Robert Gene Wiggins
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Robert Gene Wiggins, 69, of Hattiesburg, passed away February 21, 2013, at his home. Services will be at 10 a.m., Tuesday, February 26, 2013, at Hardy Street Baptist Church, followed by burial in Highland Cemetery.
Gene was a graduate of Forest High School and East Central Junior College. He earned a Bachelor of Science in journalism and Master of Science in communication from The University of Southern Mississippi as well as a Doctor of Philosophy in journalism from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. From 1965-1968, he was the assistant sports editor for the Jackson Daily News and from 1968-1970, he was the sports editor for the Hattiesburg American. In 1969, he received the Sportswriter of the Year for the state of Mississippi. Gene was stationed in Meridian during his service as public information officer in the U. S. Air Force and Mississippi Air National Guard from 1962-1970.
Gene was professor emeritus of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism at The University of Southern Mississippi. From 1983-2001, he served as the founding director of the School of Communication at Southern Miss and for many years he served as the school's director of graduate studies. Since joining the Southern Miss faculty in 1973, he taught graduate courses in public relations case studies and undergraduate courses in media writing and media law and ethics. He was named the 1992 Mississippi Educational Administrator of the Year and twice received the university's Excellence in Teaching Award. For 19 years, Gene participated in the annual Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression. He edited the Olympic Record for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and authored numerous publications, including books, book chapters and journal articles in the area of mass communication law. In 2006, he was the first inductee into the School of Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame.
Gene joined the Northeast Lamar Volunteer Fire Department as a firefighter in 1978 and became president of the Board of Directors for the department in 1993. He was an active member and former president (1989-1990) of Rotary Club of Hattiesburg - Sunrise and served as Public Relations chair, Executive Board, District 684, Rotary International from 1988-1995 and also served as secretary. At Hardy Street Baptist Church, Gene taught the Charlie Brooks Sunday School Class and served on various committees including the Pastor Search Committee.
He was preceded in death by his father, Albert Moore Wiggins; his mother, Etha Wiggins Jenkins; stepfather, G.L. Jenkins; and brother, David Wayne Wiggins.
He is survived by his wife, Linda Wiggins of Hattiesburg; one son, Matthew Wiggins and his wife, Natalie of Hattiesburg; two grandchildren, Carolyn Elizabeth Wiggins and Ezekiel Gene Wiggins; and his sister-in-law, Carolyn Tullos Wiggins of Tallahassee, FL.
Memorial donations may be directed to: Robert Gene Wiggins Endowment Fund 1742, c/o The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, 118 College Drive #5210, Hattiesburg, MS 39406 or Hardy Street Baptist Church, 1508 Hardy Street, Hattiesburg, MS 39401.
Published in the Hattiesburg American on Feb. 26, 2013