Copyright by Robert C. Rogers and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.
In the 1950s, the Mississippi Baptist Convention had to make a decision about what to do with Mississippi Woman’s College in Hattiesburg. Since reopening in 1947 under the leadership of Dr. Irving E. Rouse, the college enrollment grew steadily from 76 students to 149 by 1951. However, many felt that the all-female status of the college hindered its potential to grow. During debate over the issue, Sue Bell Johnson, wife of former president Johnson, prayed, “Lord, if Woman’s College can help bring in the Kingdom, save it.” In 1953, the Mississippi Baptist Education Commission presented the State Convention with two choices regarding the college: either close it, or make it co-educational. Messengers voted overwhelmingly to keep it open and make it co-educational. Then messengers took another vote on whether the college should be a junior college or a senior college, and by a vote of 304 to 291, they voted to make it a senior college. Knowing it could no longer be called “Woman’s College,” President Rouse suggested the name William Carey College, in honor of the 18th century English Baptist missionary to India who became the father of modern missions, and the new name was approved by the faculty and trustees. According to tradition, Rouse meditated in the forest adjacent to the college, and there felt inspired to name the school after the missionary. Thus, the college inherited the famous motto of William Carey, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”1
Even before Mississippi Woman’s College adopted its new name, the school began immediately to prepare for male students, erecting a male dormitory that opened in the fall of 1954. The administration knew that a quick way to bring in male students was by creating football, baseball, basketball and track teams. Les De Vall, head coach of Hinds Junior College in Raymond, was hired as the football coach. Billy Crosby, a member of the football and baseball teams, said that one day President Rouse asked if he would be interested in playing for Mississippi Woman’s College. Crosby thought, “I could just see the headlines: ‘The Skirts Lose Again.’” Nevertheless, Billy and 35 other players showed up that fall at the then-renamed William Carey College. With the addition of male students, the total enrollment in the fall of 1954 was 315 students. The football team posted winning seasons in its two years of competition, 1954 and 1955. An even greater spiritual victory occurred when Dr. Andy Tate, dean of men, led several of the football players to faith in Christ. These conversions sparked a revival in the men’s dormitory, and over 100 male students made professions of faith. Some of the athletes became ministers. The prayers of Sue Bell Johnson were already being answered.2
1 Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1951, 114; 1953, 45; Donna Duck Wheeler, William Carey College: The First 100 Years (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006), 43, 48, 49; The Baptist Record, May 13, 1954, 1; October 14, 2004, Special Supplement Celebrating the Jubilee of William Carey College.
2 Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1954, 113; Wheeler, 51, 53.
Copyright by Robert C. Rogers and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.
Since Mississippi College was an all-male school, Mississippi Baptists were looking to sponsor a college for women in the early twentieth century, and the opportunity fell into their lap in Hattiesburg.1
A group of New Orleans businessmen had founded South Mississippi College in Poplarville in 1906, and then immediately moved it to land in the south part of Hattiesburg. Under the leadership of William I. Thames, it quickly grew, but then tragedy struck. On the night of February 28, 1910, a devastating fire destroyed the main building, eliminating classrooms, the library, and the auditorium. The school was forced to close. In 1911, W. S. F. Tatum, a wealthy lumberman and Methodist layman, bought the 10 acres and remaining two buildings. Tatum offered the property to the State of Mississippi for a “Normal College” (teacher’s college), but the site was rejected by the State. He then offered the property to his fellow Methodists, but they chose not to build another college, since they already had Millsaps College in Jackson. He then offered it to as a gift to the four Baptist churches in Hattiesburg. Those churches accepted the offer, formed a corporation, and the trustees hired W. W. Rivers from Arkansas to become president. Rivers secured a faculty, recruited students, and opened the school in September 1911 under a new name, Mississippi Woman’s College. They offered the debt-free college to the Mississippi Baptist Convention, and it was accepted by the State Convention on November 23, 1911.2
John L. Johnson, Jr. served as president of Mississippi Woman’s College from 1912-1921, and during his administration an administration building, Tatum Court, was completed in 1914, and brick dormitories, Ross and Johnson Halls, were added, as well as an infirmary and a model home to be used as a laboratory for domestic science classes. Enjoying rapid growth in enrollment, the campus expanded to 40 acres, and gained accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1926. By 1929, the college had 500 students. This school later became William Carey University, which will be the subject of a future blog post.3
Dr. Rogers is currently writing a new history of Mississippi Baptists.
1 Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1900, 63.
2 Donna Duck Wheeler, William Carey College: The First 100 Years (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006), 8, 16-17; Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1911, 55-56.
