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Hometown is asked to step up for ‘Father of Country Music’

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi hometown of the late Jimmie Rodgers needs to invest in his legacy or risk losing mementos that tell the story of “The Father of Country Music,” a foundation director says.
Jimmie Rodgers Foundation President Lee Thornton told Lauderdale County supervisors on Thursday that a Rodgers museum needs a permanent home and a director who can procure grants and coordinate a music festival, the Meridian Star reported.
“We’re kind of continuing to ignore and neglect, probably, our single most important and popular attraction to our area,” Thornton said.
He said people from Bristol, Tenn., have reached out to the city of Meridian multiple times “to try to take everything of Jimmie Rodgers up there, where he did his recording in the studios.” Rodgers, who died in 1933, is also known as the “Singing Brakeman.”
Representatives from Nashville and Austin have also expressed interest in the memorabilia, and the Rodgers family could decide to take the items elsewhere, Thornton said.
Meridian Community Development Director Laura Carmichael said the city of Bristol had not contacted anyone in the Meridian city administration about the Jimmie Rodgers Museum.
The museum is in a temporary space in downtown Meridian. The foundation has considered moving it to another building, but the new site would need about $250,000 in repairs, Thornton said.
Carmichael said in a statement that the city “fully supports the legacy and mission of Jimmie Rodgers” and the city will help the museum move to the new site.
To hire a director and improve and maintain the museum, Thornton said the foundation is requesting about $240,000 over a three-year period, divided between the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County.
“I would like to challenge the board and the city to try to come up with something to keep this going,” Supervisor Josh Todd said. “Either we take pride in us having it and do his legacy justice, or let it go.”