Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas provided scans from the Jonesboro College catalogs. The Craighead County Public Library provided scans from The Mound, the school yearbook. Jonesboro and Arkansas's Historic Northeast Corner by Ray and Diane Hanley has a sketch of the school as does J. S. Rogers' 1948 Baptist History of Arkansas.
Woodland College, an earlier attempt by the Baptists of Northeast Arkansas to support a college, had failed in 1912. But by 1919 local Jonesboro businessmen agreed to help raise funds for another attempt. The First Baptist Church of Blytheville provided starting funds. In 1920 bids were let for the construction of a building in south Jonesboro costing $200,000. By the fall of 1924 classes began for six teachers and 250 students in the new building. The catalog notes that the first summer term also drew 250 students. The fall of 1925 saw enrollment increase to 302. Enrollment remained stable, with 325--including 19 young preachers--enrolled in 1932.
The 1927-28 catalog shows that, like many small schools of the time, Jonesboro offered programs to meet numerous community needs. It was a liberal arts junior college with the usual courses in languages, mathematics, science, fine arts, and history. Its education department included a normal license course to train area teachers; its summer session provided an opportunity for those teachers to continue coursework. JC offered commercial subjects to prepare students for business and office work. Important for the time, it offered a pre-medical course. To prepare younger students for college, it offered an academy.
While the city of Jonesboro and the Baptist Home Missions board were to jointly fund Jonesboro College, newspaper accounts show that it was in need of financial help almost immediately. In 1928 newspapers contained rumors of closure. Among groups providing funds were the Craighead County Klu Klux Klan, which provided $1200. In 1932 the president reported to the state Baptist Convention that JC "was not making any debts."
However, in 1934 Jonesboro College closed. Rogers notes that "in many ways Jonesboro College was a great school. "The curriculum, was not outmoded and there was no apathy of interest." He concluded, "Lack of funds closed Jonesboro College."
Bricks and Mortar
Jonesboro College Administration Building was ready for classes in 1924. The classic three-story brick building had six columns in front. Described as "magnificent," and "modern in every way," it served the entire life of Jonesboro College. After that it was sold to the Jonesboro school district, for whom it housed the high school. Heavily damaged by the 1973 Jonesboro tornado, it had to be razed.
The Administration Building. (<www.classreport.org/usa/ar/jonesboro/jhs/>)
The College Football Data Warehouse shows that Jonesboro College played football during its entire life. However few teams experienced success, with the 4-4 team of 1932 being the high water mark. The schedule included teams that were members of the Mississippi Valley Conference--West Tennessee Teachers (now University of Memphis), Murray Normal (now Murray State University, Little Rock Junior College (now Arkansas-Little Rock), Tennessee Junior College (now Tennessee-Martin), Union College, and Lambuth College. The first four of these are now Division I schools.
The Mound shows both men's and women's basketball teams, a men's volleyball team that played YMCA opposition, and a co-ed tennis club.
The 1925 men's basketball team (left) and the women's team (right). (The Mound, courtesy of Craighead County Public Library)