Heritage Chapel to launch BPC's spring centennial celebration

MOUNT VERNON -- Brewton-Parker College's annual Heritage Chapel will serve as the first event of a semester-long celebration of the college's centennial.

The Centennial Heritage Chapel will be Tuesday, Jan. 13, beginning at 11 a.m. in Saliba Chapel on the Brewton-Parker campus in Mount Vernon.

"During this special chapel service, we will honor the past, celebrate the present and dedicate the future," said Dr. David Smith, president of Brewton-Parker. "We who serve at BPC believe that institutions of Christian higher education can have a tremendous impact on the well-being of our region, our state, our nation and our world. We believe this because we have seen it in action for 100 years."

The area's Scottish heritage will be recognized with bagpipe music by Scott Gunn of Robins Air Force Base, who will play a prelude and lead the processional and recessional. Also, members of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society's Atlanta branch will perform.

Josh Hartley, the Student Government Association president, will present student-made banners honoring the centennial and announce the winner of the banner competition.

Hartley also will narrate the re-enactment by students of the signing of the institutional charter on April 28, 1904.

Dr. Ron Melton, provost and longtime history professor at Brewton-Parker, will present the college's past and Smith will address the present and future.

The music division's Brass Ensemble and College Choir will perform.

Other events during the spring semester will honor the Centennial Celebration, which will culminate April 28 with a daylong series of celebratory events.

"I hope that we will remember the spring of this year as one of the most impressive and meaningful periods in the century-long history of Brewton-Parker College," Smith said. "It will all begin with the Heritage Chapel."

Dr. John Carter Brewton, pastor of the McRae Baptist Church from 1902-05, 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. After gaining support from the Telfair and Daniell Baptist associations, Brewton enlisted financial support from Charles B. Parker, a prominent businessman in McRae, and the Telfair and Daniell associations decided that the school would be located in the community where the most support was received.

The towns of Mount Vernon and Ailey together submitted a winning bid of $15,000 and 15 acres of land, while Mr. and Mrs. David Fountain donated 10 acres of land and Warren Crawley, an African-American citizen, gave the other five acres. The new school was named Union Baptist Institute to honor the union of the two towns, as well as the union between the two Baptist associations.

On Sept. 12, 1905 - following the construction of a main building, two dormitories and a dining hall and the naming of Brewton as its first president - Union Baptist Institute opened with an enrollment of 160 students and seven teachers and offered a course of education through high school. By year's end, enrollment grew to 365 and five additional teachers were hired.

Brewton asked the institute's trustees in 1912 to change the name of the school to Parker Institute to honor Charles B. Parker's financial contributions. The trustees, however, expanded Brewton's request and honored his efforts as well in renaming the school Brewton-Parker Institute, and the name change became official on May 30, 1912.

Under the presidency of Linton Stephens Barrett, the institute's enrollment began to suffer from competition with state-supported high schools, and Barrett asked the trustees to formulate a plan to make Brewton-Parker a junior college. In 1923, a year after Albert Martin Gates succeeded Barrett, a college freshman class was added to the sphere of instruction and in 1927 a sophomore class was added and the institute became Brewton-Parker Junior College. The elementary grades were dropped in 1929 and the secondary education remained until 1948.

The popular name of Brewton-Parker College was officially adopted in 1978. During his presidency that began in 1979, Dr. William Starr Miller conceived the plan for the college's first baccalaureate degree, the bachelor of ministry. Miller resigned as president in 1983 but stayed at Brewton-Parker, under the presidency of Dr. Y. Lynn Holmes, to coordinate the bachelor of ministry program.

The college received candidacy status for the four-year program during the 1984-85 academic year and in June 1985 had 22 graduates in its first senior college class. In December 1986, Brewton-Parker gained approval of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to become a four-year institution. Dr. David Smith became the college's president in 1998.