Clarke Memorial College
The Newton County Historical Genealogical Society website has Marian Graham Thornton’s “History of Clarke College.” Internet Archive has numerous materials on the college—including yearbooks, catalogs, school newspapers, brochures, and scrapbooks. Clarke College has a strong Alumni association with a website and regular reunions.
In 1907 the General Association Meeting of Mississippi Baptists approved an institution of higher learning for East Mississippi. Named for the Reverend N. L. Clarke, the Clarke Memorial College opened at Newton in the fall of 1908 as a traditional four-year institution with 114 students.
The 1914 Seer, the first school yearbook, shows a college enrollment of 86. Included was a commercial department of 13 students. The music department provided two piano recitals. Since Clarke was a Baptist school, many students were members of the Baptist Young People’s Union. There was also a Young Women’s Auxiliary. Male students had two literary societies—Aurelian and Platonian. Female students also had two—Euterpean and Phi Delta Kappa. Among school clubs was a tennis club. That year twelve students were enrolled in a preparatory program to prepare them for regular college work. Included among the eleven faculty members were teachers of Greek and Latin, history and philosophy, mathematics, English, expression, music, art, and business.
By 1923 Clarke Memorial had become a junior college of 48 students; the preparatory division had become full four-year high school. After World War II, Clarke Memorial strengthened its academic offerings. Returning veterans pushed up enrollment. Buildings were added and the preparatory programs were dropped. In 1952 it received regional accreditation from SACS. But financial problems began to arise during this period.
The first Traces yearbook of 1972 shows a much larger student body, exceeding 300 students in the junior college. Almost all of the 111 sophomores were from the South, with 67 being native Mississippians. In addition there were 145 freshmen and 49 special students. The number of organizations associated with the religious mission of the school was greater. These included Christian Youth Association, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Ministerial Association, Religious Education Association, Baptist Student Union and Baptist Young Women. The literary societies had disappeared, but the music department was much stronger with a Music Club, the Clarke College Singers, the Clarke College C’s, and the Community Chorale.
In 1976 the school underwent a name change to Clarke College. As enrollment began to fall, the school then entered into a relationship with Mississippi College by which it lost much of its autonomy. Finally in the 1991-92 school year, continued financial problems and falling enrollment led to closure.
Bricks and Mortar
Newspapers from 1908 show that the campus—seventy acres on the western edge of Newton—was to have three buildings: a boys’ dormitory, a girls’ dormitory and the chapel. These were ready for the start of school. The boys’ dormitory burned in 1910 and was replaced. In early 1926 a new academic building replaced the chapel. The Activities Building came in 1949. In 1956-57 a library, a gymnasium, and a new girls’ dormitory were added.
The campus site is now home to the Central Mississippi Residential Center. a regional facility for treatment of mental illness and substance abuse.
Colors: Maroon and white
Team name: Panthers
The 1914 Seer shows Clarke teams in basketball and baseball, and through the years these—especially baseball—appear to have been the school’s major sports. In some years, the yearbooks show only baseball teams. The school became a member of the Mississippi Association of Community & Junior Colleges
In 1922 Clarke College inaugurated football. That first team posted a 3-4-1 record against agricultural high school, small college, and freshman teams. Opponents often included Pearl River Community College, Millsaps, Spring Hill, Gulf Coast Military Academy, and what are today Southern Mississippi and Louisiana Tech. The Panthers won the conference championship in 1928 before dropping the sport in 1934.
After the passage of Title IX, Clarke began to field women’s basketball teams.
The Chapel (left), a wood frame administration/clasroom building, was replaced by the three-story brick academic building (right) in 1926. In 1981 The Voice stated that it too was gone. The Chapel image is from the 1914 Seer. https://archive.org/stream/TheSeerClarkeCollegeYearbooks/TheSeer1914#page/n4/mode/1up. Academic Building is from Through the Years a Golden Purpose https://archive.org/stream/ClarkeCollegebrochurescorrespondenceschedulescatalogs/Through%20the%20years%20a%20golden%20purpose#page/n0/mode/2up. Accessed 1-30-2018
1958 Clarke basketball team. https://archive.org/stream/TheSeerClarkeCollegeYearbooks/TheSeer1958#page/n79/mode/2up Accessed 1-29-2018