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Museum gives visitors a peek into the past

By Staff
MUSEUM ITEMS An autographed photo of Jimmie Rodgers rests with one of his suits and a straw hat. The items are on display at the Jimmie Rodgers Museum. Photo by Steve Gilespie/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Aug. 10, 2001
The Jimmie Rodgers Museum, located in Highland Park, offers a revealing look into the life of an innovative musical legend.
Among the items on display is a custom-made guitar with Rodgers' name on the neck. Rodgers received the guitar in 1928 from Martin Guitar Co. President Frederick Martin, whose business made some of the most highly-sought guitars in the country.
Also on display are Rodgers' furniture, letters, awards and clothing including a tuxedo, bowler, suit, bow ties and straw hat.
Rodgers was born in Meridian on Sept. 8, 1897. He died May 26, 1933, at the age of 35, leaving a legacy of 110 songs. Rodgers' brief professional musical career began after a talent scout from RCA Victor auditioned him in 1927.
The museum, a replica of an old railroad depot in Stonewall, was built in 1975. An old locomotive is also at the museum a tribute to Rodgers, who spent most of his adult life as a railroad brakeman, switchman and baggage handler.
Bishop said the museum averages 8,000 to 12,000 visitors a year. She said many famous musicians have come through the door over the years, although they usually try to remain unnoticed.
A monument, commissioned by country music artists Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow, is also on the museum grounds. While some people believe the monument marks Rodgers' grave, he and his wife are actually buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Bonita.
Rodgers received many honors, most of which were awarded after his death.
In 1961, Rodgers was the first artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1970, he was inducted into the Country Music Song Writers Hall of Fame. In 1978, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Rodgers.
In 1984, Rodgers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an "early influence." And in 1985, Rodgers' influence on blues was recognized with the W.C. Handy Award.
Rodgers' music plays continuously in the museum. Several items are available for sale, including books, compact discs, tapes, song books, T-shirts, caps and posters all featuring Rodgers.
The museum is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
Admission is $2 for adults. Children under 10 are admitted free if accompanied by an adult.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.