The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Scott (T.P.) Papers
Collection Number: M276
Dates: ca. 1896 - 1952
Volume: .9 cubic feet
Provenance: The materials in this collection were donated to the University of Southern Mississippi by Gordon and Kathryn Scott Scoper, granddaughter and grandson-in-law of T. P. Scott, on January 3, 1994
Thomas Percival (T. P.) Scott was the first vice president of the Mississippi Normal College (later State Teachers College, Mississippi Southern College, and now the University of Southern Mississippi), and is generally acknowledged as one of the most compelling forces behind establishment of said institution.
Mr. Scott was born on April 4, 1868, in Copiah County, Mississippi, to Martha Eveline Scott and Dr. Zachariah James Scott. He was the youngest boy in a family of thirteen children -- seven boys and six girls. He grew up on a farm twelve miles west of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, in Copiah County. A deeply religious youth, Scott regularly read the Bible to his younger siblings, and shared with them his thoughts on "the right way to live."
Scott's early education was accomplished, first, in a small private school about five miles from his home, and later, at a boarding school in Crystal Springs, where he remained until prepared to enter college. His school work was supplemented by his mother, who taught the basic concepts of arithmetic and other disciplines to all of her children.
Scott attended the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), and after receiving his bachelor's degree in 1892, he taught at the Wesson, Mississippi graded school for one year, then returned to Ole Miss to pursue a law degree, which he was awarded in 1896. He then accepted a position as an assistant in the office of a prominent criminal attorney, but due to conflict between the law and his Christian principles, he resigned after only ten months. At that juncture, he returned to the teaching profession, and soon became principal of a boys' high school in Senatobia, Mississippi.
Scott married Helen Jane Caden in approximately 1895, a union that lasted fifty-four years, and produced four sons -- P. C., E. L., E. F., and C. W., three of whom chose education as a profession.
In 1900, Scott became Superintendent of City Schools in Brookhaven, Mississippi, a position he held for ten years. During that time, he served three terms of two years each as secretary of the Mississippi Teachers Association (M.T.A.), and was later elected vice president and president of that organization.
It was through his affiliation with the M.T.A. that Scott became involved in the fight to establish a teacher training college (normal college) in Mississippi, which, at that time, was the only state in the Union lacking such a facility. Beginning in 1888, the M.T.A. adopted resolutions on a regular basis calling for establishment of a normal school. As secretary, Scott expended a great deal of energy promoting the organization, and garnering support for the normal college movement, as well. Because of his enthusiasm on the subject, State Superintendent of Education, J. N. Powers, asked Scott to spearhead the legislative fight for passage of the Normal College Bill.
Due to opposition in the state legislature, a long and difficult battle ensued, during which Scott circulated letters to state educators and newspaper editors urging them to support the Normal College Bill. As a result, the capitol was bombarded with letters and telegrams in support of the bill, and realizing that public sentiment was now running in favor of the bill, the legislature passed it by a vote of 59 to 38. House Bill No. 204 (the Normal College Bill) was subsequently signed by Governor Edmond F. Noel, and became law on March 30, 1910.
At that point, Governor Noel appointed T. P. Scott, J. C. Fant, W. H. Smith, J. T. Thomas, W. T. Lowrey, J. E. Brown, Joe Cook and P. H. Saunders to serve on the Mississippi Normal College (M.N.C.) Board of Trustees. Governor Noel and J. N. Powers served as ex-officio members. Scott was elected secretary of the Board, and also was named secretary of the Building Committee. As such, he was involved in all aspects of establishing the new college, from clearing the land of unsightly stumps, to completion of the first buildings on campus. Other members of the Building Committee were J. C. Fant, Joe Cook, J. N. Powers, W. H. Smith, and P. H. Saunders.
On October 17, 1911, the Board of Trustees elected Joseph Anderson (Joe) Cook, Superintendent of City Schools in Columbus, Mississippi, as president of Mississippi Normal College. Shortly thereafter, President Cook selected T. P. Scott as his vice president and head of the mathematics department. Scott, who by then was Superintendent of Meridian City Schools, resigned his position and moved to Hattiesburg to assume his new duties.
Scott served as vice president and head of the mathematics department at Mississippi Normal College from its opening on September 18, 1912, until August of 1930. He was instrumental in designing the curriculum; wrote the first, and subsequent, bulletins; compiled descriptive pamphlets; served as faculty editor of the school newspaper, the Normal College News; and was responsible for securing the school's first golf course. It was Scott who first realized that M.N.C needed to become a standardized college, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. He made initial contact with the Association in 1924, and worked tirelessly to bring the school into compliance with its requirements. He was also present when the school (then State Teachers College [S.T.C.]) was first admitted to the Association in the fall of 1929.
In 1928, Governor Theodore G. Bilbo began a campaign to reorganize higher education in Mississippi, which resulted in dismissal of a number of faculty and administrators, including President Joe Cook of State Teachers College. For reasons best known to himself, Bilbo was also determined to oust T. P. Scott, and apparently expected the Board of Trustees to terminate him at its July 1930 meeting in Gulfport. Instead, the Board voted to retain Scott, but demote him to registrar and faculty member. Angered by the Board's action, Bilbo demanded the resignations of three board members who had supported Scott, and vowed to clean out S.T.C.'s faculty "from cellar to garret" unless Scott resigned. As a result, certain faculty members and administrators feared for their own jobs, and Scott, not wishing to be the cause of further distress, submitted his resignation on August 23, 1930.
