The History of the ROTC
The origins of military instruction in civilian colleges dates back to 1819 when CPT Alden Partridge founded the
American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, at Norwich, Vermont. Today, it is Norwich University in Northfield,
VT. In 1862 the U.S Congress recognized the need for military training at civilian educational institutions. The Morrill
Land Grant Act was enacted to fulfill this need. This Act donated lands and money to establish colleges which would
provide practical instruction in agriculture, mechanical and military sciences.
The United States Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) as we know it today dates from the National
Defense Act of 1916. World War I prevented the full development of civilian educators and military professionals
working together. At the conclusion of World War I, the program was fully implemented on college campuses. The
success of this effort was demonstrated in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. College campuses provided quality officers to meet the rapidly expanding needs of mobilization. In 1964 the ROTC Vitalization Act improved the program by adding scholarships and expanding junior ROTC opportunities. The inclusion of women in the program in
1973 was another important milestone.
Today, Army ROTC opportunities are available across the country at almost three hundred host units, as well as
hundreds of partnership schools.
The Golden Eagle Battalion’s History
Mississippi Southern College Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was activated on April 3, 1950, as an Artillery
unit by an act of Congress. The first Professor of Military Science was LTC Harrison Finlayson. Under LTC Finlayson's leadership, enrollment in the program increased to 232 cadets by 1952. This was also the year the first class of
cadets were commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants. There were 30 commissionees in the class, of which four received commissions as Regular Army Officers. Also in 1952, a Military Ball was held to honor the first commissioning class.
The ball became an annual event and is still held in honor the commissionees from each class.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the program thrived. Approximately 35 cadets were commissioned each year.
During those early years, the ROTC program received tremendous support from the university administration.
This was especially true while Dr. William McCain (Major General-retired) was president of Southern Miss from
1955 to 1975.
As in most of the country, ROTC at this institution suffered a drop in enrollment during the 1970s but continued to commission officers into the U.S. Army. In 1972, the Southern Miss ROTC Detachment gained approval to begin
teaching the Basic Course of Instruction at area junior colleges. In 1975, Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas began his 22-year
tenure as president of the university. Under his leadership, the university and the ROTC program continued to grow.
By 1977, with the addition of William Carey College into the Basic Program, there were extension centers and six
cross-enrolled institutions affiliated with the ROTC program.
In the early 1980s, the negative effect that the Vietnam War had on the military and ROTC programs across the
country began to abate. Under COL Tommy Palmertree in 1982-1983, enrollment increased to 2,053 from 1980's
enrollment of 734. In 1982-1983, the Southern Miss ROTC Department was the largest ROTC unit in the nation.
Throughout the 1980s, this Detachment commissioned an average of 42 lieutenants annually, with 60 being
commissioned in 1988. Of these 60, 11 were selected for commissioning in the Regular Army.
During the 1988-1989 school year, the Southern Miss ROTC detachment program was designated as a battalion
and the basic program was withdrawn from area junior colleges. This severely impacted the number of students
enrolled in the program and cut by over 50 percent the number of commissionees in 1990, 1991, and 1992. The
number of commissionees was also affected during this timeframe by Operation Desert Storm and curtailment of
the Early Commissioning Program (ECP). Under LTC David G. Senne, 1989-1994, the battalion successfully
repostured itself. The number of scholarship cadets increased with the added incentive of limited free room and
board scholarships provided by the university. The Battalion became known for commissioning Army Nurses and
was one of the top 25 Army ROTC nursing programs in the nation.
From 1993-1999, the Battalion successfully met its commissioning mission. An average of 20 2nd Lieutenants
were commissioned each year, with an active duty selection rate of 95 percent better.
In July 1997, the first female Professor of Military Science, LTC Sheila Varnado, took command of the battalion,
and provided excellent leadership until her selection for promotion and reassignment in July of 1999.
In the fall of 1999, the battalion moved to the George Hurst building. This marked the first change of location
since the program's inception in 1950.
In 1999, LTC Kevin Dougherty took command of the Golden Eagle Battalion as the Professor of Military Science.
LTC Dougherty provided great vision and guidance until his retirement in 2005.
Upon LTC Dougherty’s retirement, LTC Chuck Mitchell took command of the Golden Eagle Battalion bringing in
fresh ideas and new visions. LTC Mitchell retired in 2009. MAJ Joseph W. Power, Iv is the current Professor of
Military Science and is bringing a new idea of activites and recruiting to the Battalion .
Founded by Legislative Act on March 30, 1910, The University of Southern Mississippi was the state’s first
state-supported teacher training school. Originally known as Mississippi Normal College, the school was built on
120 acres of cutover timber land donated by Messrs. H.A. Camp, A.A. Montague and Dr. T. E. Ross, and funded
by bonds issued by the city of Hattiesburg and Forrest County in the amount of $250,000. A close relationship
between the university, city, and county is still maintained today.
The school’s stated purpose was to “qualify teachers for the public schools of Mississippi.” Mississippi Normal
College opened for classes Sept. 18, 1912, and hosted a total of 876 students during its initial session (506 in
the regular session and 370 in the summer term).
