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Brewer Honored for Celebrating Mississippi Musicians

Wed, 03/06/2024 - 08:40am | By: Mike Lopinto

USM Alumni

Photo by Paul Lijewski

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) band program celebrated Mississippi Musicians’ Month by honoring a chief promoter of musicians statewide, USM alum Dr. James (Jim) Brewer.

Founder of the Mississippi Musician’s Hall of Fame and the man who coined the phrase, “The Birthplace of America’s Music,” Brewer was presented a commemorative plaque from the School of Music by Dr. Chris Winstead, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a proclamation from the City of Hattiesburg by Mayor Toby Barker.

Mississippi’s musicians occupy a special place in the world of music. From writers to performers, the state’s musicians have made a global impact. Great and timeless music is one of Mississippi’s chief exports.

Brewer received his BMEd., MEd., and EdD degrees from USM and spent many years as a band director, administrator, and special projects director in the public schools of Mississippi before joining the faculty at Mississippi College. In 1980, he opened a consulting firm, Associated Consultants in Education, from which he retired in 1998.

Never straying far from his musical roots, Brewer always had a heart for those who helped make Mississippi famous for its music while receiving little or no recognition for their work. In 1994 at age 61, he founded the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. Since its inception, the organization has inducted more than 140 musicians into its ranks, and induction ceremonies continue throughout the state.

With the founding of the Hall of Fame, the next logical step was to have a venue where music lovers could see for themselves the development of Mississippi’s music history. Thus, two music museums were founded at the Medgar Evers International Airport and the Iron Horse Grill in downtown Jackson.

USM Alumni

Photo by Paul Lijewski

With the establishment of the Hall of Fame and the two museums, Brewer wanted to paint on a larger canvas; so he coined the phrase, “Mississippi, Birthplace of America’s Music.” The slogan has been on all Mississippi car tags and on signs placed at every major highway intersection leading into the state. Governors Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant, along with tourism departments, use it frequently when promoting the state.

In 2001, he moved to Hazlehurst, and immediately set out to promote the city’s rich musical heritage. Another museum was built inside the historic train depot in downtown Hazlehurst. Hundreds of tourists from around the nation and world visit to view the exhibits, attracted by signs along I-55.

On August 4, 2017, the Mississippi Musicians Walk of Fame was dedicated outside the museum and is the only such display in the state. April was celebrated as Fine Arts Month in Hazlehurst with talent competitions and a walking tour of 18 stops along the main streets to showcase works by local artists. Since then, a small, store-front art gallery offers an opportunity for local artists to display their work.

Brewer has invested much of his time and financial resources to make these dreams become reality. Along with a host of volunteers and financial support from the citizens and businesses of Hazlehurst, he has worked tirelessly for this cause. Each weekday morning, he voluntarily opens the museum and stays until noon, at which time volunteer docents come to greet the visitors. Brewer has never received any remuneration for any of his work, and he doesn’t feel that he should.

In Brewer’s “spare time” he serves on the music and personnel committees of First Baptist Church and on the boards of directors for the Hazlehurst Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for Learning in Retirement at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Learn more about the Mississippi Musicians’ Hall of Fame and the School of Music.