This timeline is an attempt
to put the school history into perspective. It will be updated as
more information becomes available. Research is still underway, and
alumni and friends of PRCC are encouraged to contribute any information
they may have toward an accurate history.
Pearl River College Timeline
Pearl River College began
its historical odyssey as the state’s first county agricultural high school
in the first decade of the last century. For the first eleven years,
the school was devoted solely to educating high school age children in
academic studies and agricultural and home sciences. In the school’s
twelfth year, PRCAHS became the first Mississippi agricultural high school
to offer freshman college courses. By 1924, the school became the
first public two-year college in the state. All through its existence,
Pearl River College has lead Mississippi education into new arenas.
This is a timeline of the school’s history.
Mississippi becomes the
20th State in the United States of America under its first governor, W.C.C.
Mississippi joins other
southern U.S. states in secession from the Union. Mississippi born
Jefferson Davis is elected President of the Confederate States of America
and the War Between the States ensues.
Pearl County is established
by a Mississippi Legislative Act. The county of Pearl is taken from
Marion and Hancock counties. The area is much smaller than present
day Pearl River County and the heavy tax burden placed upon the sparsely
populated area is more than the county’s residents can bear, so the county
is dissolved in 1878 after six years with the land returning to the original
A United States Post Office
is established at Poplarville
The railroad era begins
with the construction of the New Orleans and Northeastern railroad.
Running through the middle of what is now Pearl River County, the railroad
connects the pine barrens to the outside world, providing cheap transportation
Poplarville is chartered
as a town by the State of Mississippi with a population of 232.
Pearl River County is established
by a Mississippi Legislative Act. The county is comprised of an area
that runs from just north of Lumberton to just south of McNeill, with its
east and west boundaries the same as today’s. During this time period,
the lumber industry begins with northern businesses buying up huge tracts
of land. Sawmills spring up along the new railroad and thousands
of new residents come in from the east coast and from the recently depleted
pine forests of the Florida panhandle.
The Mississippi Agricultural
High School Law is passed by the state legislature. The Pearl River
County School Board meets July 6 to discuss the establishment of Pearl
River County Agricultural High School. State Senator, Theo G. Bilbo
and Professor Eugene B. Ferris are named to the Board of Trustees for the
new school. Poplarville is chosen as the site for the new school
because of the promise of $2,245 and a suitable tract of land as the site.
Although the new Agricultural High School Law is declared unconstitutional
because it does not allow for equal opportunity for African American school
children, the people of Poplarville guarantee funding to the new board
of trustees until such time as state money can be obtained, making Pearl
River County Agricultural High School the first in the state.
In July, the cornerstone
for the multi-purpose building is laid with J.C. Hardy, the president of
Mississippi State Agricultural & Mechanical College (Mississippi State
University) bringing the address. On September 9, Pearl River County
Agricultural High School (PRCAHS and also known as the AHS) opens its doors
to the first students.
The new Mississippi Agricultural
High School Law is introduced which makes accommodations for the African
The new administration building
(Jacobs Hall) is built providing classroom, library and office space for
the new school. William Jacobs replaces T.M. Kelly as the school’s
superintendent. PRCAHS field’s its first football team. This
team becomes the forerunner to one of the most powerful and long-lived
Junior College teams in the nation, racking up 15 state championships and
one national championship in its first 75 years.
The girl’s dormitory (Batson
Hall) is built. This third building allows space for the boys in
the original building. The first graduating class is awarded diplomas
by Lieutenant Governor and PRCAHS Board of Trustee’s member, Theo G. Bilbo.
Will Jacobs resigns from
the superintendent’s position and James Andrew Huff, Superintendent at
Stone-Harrison County AHS (Perkinston) is elected to replace Jacobs.
The original PRCAHS building
burns on April 19, 1919 and a new boy’s dormitory (Huff Hall) is built
to replace it that same year.
The Board of Trustees approve
the addition of freshman college courses to the curriculum, making Pearl
River County Agricultural High School the first publically funded institution
to do so. The courses are first offered during the 1921-22 school
A new cafeteria and dormitory
combination is built (Crosby Hall). With a cafeteria seating around
300 on the first floor and dormitory space for 33 students on the second
floor, the new building is built largely with donated funds from local
lumber baron and philanthropist, L. O. Crosby, Sr.
During the August Board
of Trustees meeting, the board authorizes the addition of college sophomore
classes to the curriculum for 1922-23. This, however, does not actually
take place until the 1925-26 school year.
The new superintendent’s
home is constructed.
Pearl River College begins
playing college football. The Wildcat’s first games are against Mississippi
College, Louisiana College (LSU) and State Teacher’s College (USM).
Pearl River College Wildcats
win the first state football championship, and begin a four year winning
streak, winning in 1925 and winning the 1926, 1927, and 1928 state championship
for the first three years of the Mississippi Junior College Athletic Association’s
(MJCAA) existence. The 10th Grade high school classes are transferred
back to the county schools and sophomore college classes are adding, making
Pearl River the first public 2-year institution in Mississippi.
