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Dr. Russell Wigginton – ready to lead National Civil Rights Museum ‘during this critical time’

Dr. Russell Wigginton’s deep appreciation for the value of history, particularly as it relates to African Americans, now is yet another drawing card for the National Civil Rights Museum.

On Aug. 1, Wigginton, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from Rhodes College (1988) and a doctorate in African American history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2000), assumes the role of National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) president.

“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,” said Wigginton via a released statement.

“I welcome the opportunity to work with a committed staff to challenge and inspire us all to seek justice and equality for everyone.”

The NCRM conducted a five-month search for a new president after former president Terri Freeman resigned to head the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in Baltimore. The move in February took Freeman back to her hometown. She began her presidency in 2014.

“I like this move a lot,” posted the Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher, Abyssinian Baptist Church pastor and a high profile community activist/social justice advocate. “Way to go, Russell Wigginton. Let’s go NCRM.”

Fisher was among many audibly supportive of Wigginton’s selection.

“Congratulations, Russell Wigginton! Looking forward to your leadership and the museum’s next phase,” Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer posted.

Wigginton posted a short message of gratitude for the expression of widespread support

“Thank you everyone for the well wishes. Your support means the world to me!”

In Wigginton, the NCRM gains his 29 years of experience 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’s background and experience to serve as our next president,”  said Herb Hilliard, museum board chairman. “The board and I are confident Russ is the right person to lead the museum at this time.”

For 23 years, Wigginton worked at Rhodes College, as a history professor and senior level administrator. While teaching in the History department at Rhodes, he published a book entitled, “The Strange Career of the Black Athlete: African-Americans and Sports” as well as articles and essays on African American social and labor history.

From 2006-17, Wigginton served as Rhodes’ vice president for external programs and vice president for college relations, where he helped establish and implement institutional strategy for the college’s engagement in Memphis and beyond. He oversaw the college grants, foundations and government relations, alumni relations, communications, career services and continuing education departments.

After two years (2017-19) as vice president for student life and dean of students at Rhodes, Wigginton  joined Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) as its chief postsecondary impact officer, leading the organization’s work for postsecondary access, retention and completion.

Wigginton’s longstanding interest in local African-American history, includes having researched and chronicled the history of the Tri-State Defender’s first 50 years. (The New Tri-State culminates the commemoration of its 70-year history in November.)

A member of NCRM’s board of directors, Wigginton will resign to assume his new leadership role. As president, he will be tasked with identifying gaps in advocacy, policy and practice.

He is married to Tomeka Hart Wigginton, managing director for Blue Meridian Partners, and has a son, Ryan, a senior at the University of Richmond.

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