After leaving State Teachers College, Mr. Scott taught mathematics in colleges in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama, then served as registrar and faculty member at the University of Mississippi until his retirement in 1936. After retiring, he moved to Gulfport, Mississippi, and later came out of retirement to teach mathematics at the high school in Lyman, Mississippi for one year, at the end of which, declining health forced him to resign.
Thomas Percival Scott died on May 10, 1949, at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, and was interred in New Zion Church Cemetery, near Crystal Springs.
Several honors have been bestowed upon T. P. Scott for his services in connection with the state's first normal college. First, at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Teachers Association in April 1910, he was presented a gold-headed ebony cane inscribed "M.T.A. to T.P.S.", in appreciation of his efforts toward passage of the Normal College Bill. Then, in 1924, the State Teachers College yearbook, Neka Camon, was dedicated to Scott, referring to him as "a Gentleman, Christian, Leader, and Teacher, whose whole-hearted service has been a strong factor in making S.T.C. what it is." Next, on October 24, 1959, Thomas Percy Scott Hall, a four-story men's dormitory was dedicated in his honor. And finally, what is arguably the most appropriate and lasting tribute was bestowed by Scott's niece, Mildred East McCleskey (daughter of his sister, Madeleine Scott East), when in 1952, she chose Scott as the subject of her masters thesis, "Thomas Percival Scott and Public Education in Mississippi."
This collection contains a unique array of materials relating to the history of Mississippi Normal College (now the University of Southern Mississippi), as well as items pertaining to other aspects of Thomas Percival Scott's career as an educator. While the inclusive dates are ca. 1896 - 1952, the primary focus of the collection is the period 1910 - 1912.
The collection is arranged in several short series, the first of which contains biographical information. Included in this section are a biographical sketch of T. P. Scott (1905); Scott's petition for admission to the bar (1896); materials documenting Scott's service in the Brookhaven and Meridian public schools (1910-1912); resolutions honoring Scott (1912-1930); and an original prayer written by Scott in 1941. This series is followed by four folders containing histories of Mississippi Normal College (M.N.C.), all written by Scott (ca. 1919-1946). Of particular interest is a version in Scott's own handwriting, penned in about 1928.
The next series relates to establishment of M.N.C, and consists of a copy of the original bill to establish a normal school in Mississippi (1908), plus two folders of correspondence between interested parties (Mar. 1, 1910 - Dec. 30, 1911; 1947). The correspondence consists chiefly of letters written to Scott by state educators who favored establishing a normal school. Also included are copies of circular letters generated by Scott, and a letter from Scott to Miss Emily Jones (1947) in which he explains why he became involved in the normal college movement.
The Board of Trustees series is next, and is comprised of oaths of office signed by board members, and minutes of meetings from September 16, 1910 to August 24, 1911. The September 16, 1910 minutes document selection of Hattiesburg as the location for M.N.C., and the December 27, 1910 minutes reflect Hardy Street as the designated site.
The next series pertains to selection of a site for M.N.C., and is filled with correspondence and petitions extolling the virtues of Hattiesburg and the Hardy Street site; one folder of documents favoring property owned by W.S.F. Tatum; and a folder of miscellaneous items, some favoring communities other than Hattiesburg. Following site selection are two folders containing information on selection of a president for M.N.C. and applications for faculty position.
Included are letters from H. L. Whitfield acknowledging nomination, and later, declining the presidency, and applications from Anne H. Augustus, R. J. Slay and J. N. McMillin, who were later hired as faculty members.
The series comprised of records of the Buildings, Architect and Site Committee is an interesting one, because it contains information pertaining to the actual construction of the college, including communications between committee members (primarily Scott) and architect, R. H. Hunt, Governor E. F. Noel, and various vendors of supplies and services. Letters that may be of interest are L. P. Warren to Scott (Jan. 14, 1911) offering to remove stumps at 18.5 cents each; Scott to R. H. Hunt (June 13, 1911) suggesting that certain amenities be incorporated into building plans; Joe Cook to Scott (Dec. 7, 1911) discussing cornerstones; and Scott to R. H. Hunt requesting adequate porch space for the vice president's home.
Next in line, is a series of financial information containing bank statements, bills, receipts, and correspondence. General correspondence follows, and encompasses such items of interest as a letter from Joe Cook asking Scott to consider becoming his closest associate at M.N.C. (Nov. 13, 1911); a note from Claude Bennett to Scott (July 1930) after the Board of Trustees voted to retain Scott as registrar; and from the lighter side, two clothing orders placed by Mrs. T. P. Scott to the National Cloak and Suit Company and Montgomery Ward and Company, in 1912.
The final series is publications, which includes such items as "Concerning the Mississippi Normal College", (the first printed pamphlet of information for prospective students of M.N.C.); copies of the M.N.C. catalogue for 1913-1914 and 1914-1915; and "Mississippi Normal College, Suggestions for Rural Teachers." Also in this series is a copy of a newspaper, entitled River Leaf Mosquito, published by James A. Hearn of Moselle, Mississippi, who opposed issuance of bonds to secure the normal college for Jones County.
Completing the collection are newsclippings concerning establishment of M.N.C., Scott's resignation from M.N.C, and his obituary; the roster of the Mississippi Legislature for 1912-1914; and the final item, a photograph of Mr. L. P. Brown, who was a member of the M.N.C. Board of Trustees (ca. 1916-1931) and a staunch supporter of Scott.
This collection contains a wealth of information concerning the early history of Mississippi Normal College, and would be invaluable to researchers of that period. It also provides insight into the condition of Mississippi's public schools during the early years of the twentieth century. And finally, it portrays one man's dedication to the cause of education in Mississippi, particularly the establishment of a much needed teacher training facility.