Alex Thomas is proud of Mississippi's musical heritage. As the Mississippi Development Authority's music program development manager, he gets to celebrate the state's history by developing the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Last week, the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau awarded Thomas with the Tourism Visionary Award for his "work highlighting Jackson's influence on the blues by unveiling nine blues trail markers in the capital city." The most recent markers include Cassandra Wilson, Ishmon Bracey and Ace Records.
Thomas, a Jackson native, has been working on the blues trail project with the Mississippi Blues Commission since 2006. Currently, there are 110 blues markers; six of those are outside the state.
"My office does the day-to-day work," he says. "We have developed the trail from the ground up."
Thomas says his office establishes a list of sites that include notable blues musicians, venues, or historical events throughout the state. He then works with the local community to find matching funds for the markers, and gathers historical information about the sites.
Thomas, 36, earned his bachelor's degree in mass communications from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1997. In addition to the blues trail, he also oversees the Mississippi Country Music Trail.
He says he was exposed to the blues early on, and he wants to instill that same passion in younger generations. Thomas has worked with students at Brinkley Middle School and Jim Hill High School to teach them about historic preservation.
"This type of musical heritage was not taught when I was in school. ... It makes me feel good that we are able to share this with the education system, as well as honor the individuals," he said.
To find out more about the Mississippi Blues Trail, or to see a complete list of blues markers, visit the trail's website.
Good for Mr. Thomas.