Mississippi developer gives $2.5 million toward History & Civil - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Mississippi developer gives $2.5 million toward History & Civil Rights Museums

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has received its largest donation yet. The generous donation will go toward what is being called 'world class' museums, the Mississippi History Museum and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

Ray Neilsen gifted Mississippi's two museums $2.5 million through his late father's foundation, the Craig Neilsen Foundation. 

The Craig Neilsen website posted the following:

"Since Craig H. Neilsen Foundation was established in 2002, we have funded programs supporting spinal cord injury (SCI) research and rehabilitation. These programs include funding for basic scientific study, co-sponsoring the first-ever national SCI Summit, and underwriting a fellowship to train physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors."

In 1993 Craig Neilsen established Ameristar Casinos, Inc., and took the company public. Ameristar's first property outside of Nevada opened in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1994.

The younger Neilsen moved to Mississippi years ago and said he loves this state. He told reporters Friday at the Archives and History building that he learned the value of history from a Jewish professor while in school back in his home state of Idaho. A lesson he never forgot.

He said he learned the value of diversity, integrity and hard work from his father.

"In my early career, I was focused on making money, gaining market share, however, later in life I found that giving brings me just as much pleasure," said Nielsen. "I've been dealt a good hand I guess you could say."

Neilsen said it was the right thing to do and he wanted to contribute to making a difference. Soft spoken and wearing cowboy boots, Neilsen explained why this was an such emotional moment for him.

"It's important. It's important that the world knows the future of Mississippi and not only it's past," added Nielsen.

Civil rights icon Myrlie Evers and former Governor William Winter expressed their gratitude.

"I guarantee we are going to have a tourist destination right here with these museums," said Winter. "They are world class," 

"I hope at this point, the good work and feelings of Mr. Neilsen will flow out into other parts of Mississippi and the rest of this nation and perhaps even the world," said Evers.

The History and Civil Rights museums are scheduled to open in December of 2017.

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