2022 Hall of Fame Inductees

The MAX Hall of Fame inducts five artists every two years from the genres it represents - cultural arts, music, performing arts, visual arts, and literature. The induction ceremony honoring the following will take place on Thursday, December 15, 2022, at The MAX and the MSU Riley Center in Meridian.

The 2022 Hall of Fame Class consists of Sam Cooke, a musician from Clarksdale; W.C. Handy, a musician from Clarksdale; Marty Stuart, a musician from Philadelphia; Alice Walker, a writer from Jackson; and Ida B. Wells, a writer from Holly Springs.

Sam Cooke, Musician

Clarksdale, Mississippi
January 22, 1931-December 11, 1964

Sam Cooke was a trailblazing recording artist who helped shape the soul and pop scene with hits like "Cupid," "Chain Gang," and "Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha." Forging a link between soul and pop, Cooke had a diverse repertoire that attracted both black and white audiences.

Born in Clarksdale Mississippi, Cooke grew up in Chicago as the son of a minister. In 1948, just out of high school, he joined the gospel group the Soul Stirrers, and six years later began to branch out into secular music.

Cooke released his first number one single, "You Send Me," in 1957 and continued to top the charts with hits like "Wonderful World," "Twistin' the Night Away," "Bring It on Home to Me," and "A Change is Gonna Come" (released posthumously). He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Cooke died in 1964 and left behind a tremendous musical legacy.

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W.C. Handy, Musician

Clarksdale, Mississippi/Florence, Alabama
November 16, 1873-March 28, 1958

William Christopher Handy was an African American composer and a leader in popularizing blues music in the early 20th century.

Handy's contributions in shaping what would be called the blues were influenced by the African American musical folk traditions that he experienced during his travels and performances. After years on the road, Handy settled in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1903, where he immersed himself in the local variation of the blues.

After a move to Memphis, Handy wrote and published the first commercially successful blues song, "Memphis Blues," in 1912, followed by his most famous composition, "The St. Louis Blues," in 1914. He worked steadily in the '20s, '30s, and '40s, promoting the blues, composing dozens of songs, and authoring an autobiography.

He is often referred to as the Father of the Blues. His legacy lives on through the annual W.C. Handy Music Festival in Florence, Alabama.

Marty Stuart, Musician

Philadelphia, Mississippi
September 30, 1958

Grammy Award-winning country music artist Stuart got his start performing with Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash before launching a successful solo career.

One of country music's most versatile musicians, Stuart is an eclectic artist, moving among honky-tonk, rockabilly, country rock, traditional country, western music, gospel, and bluegrass. He easily balances the various sides of his musicality, with his love of country music's past and present serving as a common bond.

Throughout his career, Stuart has performed and recorded with a litany of artists - Earl Scruggs, Travis Tritt, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and B.B. King, to name just a few.

Stuart is an accomplished photographer and an avid collector of country music memorabilia. He has won Grammy Awards and CMA Awards and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2021. Stuart currently tours with his band, The Fabulous Superlatives.

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Alice Walker, Writer

Jackson, Mississippi / Eatonton, Georgia
February 9, 1944

Born to sharecropper parents in Eatonton, Georgia, Walker is a novelist, essayist, poet, and activist. Her works focus on African American culture, and particularly on women.

After graduation from Sarah Lawrence College, Walker moved to Jackson, Mississippi and became involved in the civil rights movement. She accepted a teaching position at Jackson State University and a writer-in-residence position at Tougaloo College and remained in Mississippi until 1971.

Walker's career as a writer took off with the publication of The Color Purple. The novel won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was adapted for the big screen, garnering 11 Academy Award nominations. She has received multiple other awards including a National Book Award for Fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the LennonOno Grant for Peace.

Her commitment to important causes and her talent as a gifted writer have placed her among an elite group of legendary authors of our time.

Ida B. Wells, Writer

Holly Springs, Mississippi
July 16, 1862-March 25, 1931

Ida B. Wells was an African American journalist, abolitionist, and feminist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s.

James Wells, her father, helped start Shaw University (now Rust College), a school for newly freed enslaved people in Holly Springs, Mississippi. It was at Shaw that Wells received her early education.

Wells wrote about race and politics in the South while working as a journalist and publisher. A lynching in Memphis in 1892 led her to begin an anti-lynching campaign. She researched and reported on lynchings, published an examination of lynchings in America, and led a protest in Washington, D.C., calling for reforms. She helped establish several civil rights and women's rights organizations, including the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs and the NAACP.

In 2020, Wells was awarded a Pulitzer Special Citation "for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching."

Wells left a legacy of social and political heroism - she fought against prejudice, no matter what potential dangers she faced.

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The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience Hall of Fame Selection Process

While The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience (The MAX) exhibits honor artists and their work – the famous and not-so-famous – the Hall of Fame is reserved for arts and entertainment icons and trailblazers who have made a recognized and lasting contribution to Mississippi, the nation and the world.

The MAX Hall of Fame inducts five artists biennially from the genres it represents – cultural arts, music, performing arts, visual arts, and writing. The Hall of Fame is not “category” driven, meaning it is not a requirement that inductees are representing each of the five genres. Instead, the most deserving artists across all five genres that meet the eligibility criteria are inducted every other year.

Induction happens in two phases: 1) Nomination of Candidates 2) Election of Candidates

Phase 1: Nomination of Candidates

The candidates are selected from a pool of almost 900 individuals from the Hall of Fame’s five art disciplines. Candidate eligibility is based upon a solid connection to the State of Mississippi, either by birthright, moving to the state at an early age, or living in Mississippi for a significant portion of their career. A significant portion of their career means not just the number of years but that they lived in Mississippi at a time when a major moment in their career occurred.

The Nominating Committee, made up of seven experts across the state, reviews the lists of potential candidates that were created in previous years, including any additions/deletions, and narrows the field down to 25 individuals or organizations to be nominated for inclusion on the Hall of Fame biennial ballot.

Phase 2: Election of Candidates

The ballot is sent to the Panel of Electors, which includes the seven members of the Nominating Committee and 11 other experts across the State/nation and is published online for the general public to cast their votes for five Hall of Fame inductees from the Top 25 candidates nominated.
The votes from the Panel of Electors and the highest votes from the online voting are tabulated by an independent accounting firm which sends The MAX the final results. The MAX staff never sees the ballots, nor do they have nominating or voting rights. The 2022 inductees were revealed during a press conference on January 18, 2022.

The induction ceremony takes place on Thursday, December 15, 2022, at The MAX and the MSU Riley Center. The gap between the announcement of new inductees and the induction ceremony allows ample time to make arrangements with the inductees or their representatives to be present at the ceremony and update The MAX Hall of Fame rotunda with its newest members.

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