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Meek School Graduate, Rocky Miskelly, Fulfilled By Helping Others


“He doesn’t understand the effect he has on people,” said Will Norton, Jr., dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, while reminiscing about Rocky Miskelly (’84), a former student and dear friend. Miskelly is a Ripley, Mississippi, native who arrived at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1981.

Growing up in Ripley, Miskelly’s father owned the B&M hardware store, down the sidewalk from the Southern Sentinel, a weekly published by Judge William H. Anderson and his wife Lois. As a curious young boy, Miskelly began spending time with the couple learning about newspaper publishing. While in middle and high school, Miskelly took an interest in writing about local sports news.
While a student at Northeast Community College in Booneville, Mississippi, Miskelly became the first sports information director.
“I put in about 10-12 hours a week on that,” Miskelly said. “It really piqued my interest in journalism.”
Miskelly began covering sports for nearby county papers. He would phone the story in by reading it, and someone else transcribed it. The position also let Miskelly get experience in broadcast journalism.
“I did play-by-play for two years,” he said. “With all that, that made me choose journalism at Ole Miss.”
Miskelly was a well-known contributor to The Daily Mississippian. He wrote “Letters to Mom,” a column that discussed discreet political issues on campus between faculty and administration.
“This was more than a gossip column to me,” said Miskelly. “It was a very fun time in my life.”
Ed Meek served as the vice chancellor of public relations and marketing during Miskelly’s time as an undergraduate.
“He was very bright, aggressive, determined, and a fine reporter,” said Meek. “He frequently gave me a hard time digging out stories, and I always respected him for his skills as a journalist.”
Miskelly lived in the “Twin Towers” on campus next to a triple-occupancy room. One of his neighbors became the inspiration for a character in a cartoon strip he wrote that appeared in The Daily Mississippian.
“Ernie Bateman was a ‘nerdy’ comedic character created by the DM staff in a photo essay that ran in the paper’s orientation edition,” Miskelly said. “I used that as a basis for a caricature of Ernie and patterned the other two characters [Skip and Joe] on a fraternity boy and one of the guys next door, an older, non-traditional, back-to-college student, a somewhat burned-out hippie.”
The four-panel cartoon appeared in the newspaper five days a week for about three years. Art Shirley provided the art for all but the first few weeks and continued the strip solo after Miskelly graduated.
Miskelly managed both the NewsWatch TV station and WUMS-FM 92.1 radio for the Student Media Center and was sports editor for the DM. While working at the SMC, he developed a connection with S. Gale Denley.
“He was the heart and soul of the journalism department,” said Miskelly.
Denley was a journalism instructor at the university from 1963-1996. In 2003, the SMC was named the S. Gale Denley Student Media Center.
“He made a huge impact on me and other journalism students on the campus,” Miskelly said.
Miskelly met Willie Morris, the well-loved Southern writer and former editor of Harper’s, during his second week at Ole Miss and, for three years, Miskelly was Morris’s assistant.
“I would just answer his mail,” said Miskelly.
Miskelly reflected on a day he was called out of class by Norton to head over to Morris’s house.
“Dean Norton said, ‘We’ve been looking for you all morning. We didn’t think you would be in class. You need to go to Willie’s right now.’ I guess you can tell I wasn’t the best student back then,” Miskelly said with laughter.
On that day, Morris’s dog Pete was dying, and Miskelly’s assistance as pastor was needed.
“I was the presiding pastor for the services,” said Miskelly. “We took Pete to a secret location, and had funeral services for him in the rain.”
The people Morris introduced Miskelly to still fills him with wonder.
“C. Vann Woodward and Alex Haley were discussing race relations, and I was just happy to be a fly on the wall,” Miskelly said.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and physical education, Miskelly spent 15 months directing at a television station in Greenville, Mississippi, WXVT-TV 15. In 1987, Miskelly decided to take a break from journalism, and focused on a new passion. He enrolled at Emory University to study theology. After leaving Emory, he decided to backpack around Europe for a year.
“Wouldn’t change that experience for anything in the world,” Miskelly said. “It gave me a better multicultural outlook.”
From 1995-1999, he was senior pastor at Heritage United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. While he served as senior pastor, the church grew rapidly. Miskelly left in 1999 to work for Cargill Associates, a consulting firm that raised funds for non-profits, and he became a top producer.
Miskelly now is the executive vice president and director of wealth management at Renasant Bank in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is supervisor of the financial services and trust department, and his financial advisers manage about $3.4 billion of “other folks’” money.
“Every night when you lie down, you think, ‘There are a lot of people counting on me,’” Miskelly said. “It’s not the same thing every day. I get a lot of enjoyment working with other people. My dad taught me a long time ago that the best way to get what you want out of life is to help people get what they want out of life.”
Miskelly lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife Raigan, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Columbus, which has its services broadcast on “My Mississippi.” He has four children: Walker, 24; Wesley, 22; Wright, 12; and Maguire, 11.
“It’s sort of awesome to see how many Ole Miss students have become rich, famous, or significant. Rocky has ended up being all three,” Norton said.

The author, Sabrina Clinton, is a senior, integrated marketing communications major from Canton, Mississippi. 
The Meek School Magazine is a collaborative effort of journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications students with the faculty of Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Every week, for the next few weeks, HottyToddy.com will feature an article from Meek Magazine, Issue 4 (2016-2017).

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