William Tyndale Lowrey
The Mississippi Baptist Convention selected William Tyndall Lowrey to return to his alma mater as Mississippi College president in June 1898. Succeeding J.W. Provine who resigned to return to teaching, Lowrey was the MC president faced with fighting a deadly Yellow Fever epidemic and shrinking enrollment. Lowrey left as president at Blue Mountain College in North Mississippi and turned that job over to his younger brother before going to work on the Clinton campus. Presidential experience was deeply embedded in Lowrey’s blood. Born near Booneville, Mississippi on March 3, 1858, Lowrey was the oldest of six sons of General M.P. Lowrey. Growing up on a family farm, he graduated Mississippi College ranked No. 1 in his class in 1881. Following graduation on the Clinton campus, he entered the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In February 1885, W.T. Lowrey left the seminary before completing his senior year due to the death of his father, General Lowrey, founder and president of Blue Mountain College. The younger Lowrey succeeded his father as Blue Mountain president, pastored churches in the North Mississippi area and rose to become a major figure in Mississippi Baptist circles by the early 1890s. First hitting the Magnolia State in 1878-79, Yellow Fever returned to Mississippi in 1897-99, and saw MC enrollment plunge to 140 students. As a result, the school’s budget stayed in trouble. In addition, MC faced growing competition for students from in-state schools like Ole Miss and Mississippi A&M College (Mississippi State) and Millsaps. In 1899, President Lowrey personally canvassed the state to seek students and his hard work achieved results. Even though Yellow Fever came as close as Jackson, enrollment rose to 231 students in1899-1900. It kept climbing to a peak of 460 students in 1908 before dropping into the 300-range due to America’s financial woes. Lowrey relied on students to become college recruiters and that proved very effective. He encouraged the creation of the 500 Club, a student organization that sought to boost enrollment to 500 students. Besides building student numbers, Lowrey found success as a fund raiser. Thanks to financial help from the family of Captain Z.D. Jennings of Water Valley ($20,000), support from the General Education Fund of New York, funds from the college and funds from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, Mississippi College was able to construct Jennings Hall in 1906-07. The modern student housing facilities included new dormitories rated among the finest on Southern campuses (with running water and steam heat) and a new dining hall. The cost of the two buildings was $70,000. Lowrey’s administration concluded in 1911, with that year seeing the completion of a science building later named the Provine Science Building. Lowrey also was able to build support for the college statewide through a series of articles he penned for “The Baptist.” During Lowrey’s administration, the president and a secretary managed the college’s business affairs. But those duties kept increasing and paved the way for the hiring of a business manager of the growing Baptist institution in Clinton.