3 Wheeler, 8; Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1919, 22-23; 1929, 55.
(My mother, Joyce Clinton Rogers, was born on July 1, 1935. If you who follow her paintings on Instagram @mymothersart or on Facebook, you know that she is still actively painting, but the most treasured of all her paintings is the one of her grandfather in front of his home in Epley, Mississippi. Below she shares her personal memories of her grandparents, and what life was like growing up in the 1940s in rural Missississippi. It will help you understand why this painting is so special.)
by Joyce Clinton Rogers
When I was a little girl in the 1940s, my parents took me to spend a week in the summer with my Clinton grandparents who lived on a farm in Epley, Mississippi (located between Sumrall and Hattiesburg). I may have gone several summers– I’m not sure. I may have forgotten.
There wasn’t much a young girl could do but explore, so I did. A short walk away past the cemetery was a small bridge over a creek. It was fun to swing my feet into the cool creek water and see what critters were in the water.
My granddaddy was a farmer and a well-digger. Our whole family, my three sisters and three brothers, loved to play around the well. We had running water and electricity and a real bathroom at the teacher’s home at Oak Grove where we lived– but not my grandparents. My grandparents had an outdoor toilet and a Sears & Roebuck Catalogue for toilet paper. (I’m not kidding!) They had a tub used for washing clothes, vegetables, and for getting a bath, and goodness knows what else.
The story is told that granddaddy got baths by waiting ’til dark, stripping and pouring buckets of well water over his head, then drying off naturally by swinging in the swing on the front porch. One night, my Aunt Carol was entertaining a boyfriend on the front porch, and granddaddy’s arrival caused quite a stir!
I remember the house well. Our family visited every Sunday afternoon for years. I did a painting of the ole house, which hangs in back of my favorite chair where we live now. The farmhouse had no electricity and was heated by fireplaces and the kitchen by a stove. The stove had a door that opened and you put firewood inside. There were two fireplaces, one in each bedroom on each side of the house. When we went to visit in the wintertime, we sat on the edge of one of the two beds in the rooms to the right. If others came in, we just slid over. Grandma sat in her chair on the left of the fireplace, and granddaddy sat on the right.
On holidays, occasionally we might eat at the farmhouse. If that was the case, we came early so mama could help with the cooking. And oh, what a great feast we would have! We’d have fried chicken, lots of vegetables from their garden both fresh and “canned” (stored in jars), biscuits and cornbread, casseroles and desserts. As the oldest granddaughter, I got some jobs. Grandma made buttermilk and butter by placing milk in a jar, and I shook the jar until buttermilk and butter formed and separated from the other milk. My arms would get so tired!
I remember well hearing granddaddy say the blessing. He was loud! After he finished, he said, “Now you see what’s here…” I can’t remember what else he said (to finish that phrase). If any family remember, I wish you’d tell me how he finished that statement.
Speaking of being loud and praying, I had an interesting experience on one of my summer visits. I was on the swing on the front porch while granddaddy’s young pastor visited with him. I heard granddaddy praying loudly. I realized that the pastor didn’t come to pray for granddaddy, but for granddaddy to pray for him. Or maybe both ways.
Grandma always wore a long simple dress down to her ankles, an apron and her hair in a bun on top of her head. On Sunday, she wore a white apron. Granddaddy wore overalls and clean ones on Sunday.
Grandma swept the yard with a broom. She didn’t want grass growing in her yard. There was a rooster in the back yard who chased me. I was deathly afraid of him.
There was a long back porch where vegetables might be stacked or the washtub might be the bathing place for the more genteel. On the end of the porch near the kitchen was a shelf where a bucket of water with a dipper and a washpan stood. This is where you got a drink of water and/or washed your hands. Yes, we all drank from the same dipper.
Granddaddy never owned a car. He used his plowhorse, Dolly, to pull the family wagon to go to Sumrall for supplies and to church on Sunday. You can see him with Dolly in my painting.
Known in the community as “Uncle Charlie” and “Aunt Marthy,” this is how things were in rural Epley in the 1940s, 1950s and into the 1960s. Both are buried in the little Clinton Family Cemetery with their parents, their grandparents and some of their nine children and grandchildren, including one of my brothers, Donald Clinton. Also buried there are my parents, Rankin Anderson Clinton, Sr. and Lucy Rutledge Clinton, and Gwen Clinton, the first wife of my brother Sam.
Continuing my series of photo blogs on houses of worship, I share a photo that is one of my most recent, but one of my favorites. Providence Baptist Church is an historic congregation that dates back to 1818, yet this church in rural Forrest County, north of the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, has a worship center that blends the classic and contemporary. On the classic side, there is the red brick and columns in front, with a white steeple. But the high pitch of the roof in front that juts forward, and the columns rising to meet it, give just the right contemporary touch. Add to that the curb appeal of a country church standing proudly on a hill, and this church building is an amazing eye-catcher.
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I love taking photos of houses of worship. Over the next few days, I will post some of my favorites, and share what I like about them.
I’ll begin with Richburg Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This is a classic red brick worship center, especially popular among Baptists. Like many in this style, it has red bricks, with a white column porch in front. Yet this congregation added some other nice touches to that basic design. Notice the stained glass, the cross cut-out in the steeple, and the arched bell tower in front of the worship center, with a cross on top. Simple, yet beautiful.