Agnew succeeds Shawn McIntosh, who resigned earlier this month to become a deputy managing editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Ronnie Agnew is an experienced journalist and manager and Mississippi native son," Clarion-Ledger Publisher Bill Hunsberger, who appointed Agnew to the top editing post, said.
"He joined us a year-and-a-half ago as managing editor and, in that time, has shown he has the skills to lead the state's largest newspaper organization," Hunsberger added.
The move marks yet another milestone as the newspaper works to step away from its segregationist past.
During the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, The Clarion-Ledger and its sister newspapers were frequently labeled "seg -- or segregationist -- rags" by critics, long-timeNew Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Bill Minor told the NewsHour.
In 1982, Gannett Inc. purchased Mississippi Publishers Co., which included The Clarion-Ledger and eleven other newspapers, from the Hederman family of Jackson -- the papers' longtime owners. Since then, the newspaper has aggressively investigated local crimes of the civil rights era.
Agnew, 39, joined the newspaper in February 2001, after serving as the editor of the Alabama-based Dothan Eaglefor four years.
"I can't tell you how elated I am to have such an honor. This paper and the impact it has in this state every day are just incredible," Agnew said. "I look forward to being in this role for a very long time."
Agnew, the seventh of nine children born in Tupelo, Miss., recalled difficult times from his childhood when his father worked "in the fields" as a sharecropper, and how his parents always stressed the importance of education.
After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1984, Agnew worked as a reporter for The Greenwood Commonwealth and The Sun Herald in Biloxi, and moved on to The Cincinnati Enquirer, where he was promoted to assistant city editor in 1988.
In 1993, Agnew left The Cincinnati Enquirer to become managing editor of the Miss.-based The Hattiesburg American; both papers are owned by Gannett. Inc.