The centerpiece of The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience is our iconic 360-degree Hall of Fame. Here, we honor Mississippi’s artists, musicians, writers, actors, chefs, and others who have made a significant cultural impact not only in this state but around the globe. Who will join the ranks of names like Elvis Presley, Morgan Freeman, and Oprah Winfrey? Who has inspired you? Who do you feel deserves to be honored? You can help us select the five 2025 MAX Hall of Fame inductees. Cast your vote now!
Voting ends Monday, November 20. The five inductees will be announced in February 2024, with an induction ceremony anticipated in January 2025. The public is invited to vote once per day for up to five artists.
An influential jazz and blues musician, Mose Allison (1927-2016) was born on his grandfather’s farm near the Delta community of Tippo. He learned to play piano as a child and after college moved to New York City, where he attracted notice as an innovative jazz and blues pianist, singer, and song-writer—and social critic. Writing and recording many songs, Allison was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Rap artist Lavell William Crump, better known by his stage name David Banner, was born in Brookhaven and raised in Jackson. Banner studied business at Southern University but turned his attention to music as a member of the rap duo “Crooked Lettaz.” He went solo in 2000, released a series of albums and collected BET hip hop awards. Also a noted music producer, Banner was praised for his humanitarian work after Hurricane Katrina.
Author, social historian and journalist Lerone Bennett Jr. (1928-2018) analyzed race relations in the United States, publishing Before the Mayflower, Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream and other books. Bennett was born in Clarksdale and raised in Jackson, where he began writing for a black-owned newspaper at the age of 12. After working as a journalist for the Atlanta Daily World, he held editing positions at JET and Ebony magazines.
Kate Freeman Clark
A ground-breaking female artist, Kate Freeman Clark (1875-1957) learned still-life and plein air, or outdoor, painting in New York. The Holly Springs native attended finishing school in New York City after the death of her father, a Mississippi lawyer and plantation owner. She became passionate about art after attending the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Clark produced more than 1,000 pieces that became the foundation for a Holly Springs art museum after her death.
William “Bill” Ferris
William “Bill” Ferris, author and scholar, has written or produced many books, documentaries and recordings exploring Blues music and Southern culture. A native of Vicksburg, Ferris was founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, and co-edited the Pulitzer Prize-nominee Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. He is a former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Historian and novelist Shelby Foote (1916-2005), a Greenville native, spent decades researching and writing the acclaimed three-part book series The Civil War: A Narrative. He claimed wide public attention as a result of appearances in the Ken Burns PBS documentary on the Civil War, which aired in 1990. He was a close associate of Walker Percy, another fiction writer from Greenville, and Delta society figured large in his fiction.
Novelist and short story writer Richard Ford, a Jackson native, is best known for novels featuring Frank Bascombe, a sports writer-turned-real estate agent. One novel in the series, Independence Day, published in 1995, won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Pen/Faulkner Award. Ford, regarded as a master of the short story genre, grew up in Jackson and Little Rock, Arkansas, and early in his work life held railroad and sports writing positions.
Singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry (born Roberta Lee Streeter), a native of Chickasaw County, claimed international fame in 1967 with a haunting hit single, “Ode to Billie Joe.” A film character inspired her adoption of the Bobbie Gentry stage name. Gentry, who moved to Palm Springs, California as a teenager, released a series of albums, including one with Glen Campbell, and appeared in television specials. She won Grammy and Academy of Country Music major awards.
Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield
Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield (circa 1817-1876), dubbed the “Black Swan,” was the best-known African-American concert singer of her time. Born into slavery in Natchez, she accompanied her mistress, taking her name Greenfield in the process, when the mistress divorced her husband, freed her slaves, and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She studied music and, beginning in the 1850s, began a singing career that ultimately included American tours and a performance for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.
Singer, record producer and actress Faith Hill is among the leading country and pop artists of all time, selling more than 40 million albums worldwide. Her first two albums, “Take Me as I Am” and “It Matters to Me,” in the 1990s established her as a country star. Hill has won numerous Grammy, Academy of Country Music and other awards. A native of Ridgeland near Jackson, Hill is married to singer Tim McGraw.
Gwendolyn Ann Magee (1943-2011), an African-American textile artist, learned quilting at middle age and gained a reputation for sophistication and bold commentary. A native of High Point, North Carolina, Magee took part in civil rights protests in Greensboro. After marriage, she spent much of her adult life in Jackson, where she began taking quilting classes in 1989. Often focusing on issues of racial injustice, her vivid works are represented in the permanent collections of several major museums.
