By STEVEN NALLEY
The dedication ceremony for the Jack Cristil Highway gave Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum a platform for a surprise announcement.
Sid Salter, journalist-in-residence at MSU, will release a biography of Jack Cristil this fall to fund a journalism scholarship for MSU’s Department of Communication.
The biography’s title is “Jack Cristil: Voice of the MSU Bulldogs,” and Keenum said MSU would start taking orders for the book in July at www.jackcristilbook.com . Keenum said all the proceeds from the book will go toward establishing the Jacob S. “Jack” Cristil Scholarship for students of print, broadcast and new media journalism at MSU.
“That scholarship will perpetuate Jack’s extraordinary life and his work, and pave the way for aspiring print, broadcast and new media journalists for years to come,” Keenum said. “Sid and Jack have been working on this project since back in March, and we had to twist Jack’s arm, literally, to allow us to do this biography. I’m so proud that he agreed to let us do this.”
Salter said Keenum and MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin initially approached Cristil about the book project when the Mississippi Legislature brought him to Jackson for “Jack Cristil Day.” Salter said Cristil hesitated initially out of fear someone important might be left out of the book, but ultimately, the plan to use the book to raise money for a scholarship won him over.
Since then, Salter said, Cristil has been active in the book’s creation, spending six or seven hours in each interview with Salter and scouring his home in Tupelo for new resources Salter can use, including photographs.
“The book will contain about 40 to 42 photographs many of which haven’t been seen before,” Salter said. “He was very gracious to let me use those photos. It has been an absolute joy to get to spend this time with him. I think that he has enjoyed the process in that it’s given him the opportunity to reflect on some things he hasn’t in a number of years. For me, it’s very much been a labor of love.”
Salter said the first 5,000 copies of the book ordered will come with a free CD of Cristil’s greatest broadcast calls, plus a clip Cristil contributed to the audio book for John Grisham’s “Bleachers.” Grisham will also write the foreword for the book, Salter said.
The university offered Salter many resources to complete the project, he said, including archival materials from Mitchell Memorial Library, University Relations, University Television and the Athletic Department. In addition, Dawg’s Bite Magazine made some of their archival material available as well. Salter said he was grateful for these resources, without which the book could not have happened as fast as it has.
“You can imagine there has been a tremendous amount written about Jack over the years, and the Internet has made it possible to pull a lot of old articles,” Salter said. “It’s been a sort of all-hands-on-deck production on campus. This is very much a group effort, and I just feel real privileged to be able to spend time with Jack, do this research and tell his story.”
Cristil said he is pleased with and grateful for the job Salter has done.
“He has researched and developed more information concerning my family than I myself knew or knew of,” Cristil said. “He is a remarkable individual, and I think this is going to be a publication that you’re going to enjoy reading.”