Lincoln Countians instrumental in USM creation

Published 12:16 pm Monday, April 12, 2010

Upon reading the “USM celebrates 100 years” article thatappeared on page 12 of the March 31 DAILY LEADER, it dawned on methat Lincoln Countians may not be aware of the unparalleledcontributions that two past Lincoln County citizens made to thecreation of the University of Southern Mississippi. Note the word Iuse is “creation.” Following is the factually history surroundingthe “creation” I refer to that transpired exactly 100 years ago onMarch 30, 1910.

In 1910 there were two rather influential persons in LincolnCounty that happened to be the best of friends and betweenthemselves had developed a common goal. Those persons were theHonorable Marshall McCullough, a fire-eating 35-year-old lawyer whowas the duly elected Lincoln County state representative, andThomas Percival (T.P.) Scott who was the superintendent ofBrookhaven City Schools. Recognizing that Mississippi was the onlystate in the union that had no facility for training teachers,McCullough and Scott set out to create one.

After recruiting the support of Gov. Edmond F. Noel, HouseCommittee on Education member Marshall McCullough, on Jan. 28,1910, introduced House Bill No. 204, entitled The MississippiNormal College Bill.

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After due consideration of the bill, the House Committee onEducation vetoed it, but attached a favorable minority report whichcould potentially allow the bill to be brought before the fullHouse of Representatives for a passage vote on its merits. However,the Speaker of the House of Representatives was Hugh McQueen Streetand he was adamantly opposed to the bill. The battle lines weretherefore defined.

While Rep. McCullough hustled support for the bill among hiscolleagues, T.P. Scott set out to garner public support by urgingthe members of the Mississippi Teachers Association (MTA) toliterally bury the members of the House of Representatives withletters and telegrams in support of the bill.

As a result of the responsive support of the MTA members,newspapers scattered around the state jumped on board with theireditorial support. The legislative fight was on, but Speaker of theHouse Hugh McQueen Street still refused to bring the bill to thefloor for consideration.

But opportunity presented itself in a sudden and strange way onMarch 16, 1910 when Speaker of the House Street temporarily retiredto the House cloakroom to smoke a cigar and appointed Rep. A.C.Anderson of Ripley to serve in his functions while he was out ofthe House chamber. Rep. McCullough, seizing the fleetingopportunity, hit the floor requesting recognition, and whenrecognized, called House Bill No. 204 to the floor and secured itspassage with a vote of 59 to 39.

The Senate subsequently passed The Mississippi Normal CollegeBill without modification and Gov. Noel signed it into law on March30, 1910, and, as is often stated, the rest is history.

An interesting footnote is that Marshall McCullough’s youngestsister Denny was one of the first students at the college that herbrother was instrumental in creating. When Denny McCullough movedinto the college dormitory she swept out the new-constructionsawdust.

Hon. Marshall McCullough died Jan. 1, 1942 and is buried inShady Grove Baptist Church Cemetery of the Ruth community.

Pat McCullough is a resident of Lincoln County.