College Hall (Moody Hall)
is constructed. This combination classroom and gymnasium-auditorium
also houses the college administration offices. J.A. Huff retires
to his interests in Poplarville. The Board of Trustees attempt to
lure R.E.L. Southerland from Hinds County Agricultural High School, but
are unsuccessful. They then choose Simon Lafayette Stringer, Superintendent
of Picayune Schools to replace the popular Huff.
The college women’s dormitory
is built (White Hall) to accommodate the increased demand for dormitory
space because of the addition of college curriculum.
Simon Lafayette Stringer
resigns and is replaced by Joseph Forrest Stuart
Pearl River Hall is built
to add to the men’s dormitory space.
Pearl River County Agricultural
High School and Junior College makes application to and is approved by
the War Department to establish a Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps
unit (JROTC). This changes the face of the campus. The school
begins to resemble a military school more than an agricultural high school
as uniformed students are seen marching on the grounds. The campus
newspaper is begun and named “The Cadet”, a reflection of the current status.
Joseph Forrest Stuart resigns
and is replaced by Arthur Benjamin Nicholson.
Arthur Benjamin Nicholson
resigns as president and resumes his pre-presidential position. He
is replaced by Robert Edward Lee Southerland, Hinds Junior College’s first
Robert Edward Lee Southerland
resigns and is replaced by Reese Dermont McLendon. Football games
are discontinued mid season because of World War II and do not resume until
the fall of 1944.
A dormitory for married
veterans is erected (Bilbo Hall).
A prefabricated building
is obtained from the government (Jefferson Davis Hall). It is erected
by vocational students at no additional cost to the school. The building
is used as a science building and is bricked shortly after it is built.
A new gymnasium is erected
at the front of the campus. Named after Judge J.M. Shivers, the gym
replaces the gym-auditorium in Moody Hall. Renovations are made on
Moody Hall, converting the gym-auditorium into an auditorium, with an extended
stage area. The construction is paid for by timber sales off the
The college begins a transportation
program with the purchase of two busses. This allows students to
come to the college on a daily basis rather than having to live on campus,
saving the college the expense of building additional dormitories.
This program continues until 1996 when it is no longer necessary.
Reese Dermont McLendon resigns
to accept the president’s position at Northwest Junior College. He
is replaced by Dr. Garvin Howell Johnston. Johnston is the first
Pearl River Junior College alumnus to serve as President. The Fine
Arts building is completed (now Hancock Hall). “The Cadet” is renamed
“The Dixie Drawl.”
The Metal Trades Building
(Visual Arts Building) is completed.
This year marks the end
of an era. High school classes, begun in 1909, are transferred to
the Poplarville Municipal Separate School District. Pearl River Junior
College and Agricultural High School becomes Pearl River Junior College.
A boy’s dormitory is added
(Lamar Hall) bringing the total number of dorms to six: White Hall, Batson
Hall, Huff Hall, Pearl River Hall, Bilbo Hall, and Lamar Hall. Pearl
River College Wildcats football team wins the State and National Championships.
This “Dream Team” is coached by football legend, Dobie Holden.
A new student center is
located front and center on the campus. Containing a grill and bookstore
the building will later become the Ted J. Alexander Administration Building.
Authorized by the State
Board of Junior Colleges, an Associate Degree Nursing program is begun
at Pearl River. A new science building is completed (Present day
Science & Mathematics Building). A 44,000 square foot building
to house vocational and technical programs is built. The completion
of Dobie Holden Stadium gives the nationally famous Wildcat football team
a suitable home.
Garvin H. Johnston resigns
to run for State Superintendent of Education. He is replaced by Dr.
Marvin Ross White, another Pearl River alumnus.
A new library building is
built on the west side of the campus (Garvin H. Johnston Library).
A new academic building is built nearby (Seal Hall). Jacobs Hall
is demolished to make way for a new administrative building (Information
Hurricane Camille hits the
Mississippi Gulf Coast with all the fury of a category 5 hurricane.
With wind gusts as high as 200 miles per hour, the devastation it leaves
behind is catastrophic. Rain and storm-spawned tornados rip through
south Mississippi leaving in its wake such destruction that Pearl River
Junior College’s six-county district is declared a disaster area.
Every building on campus is damaged. The damage, ranging from minor
roof damage to total destruction, halts classes. Batson Hall is declared
totally destroyed as the roof is blown off and the building is structurally
devastated. Assessing the damages at three-quarters of a million
dollars, all building money is diverted to repair and replacement.
In spite of the destructive hand that Camille deals the college, a bid
is let to build the Forrest County Vocational Center on 12 acres of land.
This begins a satellite program that continues for the next 15 years.
This vocational-technical satellite program reaches into every county in
Pearl River Junior College’s six-county district.
Marion Hall is built to
replace damaged Batson Hall. The new dormitory features apartments
opening onto an enclosed atrium. Featuring a large fountain surrounded
by study tables, it offers a place for students to study and socialize.