An independent label based in Jackson, Malaco was founded in 1962 by Tommy Couch and Mitchell Malouf, initially as a booking agency, and in 1967 the company opened a recording studio. Dozens of blues, gospel, and other artists have been associated with Malaco, including The Pointer Sisters, the Mississippi Mass Choir, Bobby Rush, Dorothy Moore and Paul Simon. Moore’s international hit “Misty Blue” changed Malaco’s fortunes in the 1970s.
American ballet dancer and educator Thalia Mara Mahoney (1911-2003) authored 11 books on ballet and helped found the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson. She was a native of Chicago and began her career there. Mara and husband Arthur Mahoney established the National Academy of Ballet and Theater Arts in New York before moving to Mississippi. In 1994, Jackson’s Municipal Auditorium was renamed Thalia Mara Hall in her honor.
Singer, songwriter and producer Lyman Corbitt McAnally Jr., professionally known as Mac McAnally, recorded a string of albums and singles. His singles made the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs lists. McAnally has served as a guitarist in Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band. Born in Red Bay, Alabama, McAnally grew up in Belmont, Mississippi and began playing piano and singing in church. The Country Music Association repeatedly named him Musician of the Year.
Blues, gospel and R&B singer Dorothy Moore, born in Jackson, is best known for her 1976 hit “Misty Blue.” Her father performed with the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Moore began singing in church at a young age and saw her career take off with ballads recorded at Malaco Records. Moore’s credits include many albums and singles and her “Misty Blue” version became part of the sound track for the 1966 movie Phenomenon.
Philosophical novelist Walker Percy (1916-1990) won the National Book Award for Fiction with his first novel, The Moviegoer, published in 1961. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Percy went to live with a cousin, the prominent lawyer-poet William Alexander Percy, in Greenville after the deaths of Percy’s parents. Percy’s novels and essays reflected a deep Catholic faith and he mentored young writers while teaching at Loyola University of New Orleans.
Soul and pop singer David Ruffin (1941-1991), a native of the Whynot community near Meridian, became a sensation with the Temptations in the 1960s with big hits that included “My Girl.” Known for raspy yet “mellow” vocals, the bespectacled Ruffin once performed in a family gospel group but transitioned to secular music as a teenager. His work with the Temptations led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
William Grant Still
A legendary figure even before his death, William Grant Still Jr. (1895-1978) was known as the “dean of African-American classical composers.” Born in Woodville, in southwest Mississippi, Still was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. After early work with the W.C. Handy band in Memphis, he became a prolific composer of operas, symphonies, ballets and Negro spirituals. He achieved many firsts as an African-American composer, claiming fellowships and awards.
Gulfport native Natasha Trethewey, a poet whose works explore issues of race and Deep South culture, is a former Poet Laureate for the United States and Mississippi. Trethewey has said she turned to poetry to make sense of the murder of her mother, by her mother’s second husband, when Trethewey was 19. Trethewey won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2007 and is a longtime university professor.
Recording more than 50 No. 1 singles, country and rockabilly singer Conway Twitty (1933-1993) became a powerful figure in the country music world. Born in Friars Point, Mississippi, Twitty, originally named Harold Lloyd Jenkins, created his stage name from the names of towns in Arkansas and Texas. His major hits included “Hello Darlin’” and, in a duet with Loretta Lynn, “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man.” Early in his career, Twitty recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis.
Cassandra Wilson, a jazz singer, songwriter and producer, is a Jackson native who built a career with important blues, country and folk music influences. Learning to play piano and guitar at a young age, Wilson gained experience singing with bands and in coffee houses while in college. She became a founding member of the M-Base Collective in New York and her album “Blue Light ‘Till Dawn” influenced other jazz performers eager for more innovation.
A founding member of the famed “Supremes” singing group, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, singer Mary Wilson remained with the group from 1961 until its end in 1977. She contributed to major hits during the ‘60s that included “Baby Love” and “Come See About Me.” Born in Greenville, Wilson grew up in Chicago and Detroit. In later life, she became a noted author, advocate for humanitarian causes and motivational speaker.
A leading American jazz figure in the mid-20th Century, tenor saxophonist Lester Young (1909-1959) gained prominence as a member of Count Basie’s orchestra. Young, born in Woodville, Mississippi, grew up in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans and toured with the Young Family Band. Noted for a smooth, “free-floating” performance style, Young, who also played clarinet, was closely associated with singers Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole, and recorded dozens of records.