The first Millsaps Alma Mater was written in 1907, by Dr. James Ailed Wamsley, who was the professor of history and economics. The words were sung to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”
The words to the first Alma Mater were as follows:
“All over the land of the cotton,
And down where the magnolias stand,
The fame of our dear Alma Mater,
Is ringing far over the land.
Millsaps College for me, for me.
Millsaps College for me.
Her hall where our memories linger,
The friendships there made long ago,
The purple and white of our banner,
Are cherished wherever we go.
And when in the years of the future,
Fond memory turns to the past,
The days that we spent at old Millsaps,
Will yet be the brightest at last.”
The second Alma Mater was written about 1914. As the story goes, a Millsaps graduate was visiting on the University of Missouri campus where he heard their Alma Mater. He was so impressed by it that when he came back to Millsaps he sat down with his copy of the University of Missouri Alma Mater,and substituted “Millsaps” in the place where “University of Missouri” appeared. This new version was presented to the student body and adopted.
The second Alma Mater is still used today with some minor modifications made in 1985. “Loyal ones” in the second line of the first verse replaced “Loyal sons”; and “man and woman” in the first line of the second verse replaced “man and maiden”. The current Alma Mater is as follows:
“Alma Mater, dear old Millsaps,
Loyal ones are we.
Our fond hearts are thine alone
And evermore shall be.
Proud art thou, in classic beauty,
Of thy noble past.
With thy watchword Honor, Duty,
Thy high fame shall last.
Every student, man and woman,
Swell the glad refrain,
Till the breezes, music-laden,
Waft it back again.”
The Purple and White, October 8, 1942, p.5.
A bronze sculpture of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, stands on the Millsaps campus thanks to members of the Classes of 1964, 1965 and 1966. These classes raised funds for the sculpture, and artist Ben Watts, Class of 1980, crafted the final product.
Class members Lee McCormick (1966), Ward VanSkiver (1965), and Kay Barksdale (1964), headed the campaign to raise funds for the sculpture. The idea came from McCormick, who saw the sculpture of Gandhi, located near Sullivan Harrell Hall, and thought it only fitting that a sculpture of John Wesley also be placed on the campus. The Gandhi sculpture was a gift from the India Association of Mississippi, so McCormick suggested that alumni from the mid-sixties raise the funds for a Wesley sculpture. In addition to the three alumni classes, Millsaps Methodists were also invited to contribute to the sculpture.
Religious Studies professor Dr. Darby Ray articulated the spirit of John Wesley in a welcome speech to visiting high school students, which shows how Millsaps embraces the Wesleyan spirit.
The Blymer Bell resided at several different places before it came to its present resting place. The bell was originally selected and commissioned by a group of Sunday school children at the First United Methodist Church in Lake Charles, La., as part of a new church construction project in 1899. For months, the children brought in their pennies and nickles until the required sum for the purchase of the bell was raised. The bell was then shipped to Lake Charles and hung in the belfry of the new church on July 19, 1900. When a severe hurricane struck the church in 1918, the belfry was blown down. Rather than install the bell in a new church, the congregation decided to donate it to Millsaps College upon the suggestion of Bishop C.B. Galloway, the presiding Bishop of the Louisiana and Mississippi Conferences and also a member of the Millsaps Board of Trustees.
At Millsaps, the Blymer Bell hung in Buie Gym to ring out athletic victories until the gym burned in 1933. From 1933 to 1946, it remained beside Murrah Hall in a wooden scaffold up to the time two Mississippi College raiders felled the support. Over the years, the bell signaled chapel services, the hours of classes and meals, special athletic events, and even the ending of World Wars with its rich B-flat ring. At last, on May 13, 1946, the bell was placed in its present position of honor beside the library.
The Millsaps Bowl, located in the center of campus, is at the heart of student life. Many events take place here, including a colorful MultiCultural Festival, annual Commencement ceremonies, and Homecoming activities. Students often congregate in the Bowl to study, socialize, and play intramural sports. In addition, the Bowl is the scene of activities fairs, open-air bazaars, and warm-weather picnics planned by Millsaps Dining Services.
