1.01ľHISTORY OF BREWTON-PARKER COLLEGE
Compiled by Ann C. Turner, Archivist
The founding of Brewton-Parker College is unique in that it was conceived in the mind of one man, supported for a time by only one other man, and the location determined by the cooperative efforts of the citizens of two small Georgia communities.
Dr. John Carter Brewton, pastor of the McRae Baptist Church from 1902 to 1905, was a strong advocate of Christian education, and had long held a dream of bringing this type of education to the children of South Georgia. He shared his dream with Baptists in the immediate area and as a result, won early support from both the Telfair and Daniell Baptist Associations. Brewton was also able to enlist financial support from Mr. Charles B. Parker, a prominent businessman in McRae, and together they worked to make the dream a reality. The Telfair and Daniell Baptist Associations met in joint session in early 1904, and after prayerful deliberation, decided that the school would be located in the community where the most support was received. Among those submitting bids were McRae, Scotland, Vidalia and Mount Vernon-Ailey, bidding together. The towns of Mount Vernon and Ailey together submitted a winning bid of $15,000 and 15 acres of land. Mr. and Mrs. David Fountain donated ten acres of land and Mr. Warren Crawley, an African-American citizen, gave the other five acres. The decision was made to name the new school Union Baptist Institute, to honor the union of the two towns, as well as the union between the two Baptist associations.
After the charter was signed on April 28, 1904, a building contract was awarded to George L. Adams of Ailey for the construction of a main building and two dormitories. Soon after, a contract was let for a dining hall. By early summer of 1905, Union Baptist Institute was a reality. The buildings were nearly complete, Dr. Brewton was named President of the institute, and faculty members were hired. On September 12, 1905, Union Baptist Institute formally opened with an enrollment of 160 students and seven teachers, and offered a course of education through high school. The institute’s first year was successful beyond all expectations. Five additional teachers had to be hired, and the enrollment reached 365.
In 1912, Dr. Brewton asked the trustees to change the name of the school to Parker Institute, in honor of Mr. Charles B. Parker. In light of the efforts of Dr. Brewton, the trustees deemed it proper to change the name of the school to Brewton-Parker Institute in honor of the two men who had contributed most toward its establishment. On May 30, 1912, the name change became official. That same year Dr. Brewton resigned as President of the institute. Under his leadership, the school had grown from an idea to an established institution, and it had survived despite limited financial resources. Dr. Brewton stayed on at Brewton-Parker Institute as Professor of Bible and as the school’s chief fundraiser.
The trustees elected William Anderson Mulloy to replace Dr. Brewton in May 1912. Professor Mulloy was ill when he accepted the presidency and was unable to continue his administrative duties after August 1912. Dr. Brewton resumed the presidency for the remainder of that school year.
The trustees elected Ray Ernest Robertson as President in May 1913. By this time, Brewton-Parker Institute had become the focus of cultural and social life in the Mount Vernon-Ailey community. Concerts, recitals, speeches, debates, and dramatic readings were often held on campus. Two literary societies were organized, the “Pythians” and the “Damons.” The school also had active athletic programs.
In May 1916, President Robertson resigned, and Brown Bunyan Smith assumed the presidency. During his term the United States entered World War I. The war had a devastating effect on the school, but the female students were able to keep the school open. President Smith resigned in May 1918, and Dr. Brewton resumed the presidency for the 1918-19 school term.
Dr. Brewton was replaced by Linton Stephens Barrett in May 1919. During Barrett’s administration, Brewton-Parker began to suffer from competition with state-supported high schools. He asked the trustees to formulate a plan to make Brewton-Parker a junior college, foreseeing the time when each town would have its own high school. Barrett resigned as President in May 1922. Acting on the recommendation of Barrett, the trustees appointed a committee to work out a plan to elevate the school to a junior college. They also appointed Albert Martin Gates to succeed Barrett as President in June 1922.
