Sid Salter

Sid Salter

Sid Salter

By: Claire Winesett

To many, Mississippi State University is a family tradition. To others, it’s a special institution where degrees are earned and careers are developed. Yet, for some such as Sid Salter, MSU is both of these things and so much more.

Originally from Philadelphia, Mississippi, Sidney L. (Sid) Salter’s love for and loyalty to Mississippi State began prior to MSU becoming his alma mater and current employer. Mississippi State runs in Salter’s blood – his father earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from State, as did one of his sisters, and his mother earned her bachelor’s degree from the university as well. Salter’s daughter, Katherine Brantley Salter, not only earned a Master of Arts degree in English from MSU in 2011, but is now “an educator here at MSU and currently works in the Mitchell Memorial Library's Congressional and Political Research Center,” according to Salter. He said that she is his greatest success.

Salter received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in political science from MSU in 1988, but it was more than the academics that made a lasting impression on Salter. Although his education at MSU prepared him well for many different career paths, the friendships, experiences and mentors that he gained during his undergraduate experience were just as valuable.

“Mississippi State University changed my life in ways that are difficult to describe. What I learned in the classroom has served me well, but that was only the beginning,” said Salter.

“The relationships, the friendships, and the life experiences were invaluable. I love this institution, and that fact makes this chapter of life a true labor of love,” he continued.

This chapter in his life – serving as Chief Communications Officer and Director of the Office of Public Affairs at MSU – came about after a successful career spent elsewhere. Salter started as a publisher and editor at The Scott County Times in 1983. He worked there for 18 years, eventually leaving to become the Perspective editor at The Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi’s largest newspaper, where he edited the Sunday opinion/editorial section.

A little over nine years later, Salter also became host of “On Deadline with Sid Salter” at TeleSouth Communications, Mississippi’s largest statewide radio network. Salter spent two years hosting a three-hour daily afternoon drive time political news and public affairs radio show. 

In March of 2011, Salter left The Clarion-Ledger and Supertalk to become the journalist-in-residence at the MSU Libraries. During the 20 months that he served in this capacity, Salter wrote a biography entitled “Jack Cristil: Voice of the MSU Bulldogs,” taught political science classes as well as News Editing and Design in the Department of Communication, and served on the MSU Libraries Administrative Council. Salter also worked in collection development for the MSU Libraries, and represented the MSU Libraries at national events related to Special Collections and the MSU Congressional and Political Research Center.

While working at the MSU Libraries, Salter worked with one of the many influential people he has met at MSU. Salter said that Frances Coleman, MSU’s Dean of Libraries, has been a pivotal figure in his life. 

“Her faith in me has been unwavering and I greatly value the influence she's had in my life and work. The growth and development of the MSU Libraries under her leadership has been nothing short of remarkable. I take great pride in having served on her staff,” said Salter.

In October 2012, Salter left his position at the MSU Libraries to begin his current job. As the Chief Communications Officer and Director of the Office of Public Affairs, Salter is the chief spokesman for MSU, directs the university’s marketing, news gathering and distribution efforts through the Office of Public Affairs, and serves as the administrator of the University Television Center and WMSV, the campus radio station.

Salter was a John C. Stennis Scholar in Political Science when he was a student at MSU. Namesake of MSU alumnus John C. Stennis who served in multiple powerful positions in the United States Senate, the Stennis scholarship opened up many doors for Salter in terms of his career.

“My education prepared me to cover the courts, the legislative process and the executive branch in a way few before me could effectively do. I could explain the process of government in layman's terms that newspaper readers could understand, no matter how complex the issue at hand,” said Salter.

He continued, “Without the MSU Department of Political Science, my career would not have been possible.” 

Salter’s favorite class as a student in the political science department was Constitutional Law taught by Dr. Howard Ball. This class helped to equip Salter with the knowledge needed to not only begin his career, but to be successful in it.

“[Dr. Ball] required that we learn to write 850-word ‘hypotheticals’ about the Supreme Court cases we studied, in essence, to write our opinions about those lofty legal issues. That class and the skills I learned there were the beginnings of my career as a syndicated political columnist. No one class helped me more,” said Salter.

Salter has also been able to use things he learned from his favorite professor, Dr. Tip Allen, who taught Salter’s political theory class.

“I have used something that I learned from Dr. Allen every week of my professional life. He was such a fine man,” said Salter.

Frances Coleman, Dr. Ball and Dr. Allen are just a few of the influential people that Salter met during his time at MSU. Not only did these people affect Salter’s education and career in significant ways, but they also all left a remarkable imprint on Salter’s life. Dr. Donald Zacharias, who Salter said was his greatest mentor, did just this. 

“Dr. Donald Zacharias, our late president, was a great mentor and friend who challenged me and guided me after my father's passing. He was a transformational president for MSU and his work literally paved the way for the success our current president, Dr. Mark Keenum, is enjoying in leading our alma mater. The connection between Zacharias and Keenum is a vital one in understanding their very similar management styles,” said Salter.

Salter found much educational and career success at MSU, and he also met mentors and friends that would support him and encourage him throughout his journey here. Salter can also look back on his time at MSU and remember great experiences that he had as a student. One of his favorite memories included a monumental football game – “seeing MSU beat Alabama 6-3 in Jackson, and having a friendship with guys like Kent Hull and John Bond who played on that team,” said Salter.

“Our fans have a different expectation today, but in those days we rarely could compete with Alabama and to whip them so soundly playing fundamental football was a great memory,” he continued.

Salter’s favorite MSU tradition is the iconic cowbell, of which he has “quite the collection” in his office in George Hall.

Salter’s experience at MSU is unique and special. He has spent time on Mississippi State’s campus as a student and as a professional, and has had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people along the way. His advice to current and future MSU students is simple: “Find out what it is in life that brings you joy, then work as hard as you can to be able to do that every day. Remember that your MSU experience isn't a dress rehearsal, so get it right the first time.”

“And, yes, go to class,” Salter added.

Salter loves the Neshoba County Fair, SEC sports, hunting, golf, books, and spending time with his wife and grandchildren.

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