The Bowl is also the home of the Millsaps Potted Oak. Quite a few visitors wonder why the large oak tree in front of the Campbell College Center is submerged in a massive brick and cement flower pot. According to Dr. Ross H. Moore, a graduate of Millsaps and a professor of history, the answer is simple. When the student union was being built, the irregular contour of the land had to undergo quite a bit of leveling. A great deal of earth had to be moved into what was then known as “Sullivan’s Hollow” before construction could even begin. However, to pile such large quantities of dirt around the trunk of the old water oak surely would have killed it. To remedy the situation, a brick and cement pot topped with a metal grating was built around the base of the tree. Over the years, various objects and small animals have been dropped and trapped beneath the grating, including an angry and difficult-to-remove dog and a number of ducks. Nevertheless, the oak is still thriving after many years in its container. This shady location has built-in seats and is a popular place for students to congregate.
The plaque on the wall inside the Christian Center commemorates former students and graduates of Millsaps who gave their lives in World War II.
The Purple and White, October 6, 1950, p.2.
The Civil War cannon is mounted beside a small grass-covered pit that was one of the original rifle pits used by the Federal Army in the third and last battle of Jackson during the Civil War. In 1916, Dr. John M. Sullivan, wishing to commemorate the historic rifle pits, secured the cannon from Senator John Sharpe Williams. Contrary to what one might assume, the cannon had never been on Mississippi soil prior to its arrival at Millsaps. It was shipped from New York City and was originally used by a Federal Division in New York during the Civil War.
The crest was designed by Edward Escowitz of Queens, New York, when he studied at Millsaps in the summer of 1968. The three stars of the Crest can be symbolic of our three founders (Major Reuben W. Millsaps, Methodist Bishop Charles Betts Galloway, and President William B. Murrah) and of the three divisions of the College (Humanities, Natural Science, and Social Sciences). Mrs. Magnolia Coullet takes credit for the motto at the bottom interpreted as “in pursuit of excellence.” The crest, in variants, is used alongside older crests which feature a likeness of Major Millsaps.
The Purple and White, September 8, 1978, p. 3
Honoring the founders of Millsaps College, the 122-ft. tall, copper-clad tower also recognizes those whose generosity has helped sustain the College since 1890.
The tower’s base, constructed of brick and cast stone, contains bronze reliefs which depict the founders – Major Reuben Webster Millsaps, Bishop Charles Betts Galloway, and Dr. William Belton Murrah. Inscribed in marble below the reliefs are the names of those individuals and organizations who are members of the Founders Society, established in 1987 in recognition of those donors whose cumulative giving to Millsaps College totals $1,000,000 or more.
The gift for construction of the Millsaps Tower was made by McCarty Farms, Inc., of Magee, Mississippi, in honor of the Hyman F. McCarty, Jr., family. Built in 1987 as the centerpiece of a campus construction and renovation project, the tower houses a computer controlled carillon and clock.
Whitworth and Sanders Hall sit adjacent to a historic campus landmark, the Millsaps gate posts. The brick and marble gate posts were constructed in 1941, funded by the senior classes of 1939, 1940, and 1941. The 12-foot high and three-feet square pillars, topped with electric lights, were dedicated on commencement day, June 3, 1941.. They were originally placed on either side of the North State Street entrance to the campus. When this main entrance was closed in the late 1980’s, the College chose to preserve the gate posts, which were placed at the pedestrian campus entrance in front of the Millsaps Founder’s Tower.
Occupying a prominent and unique place in the history of the College, the James Observatory is a familiar campus landmark. It is the oldest building on campus, built in 1901 by Dr. Dan A. James in honor of his father, Peter, and brother Samuel. Dr. James, the grandson of Rev. Peter James, a pioneer Methodist preacher who came to Mississippi in 1800, entered Millsaps College in 1892 soon after its opening. At this time, his father was the owner of a large plantation in Yazoo County. Dr. James also built the original Kappa Alpha fraternity house in 1903.
Built on a hill on the northwest corner of the campus, the highest elevation in the city at the time, the observatory is a red masonry building with solid granite capstones and lintels, surrounded by a white wooden catwalk. Atop the structure is its most outstanding feature, a wood and metal rotating dome. Inside is a 6-inch Warner-Swayze refracting telescope originally installed and state of the art in 1901. For many years it was the largest telescope in the state. A small powered finder telescope is attached to the larger one, as is a clock which turns the instrument as the Earth rotates so that an object will remain in focus. Mounted on a solid brick pillar constructed independent of the observatory floor and walls, and set deep into the ground, the telescope is protected from the vibrations of West Street traffic and observers in the building.
