By NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Michael Rubenstein, the long-time director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson, died Thursday.
Rubenstein, 60, a Booneville native, died of a pulmonary embolism, according to his office. He had served as executive director of the Hall of Fame since 1996.
“It’s a credit to him that he was able to keep the (Hall of Fame) going without state and federal funding,” said Tupelo mayor Jack Reed, who was a college classmate of Rubenstein’s at Vanderbilt. “He kept the Hall of Fame fresh with a diversity of athletes being inducted.
“He made unique contributions to the state of Mississippi and its sports culture.”
Rubenstein played high school basketball for the Booneville Blue Devils and often told the story of how he was assigned to guard Tupelo’s All-Big 8 Conference player, Frank Dowsing, in a game.
“I held him to 35 points,” Rubenstein would say, then laugh.
“Michael loved sports, but he wasn’t your typical jock,” Reed said. “He majored in Asian studies. He was very bright. He will be missed.”
During Rubenstein’s tenure, the hall began hosting events to honor the state’s top players in college football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball. The hall’s venue of honorees also was greatly expanded.
Sports Hall administrator Margaret Ferriss White said Rubenstein was instrumental in having the Hall of Fame erected.
“It was always such a passion of his. He’s so well-known for reporting the news, and he also wanted to preserve the sports history in this state. He really had an impact in seeing this come to fruition,” White said.
Prior to joining the Hall of Fame, Rubenstein served for 16 years as sports editor for WLBT-Channel 3 in Jackson.
On the third anniversary of the sports hall, Rubenstein told the Associated Press that the challenge is to keep up with the changes.
“All of the time, we create more sports history than the museum can keep a handle on at any given time,” Rubenstein said. “Mississippi just continues to produce all of these wonderful athletes and teams.”
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.