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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Legacy of Ratliff Hall

[This article appeared in Volume 1, Number 5 of The MC Beacon Connection of Mississippi College at Clinton, spring 2005.]

In the spring of 2004, renovations began on Ratliff Hall, thanks in part to the financial support of W. T. Ratliff of Birmingham, Alabama, for whose grandfather the building is named. It was finished in time for male students to move in for the fall semester of 2004, and Ratliff is now equipped with modern conveniences including wireless internet!

A Piece of History:

When Dr. J. W. Provine was elected as president of Mississippi College in 1911, one of his earliest concerns was to find ways to help students with the cost of attending college. At that time, Jennings Hall was up and running as the college's first real dormitory, but many students had trouble paying even the modest expenses of living there. In 1913, the trustees approved Dr. Provine's comprehensive plan to establish the Self-Help Club. Part of the plan was to construct another dormitory, officially named Ratliff Hall, in honor of Captain W. T. Ratliff, chairman of the board of trustees.

As Dr. Provine explained in the Mississippi College Magazine in October of 1913:

"This by many is regarded as the most important step of recent years in our internal affairs. The object is not to attach an agricultural department, but provide a place where men can get good, but cheap food, comfortable rooms, and conveniences. In addition, work is provided for these boys, if they desire it, sufficient to pay for half their board. Board will cost about six dollars per month. In order to provide work, the college has established a splendid dairy of forty fine Jerseys, built a splendid barn, milk house, etc. It not only provides work for the men, but becomes a profit at once for the college. The board has also bought about two hundred acres of splendid land on which crops will be grown to give labor to the men and provide food for the herd of cows. Sixty or eighty acres of the land is woodland, and the whole college plant will be supplied with wood from this land, thus giving employment to another group of boys."

Apparently this land was slightly to the southwest of the campus, on both sides of Clinton-Raymond Road.

The Self-Help Club appealed to students, most of whom came from rural backgrounds, and every room in the new dormitory was taken before it was finished. Not only did the students operate the dairy farm, but in the dormitory they provided housekeeping, maintenance, and food services with their own kitchen and dining room. The Self-Help Club was a remarkable success, accommodating 110 students in the first year of operation. In June of 1915, the college farm gave an abundant yield, was no expense to the college, and the herd of Jerseys even made a small profit.

However, within the next few years, the farm diminished as student labor bacame more intermittent and the land was finally sold in 1929, leaving Ratliff Hall as a conventional dormitory. In 1936, with the Great Depression exerting its influence, and with Jennings, Chrestman, and Ratliff providing more than enough dormitory rooms, the Board of Ministerial Education brought a proposal to the trustees in which the Board would lease Ratliff in order to provide housing for ministerial students. Soon the basement, second, and third floors of Ratliff were given to ministerial students rent-free, and the privilege could be extended to other students if space were available. This arrangement continued until the fall of 1945, when Ratliff was remodeled and returned to service as a regular dormitory due to booming enrolment at the return of war veterans. Ministerial students were provided with financial aid and allowed to room wherever they chose.

Ratliff became the site of another ministry when student Clinton Dona began a food pantry in his dorm room. His efforts established what is now known as the Clinton Community Christian Corporation, or the 4C's. For his story, refer to the 2002 Homecoming edition of The Beacon.

-- Taken from the writings of Charles E. Martin (1930-2004), Vice President for Academic Affairs, Emeritus

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