Mississippi Woman’s College
In 1911, W. S. F. Tatum, wealthy lumberman and Methodist layman, acquired the property and offered it as a gift to the Baptists. He set two conditions: successful operation of a Christian school for girls for five years and an enrollment of at least one hundred students the first year. The property consisted of two surviving frame buildings and ten acres of cut-over land. A corporation was organized to own and control the college with nine trustees chosen from Baptist churches in Hattiesburg.
In September, 1911, the school opened with a new name, Mississippi Woman’s College, under the leadership of President W. W. Rivers. In November, 1911, the debt-free college was offered to the Mississippi Baptist Convention and was accepted.
The growth of Mississippi Woman’s College was a source of pride for Mississippi Baptists. Under the leadership of President J. L. Johnson, Jr., from 1912 to 1932, a splendid new administration building was completed in 1914 and named Tatum Court in honor of the college’s major benefactor. New brick dormitories were added (Ross and Johnson Halls) as well as an infirmary and a model home, which was used as a laboratory for domestic science classes. During this period, the campus expanded to 40 acres.
The college did not measure its progress simply with physical achievements. An early objective of Mississippi Woman’s College was to train intelligent, concerned citizens who could establish Christian homes. Curricula and activities were designed with this primary objective in mind. By 1925 college stationery boldly proclaimed on its letterhead, “Mississippi Woman’s College: The School with a Mission.” The student body dedicated itself to the mission of the college. Such dedication accounts for Mississippi Woman’s College becoming known by the late 1920s as one of the South’s outstanding Christian colleges for women. Continued growth and an emphasis on missions characterized the presidency of W. E. Holcomb from 1932 to 1940.
When the exigencies of the depression era forced the college to close in 1940, its facilities were used as army officers’ housing for nearby Camp Shelby. In 1946 Mississippi Woman’s College re-opened and underwent major renovations. Dr. I. E. Rouse was elected president in 1946 and served until 1956. In 1953 the Mississippi Baptist Convention voted to move the college into coeducational status after more than four decades of admitting only female students. This vote necessitated a new name for the institution. In 1954 the board of trustees selected the name of William Carey College in honor of the eighteenth century English cobbler-linguist whose decades of missionary activity in India earned him international recognition as the “Father of Modern Missions.”