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National Civil Rights Museum names Rhodes College alum Russell Wigginton as new president

By Corey Davis – Reporter, Memphis Business Journal

Jul 1, 2021 Updated Jul 1, 2021, 11:01am CDT

Russell Wigginton, Ph.D., president of the National Civil Rights Museum | NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

After a national search, a former Rhodes College professor will take the helm of one of Memphis’ highest-profile organizations.

The National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) announced July 1, Russell Wigginton, Ph.D., as the new president of the museum. His tenure at the institution will begin on Aug. 1, 2021.

Wigginton brings nearly 30 years of experience from roles in education, philanthropy, executive management, and program development, as well as strategic planning and partnership building.

“We are fortunate to be able to attract someone of Russ’ background and experience to serve as our next president,” Herb Hilliard, board chairman of the NCRM said in a release.” The board and I are confident Russ is the right person to lead the museum at this time.”

Wigginton has a history connected to Memphis. He worked for 23 years at Rhodes College, his alma mater, as both a history professor and senior level administrator.

While teaching in Rhodes' history department, Wigginton published a book entitled, "The Strange Career of the Black Athlete: African-Americans and Sports," as well as articles and essays on African-American labor and social history. He earned his doctorate in African-American history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2000.

Upon moving into administration at Rhodes, Wigginton served as VP for external programs and VP for college relations from 2006-17. Then, from 2017-19, he was VP for student life and dean of students at Rhodes.

In 2019, Wigginton began his most recent leadership position as chief postsecondary impact officer at Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE). In that position, he led SCORE's work in postsecondary access, retention, and completion, as well as looking for gaps in advocacy, policy, and practice.

Wigginton serves on numerous local boards, including on the NCRM board. He will leave his board seat to assume his new role.

Wigginton will replace former NCRM president Terri Freeman, who left the museum in February 2021, to become the executive director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture located in Baltimore. She was NCRM's president from 2014-21.

“I am honored to be chosen to serve as the president of the National Civil Rights Museum,” Wigginton said in the release. “During this critical time in our nation, the museum's physical place and all that it represents plays a vital role in understanding our nation's history in the areas of civil and human rights — and how that impacts our nation today. I welcome the opportunity to work with a committed staff to challenge and inspire us all to seek justice and equality for everyone.”

Check out the Memphis Business article here


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