The James Observatory underwent major renovations during 1980, and it has been opened for the citizens of Jackson through the years for star-gazing and viewing Halley’s comet, eclipses, constellations and planets, and most recently, the Hale-Bopp comet.
In 1926, several students decided that there was a need for an area where students could gather between their classes to linger. So, the classes of 1926, 1927, and 1928 held a conference and settled on a plan to erect a bench located between Murrah Hall and the Major’s Tomb. It is now known to most students simply as the “M Bench,” having borrowed its name from the famous “C Bench” at the University of Chicago. The project was the dream of Bill Ewing, Catherine Pail, Orrin Swayze, and many other members of the student body. The romantic tradition of the “M Bench” is that the first person a Millsaps student kisses on the bench is the person he or she will marry. In warm weather, professors often use it as a classroom.
The Purple and White, October 29, 1948, p. 3.
Quite a few students and possibly even some faculty members wonder why the large oak tree in front of the Boyd-Campbell Student Union is submerged in a massive brick cement flower pot. According to Dr. Ross H. Moore, a graduate of Millsaps and professor of history, when the student union was built in 1957, because of the contour of the land in that area, a great deal of earth had to be moved to what was then known as “Sullivan’s Hollow” to even begin construction. To simply pile that much dirt around the trunk of the old water oak surely would have killed it.
Over the years various objects and small animals have been dropped and trapped below the grating around the tree. Among these have been an angry and difficult to remove dog and a number of ducks.
Nevertheless, the oak is still thriving after many years in the wall. This shady location with built-in seats has been an important congregating place for students for decades. Many speeches have been given and many causes have grown under its protecting limbs. It has been a focal point of discussion and debate, not to mention many hours of idle talk and reflection as life in “the Bowl” continues.
A sculpture of the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled in a November 2003 ceremony on the walk between the Ford Academic Complex and Sullivan-Harrell Hall. The sculpture, a gift of the India Association of Mississippi, honors a man who influenced the lives of millions through his philosophy of nonviolence and peaceful resolution to conflict. “The Gandhi statue is the first of many that we hope to place around the Millsaps campus to encourage our students, faculty, and staff to reflect on the great thinkers, writers, artists, and leaders who have made outstanding contributions for the good of humankind,” said President Frances Lucas.
Near the center of the campus is the tomb of College founder, Major Reuben Webster Millsaps and his wife, Mary. Constructed at the request of the Major himself in 1914-15, the mausoleum was finished not long before the Major died, June 28, 1916. Mrs. Millsaps had died April 21, 1908. The tomb has a stained glass window, chosen by the Major, which features a setting sun. The window was a subject of some disagreement with the New Orleans builders, Weiblen Marble and Granite Co., who preferred a different, more standard design. Apparently determined in every detail, the Major’s opinion prevailed.
On July 7, 1916, the College Board of Trustees passed a resolution stating: “We shall count it a sacred and priceless privilege to have the bodies of our generous benefactor and his beloved wife to repose on the beautiful campus of our college which was so dear to the heart of our glorified co-worker and into which he put so much of the best energies of his life, thus consecrating it and giving us the opportunity to care for the tomb in which they shall sleep.”
Major Millsaps, a man of great community standing and founder of the Merchants and Planters Bank, was honored upon his death by all the Jackson banks being closed during his funeral. His last words are said to have been, “Tell everybody goodbye. Glory to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, amen, amen.”
The mausoleum was cleaned and refurbished in the 1980’s when the campus was re-landscaped. Campus folklore has persisted that the Major and Mary are no longer buried here, that they had been moved to a Hazelhurst, Miss., family burial ground, but this is untrue.
Mary Harmon was a Belhaven college home economics professor from 1952-1982. An advocate of hands-on learning, she helped her students carry out projects that benefited their communities.
In October, 2008, Mrs. Harmon celebrated her 102nd birthday. To honor her on this extraordinary occasion her daughter, Millsaps alumna Mary Parker Buckles, wanted to showcase her mother’s teaching methodology and her lifelong love of plants and gardening. Mother and daughter invited Millsaps professor Debora Mann to work with her botany students in identifying and researching noteworthy campus trees. The map below is the result.
The labeled trees are located in five areas on campus: Whitworth Circle, the Bowl, the Plaza, the Nicholson Garden, and the south lawn of the Christian Center. Together they constitute the Mary Harmon Tree Trail.