In 1923, the institution added a college freshman class to its sphere of instruction. Four years later, a sophomore class was added, and Brewton-Parker Institute became Brewton-Parker Junior College. In 1929, the elementary grades were dropped from the curriculum, leaving only high school and junior college classes. During Gates’ administration the school added two new buildings, a dining hall and a library. A third building, a new boys’ dormitory, was begun but not competed during his term. He resigned as President in 1941. The administration building was later named Gates Hall in his honor.
Robert Lee Robinson served as President from 1941 to 1946. Again, because of war, enrollment declined. The original girls’ dormitory, Rawling-Garbutt Hall, burned in 1945, and the girls were moved to the boys’ dormitory, which had been named Denton Hall. The boys were housed in the community until the new boys’ dormitory, Robinson Hall, was complete.
In 1946, Charles T. Ricks became the first alumnus to be named President. During his administration the school added a new gymnasium and began work on a new girls’ dormitory to replace the original. In 1948, all secondary instruction was dropped from the school, leaving only junior college classes. In November of that same year, the Georgia Baptist Convention voted to accept the offer of the 21 Baptist Associations of southeast Georgia to transfer Brewton-Parker Junior College to the complete ownership of the Georgia Baptist Convention. The necessary legal action was completed by March 1949. In that same year, President Ricks resigned and Melvin Palmer Campbell assumed the presidency.
During President Campbell’s administration, the Student Co-op building and a lighted athletic field were constructed. He served until 1953, when Marion Archie Murray was elected President.
During this time, the girls’ dormitory, which was begun during President Ricks’ administration, was finally completed and named McAllister Hall. The athletic field was named Murray Field in honor of President Murray. His administration was marked by the Relocation Controversy of 1954. The Georgia Baptist Convention considered relocating Brewton-Parker and Truett-McConnell College to more populated cities, but after much heated and emotional debate, the convention decided to leave the two schools in their original locations. President Murray resigned in 1957.
J. Theodore Phillips served as President from 1957 to 1979. Under Phillips’ leadership, new construction included the H. Terry Parker Library, the Cook Science Building, the Phillips Student Center, West Hall, and Gilder Hall, a new president’s home. Accreditation as a junior college was granted by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1962. The off-campus Evening College, offering core curriculum accredited courses, began in the late 1960’s. The original boys’ dormitory, Denton Hall, burned in 1969. The enrollment grew, and in 1978, the popular name of the school, Brewton-Parker College, was officially adopted.
William Starr Miller became President in 1979. During his administration, the Miller Music Building was constructed, and enrollment continued to accelerate. President Miller conceived the plan for the college’s first baccalaureate degree, the Bachelor of Ministry degree. In 1983, he resigned as President, but stayed on as Coordinator of the Bachelor of Ministry Degree.
Y. Lynn Holmes became the second alumnus to lead Brewton-Parker as President in 1983. He took Dr. Miller’s plan and proceeded to put it into action. The college received candidacy status for the four-year program in the 1984-85 academic year, and in June 1985, the college held commencement for its first senior college class, with 22 graduates. On December 9, 1986, with the approval of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Brewton-Parker College became a four-year institution. Dr. Holmes’ administration was one of unprecedented growth. Enrollment doubled, growing from 1,123 students in 1983 to an all-time record of 2,205 in 1993. During this time, twenty-one campus facilities were constructed or renovated, and land acquisitions ensured future growth for the campus, all accomplished while the college remained virtually debt-free. He resigned in 1997 following the Financial Aid crisis, and Starr Miller returned as Interim President until June 1998. At that time, the trustees elected David Robert Smith as President.
Brewton-Parker College has been blessed with strong, dedicated leadership starting with Dr. J.C. Brewton and continuing through the years. The success of the college is due to the vision of the founders as expressed by Dr. Brewton, “If civilization is to be saved and made better, it will be through the leadership of saved, educated, Christ-loving, Christ-obeying, Christ-serving men and women. This is the world’s supreme need for today and tomorrow.”