum.”

Wells and Cleveland said some of the immediate goals of the Hall of Fame would be to increase funding through memberships and corporate sponsorship. Cleveland also said he hoped to make the Hall of Fame more visible through social networking sites.

The museum does not receive any taxpayer money, instead collecting all of its funds through private avenues.

“We’re proud of that,” Cleveland said. “We want to continue to be proud of it. But in the case of a museum, it really is a team effort. It takes more than a village — it takes an entire state. I’m going to be knocking on doors, asking for members, for sponsors and for every possible kind of support to preserve this place.”

Cleveland began his full-time journalism career at The Hattiesburg American in 1970 and has worked at The Clarion-Ledger since 1979.

His final day at The Clarion-Ledger is on April 13. He will begin his duties at the Hall of Fame on May 1.