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Jonesboro Baptist College was a Christian junior college located in Jonesboro (Craighead County) from 1924 to 1934; after Woodland College, this was the second attempt at establishing a Baptist college in Jonesboro. Ten of the ninety-two acres of the campus were located in the Jonesboro city limits.
The college was founded as part of an ongoing Baptist commitment to education. Arkansas Baptists had previously opened multiple schools in the state such as Judson University at Judsonia (White County), Shiloh Institute at Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), Red River Academy near Arkadelphia (Clark County), Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University—OBU) in Arkadelphia, and Buckner College in Witcherville (Sebastian County). Of these early Baptist educational efforts, only what is now OBU, founded in 1886, has survived to the present day.
In 1901, the Mount Zion Baptist Association purchased land in Jonesboro to build Woodland College, the first attempt at a Baptist institution of higher learning in Jonesboro. This small school, initially funded by First Baptist Church of Blytheville (Mississippi County), had built two buildings by 1904, including a two-story administration building and a classroom building. Woodland College failed in 1913, and the property was sold to the Jonesboro school system. This campus was located roughly where the Annie Camp Junior High is in the twenty-first century.
Ground was broken in 1920 on an administration building for the new Jonesboro Baptist College, the second attempt at a Baptist college in Jonesboro. The campus would grow to four buildings. The administration building was a three-story structure that cost $200,000 to construct. The campus also consisted of a president’s house, Woodland Hall, a girls’ dormitory, and a powerhouse. Eight more buildings were planned for the campus.
Jonesboro Baptist College opened on September 9, 1924, with six faculty members and 250 students. Dr. J. N. Mallory served as president. He had attended Oklahoma University, Baylor University, and Peabody College, and he had previously taught at Peabody College and Union University. Classes were offered in languages, mathematics, sciences, fine arts, and history. A certificate program was also offered in “normal licensure” (meaning teacher education). Jonesboro Baptist College also reportedly had the state’s only school of pharmacy at the time.
Jonesboro Baptist College had a football team and played as part of the Mississippi Valley Conference. This conference was made up of West Tennessee Teachers College (now the University of Memphis), Murray Normal School (now Murray State), Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock), Tennessee Junior College (now the University of Tennessee, Martin), Union College (now Union University), and Lambuth College. The school also had men’s and women’s basketball, men’s volleyball, and co-ed tennis.
The Baptist Home Mission Board, under the leadership of Dr. B. D. Gray, promised financial support in the amount of $500,000. This support never materialized, leaving the college on constantly shaky financial ground. To address this financial concern, the college sought local funds and even accepted $1,200 from the Craighead County Ku Klux Klan.
Rumors of financial ruin had started as early as 1928, and the college closed its doors in 1934. In 1939, the Jonesboro school system purchased the administration building, and it became the home of Jonesboro High School. The building served as the high school until 1973, when a tornado did extensive damage to the building. It was razed to be replaced by a modern structure.
For additional information:
Hill, Samuel S., ed. Encyclopedia of Religion in the South. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984.
———. Religion in the Southern States: A Historical Study. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983.
Stuck, Charles A. The Story of Craighead County: A Narrative of People and Events in Northeast Arkansas. Jonesboro, AR: 1960.
Williams, C. Fred, S. Ray Granade, Kenneth M. Startup. A System and a Plan: Arkansas Baptist State Convention, 1848-1998. Franklin, TN: Providence House Publishing, 1998.
Williams, Harry Lee. The History of Craighead County, Arkansas. Little Rock: Parke Harper, 1930.
Rodney W. Harris
Williams Baptist College
Last Updated 7/25/2018
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