Moody Hall is renovated and the Fine Arts Department is moved into the
remodeled building. The old Fine Arts Building is renovated, providing
classroom and office space. The new administration building (current
Information Technology Building) is completed.
The band hall is constructed.
M.R. White Coliseum, a spots
arena, is built, providing athletic office space and a 3000 seat arena.
The Diesel Mechanics Technology
building is constructed on the north end of the campus. A Brick,
Block, and Stone Masonry Technology annex is also built onto the Diesel
An Automotive Mechanics
Technology annex is added to the Diesel Mechanics Technology building.
Crosby Hall goes through
the first of several annexing projects. Annexes are built, flanking
the original front of Crosby Hall and allowing meeting rooms and expanded
Marvin H. White retires
and the Board of Trustees elect Dr. Ted J. Alexander the ninth President
of Pearl River Junior College.
Alexander’s first job is
the construction of a new President’s home. Although the project
began under White’s administration, Alexander is left to complete the construction,
since White deferred the design of the home to the incoming president.
Alexander meets the challenge
of state legislative cutbacks with the establishment of two programs: The
Alumni Association and Development Foundation, and the Office of Research
and Grants Development. During the first 16 years, the Alumni Association
and Development Foundation bring in almost $5 million in private funding,
while the Office of Research and Grants Development is responsible for
over $50 million in federal and private grant money. Work is begun
on a 44,000 square foot technology center. The center is completed
the following year. Pearl River Junior College changes its name to
Pearl River Community College to reflect the growing list of programs offered
to the college’s six-county district.
Two new dormitory facilities
are funded and built on the west end of the campus. They serve as
the Men’s and Women’s Honors Dormitories. An annex is added to the
Science building. The annex is a two story addition which almost
triples the original floor space.
Forrest County funds the
construction of a new Allied Health Occupations building on a 49 acre land
donation (made by the Tatum family) adjacent to the Forrest County Vocational
Center. The new building houses allied health programs. Through
grant funds, a half million dollar resource center is added to the Library
on the Poplarville campus.
A major renovation and addition
is made to Crosby Hall. The old dining room and kitchen spaces are
converted into space for a bookstore, counseling center, nurses station,
post office, grill and bookstore. A 600 seat addition houses the
new dining hall and kitchen (Olivia Bender Cafeteria).
Senator Thad Cochran cuts
the ribbon on a new $3.7 million Nursing and Wellness center on the west
side of the campus.
Pearl River Community College
puts up its first official internet site. Work begins on the new
administration building. Funded by grant money, the project is a
renovation that turns the one story student center into a two story administration
complex (Ted J. Alexander Administration Building).
Announcements are made at
the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg concerning the legislature’s
approval of a $4 million grant for the establishment of an Advanced Center
for Technology Partnership. The grant requires a matching $1 million
dollars to be raised by the school. This money is raised before July
Ted J. Alexander retires
and is replaced by Dr. William A. Lewis, Pearl River College’s tenth president.
Renovations funded by a grant are begun on Huff and Pearl River halls.
Pearl River Community College becomes the first community college in the
nation to produce it’s yearbook entirely on CD-ROM. This digital
media year book saves the college almost $40,000 each year.
Following the terrorist
attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon in
Washington, D.C., plans are made to seek private donations to build a chapel
on the Poplarville campus. The college sets the goal at $700,000.
Pearl River Community College begins the first museum at a Mississippi
community college with the opening held during Homecoming festivities.
Pearl River Wildcats baseball
team wins its first berth in the Junior College World Series.
Men's Basketball wins the
State Championship. Construction begins on a third renovation and
addition to Crosby Hall. The addition adds a 300 seat conference
room onto the Olivia Bender Cafeteria and adds a student life center for
study and relaxation to the old structure. After a successful campaign
raising over $700,000 the school breaks ground for the new chapel.
The chapel is built across from the Nursing & Wellness Center on the
west side of the Poplarville campus. The museum launches a renovation project
adding an additional 500 square feet to the display area and a timeline
display that features the information in this booklet. This renovation
is also funded by private donations. Pearl River wins first ever
State Championship in Men's Soccer then wins 16th State Championship in
football. This win is the first State Championship for Pearl River
in 25 years.
Construction on Campus continues.
Crosby Hall Student Life Center is completed in April while Chapel construction
continues into the summer. The Pearl River Community College Museum
Patrons' Organization premieres a 71-minute documentary on the history
of Pearl River College in February. Men's Basketball garners the
State Championship for a second year in a row. Wildcat Baseball defeats
Meridain for the State Championship. The cumlative State Championship
wins for Football, Soccer, Basketball and Baseball makes JUCO history.
This is, arguabily, the first time in junior college history that a junior
college has taken all four men's major sports in a single school year.
It is affirmed that it is the first time in MACJC history.
you have pictures, memorabilia, or information about the history of Pearl
River Community College? If you do, and you would be willing to donate,
loan or share this with us, contact Ronn Hague or Larry Stanford at the
Department of Public Relations, Museum Project, PRCC, Highway 11 North,
Poplarville, MS, 39470, ph. (601)-403-1316, email
us, or use the form above.