The first president, Joseph Anderson “Joe” Cook, oversaw construction of the original buildings and guided the
school during its formative years. Cook served as superintendent of the Columbus, Miss., city schools prior to being
selected as president of MNC. The school’s five original buildings were College Hall (the academic building); Forrest
County Hall (men’s and married students’ dormitory); Hattiesburg Hall (women’s dormitory); the Industrial Cottage
(training laboratory for home management); and the president’s home (now the Alumni House). Prior to 1922, the
school awarded certificates, which required at least two terms of attendance, and diplomas, which required at least
six terms. In 1922, the school was authorized to confer the baccalaureate degree, the first of which was awarded in
May 1922 to Kathryn Swetman of Biloxi.
In 1924, the school underwent the first of a series of name changes. On March 7, 1924, Mississippi Normal College
became State Teachers College. Many improvements were instituted following the name change as STC pursued accreditation by the Southern Association of College and Secondary Schools (SACS). One of the improvements was construction of the Demonstration School in 1927, which served as a training ground for student teachers. Sadly, on September 28, 1928, at the behest of Gov. Theodore G. Bilbo, President Cook was summarily dismissed by the STC
Board of Trustees. The reason given was Cook’s age (65), but onlookers saw it as a political ploy because Cook had
not supported Bilbo in the recent gubernatorial election.
The Board of Trustees selected supervisor of Rural Schools Claude Bennett to succeed Joe Cook as president. Many
of the faculty and staff remained loyal to the former president and viewed Bennett with suspicion. Nevertheless, it was
during the Bennett administration that the school was approved for membership in the Southern Association of Colleges
and Secondary Schools in 1929. Moreover, enrollment continued to increase, extension courses were offered in 25 Mississippi counties, and a strong music program was set in motion. Unfortunately, Gov. Bilbo continued to meddle
in the internal affairs of State Teachers College and the other state-supported institutions of higher learning. As a
result, SACS revoked the schools accreditation in 1930.
In 1932, due to the Great Depression, the state was unable to pay faculty salaries. Fortunately, Hattiesburg banks
arranged signature loans for hard-pressed faculty members, and grocery stores extended credit to those with good
payment records. In 1932, a single board of trustees was created to oversee all of Mississippi’s institutions of higher learning. This body replaced the separate boards of trustees under which the institutions had previously operated. Uppermost on the new board’s agenda was removing political appointees of Gov. Bilbo, so, in 1933, President Bennett
Dr. Jennings Burton George, a Mississippi Normal College alumnus, became the school’s third president July 1, 1933,
and the first to hold a doctorate. The new chief executive inherited a huge debt, which he corrected by setting strict
financial guidelines, cutting employees’ salaries, and freezing departmental budgets. His efforts not only resulted in
a balanced budget, but each year of his administration ended with a small surplus in the treasury. On February 13,
1940, the school’s name was changed for the second time. Its new name, Mississippi Southern College, reflected
the fact that it was no longer exclusively a teachers’ college. During World War II, enrollment plummeted to around
300 as students and faculty members joined, or were drafted into, military service. Both head football coach Reed
Green and his assistant, Thad “Pie” Vann, served in the armed forces. Looking ahead to the end of the war, President George established a $35,000 trust fund to provide scholarships for returning veterans. He also proposed graduate
work in education, home economics, and music. But, in January 1945, before any of his plans were implemented, the
Board of Trustees declined to rehire Dr. George, giving no definitive reason for its action. The school is deeply
indebted to President George, for it was his sound fiscal policies and managerial genius that steered it safely through
both the Great Depression and World War II. Dr. Robert Cecil Cook became the institution’s fourth president, following
his discharge from the Army on July 6, 1945. President Cook, whose credentials as an educator were impeccable, placed academic development at the top of his agenda. During his tenure, the Graduate Studies division was created, and the Reading Clinic, the Latin American Institute, and the Speech and Hearing Clinic were established. Greek presence on
campus was increased, the band program was expanded, the “Dixie Darlings” precision dance team was formed, and enrollment soared to more than 2,000. The athletic program was strengthened, as coaches Reed Green and Pie Vann returned from military service and resumed their former positions.
Over the next two decades, the combined efforts of these two outstanding coaches brought national recognition to the Southern Miss football program. In December 1954, Cook became the first president to leave the office voluntarily when
he resigned to accept the position as vice president and general manager of the Jackson State Times, a new daily newspaper. Dr. Richard Aubrey McLemore was named acting president, effective January 1, 1955, and served in that capacity until August 17, 1955. Dr. McLemore, known to the students as “Dr. Mac,” had been a faculty member at MSC
since 1938, and had served as professor of history, head of the social studies division, and dean of the college.
The Board of Trustees selected State Archivist Dr. William David McCain as the school’s fifth president, and he assumed
the office August 18, 1955, promising to keep the campus “dusty or muddy with construction.” At least 17 new buildings
were erected during the McCain administration, including Reed Green Coliseum. Dr. McCain’s driving ambition, however,
was to achieve university status for MSC, a drive that was sponsored by the Alumni Association. To that end, he
reorganized the academic programs into colleges and schools, and on February 27, 1962, Gov. Ross Barnett signed the
bill that made Mississippi Southern College a university: The University of Southern Mississippi. The second watershed
event of the McCain administration occurred in September 1965 when, for the first time in the school’s history, African-American students were admitted. The first students were Raylawni Young Branch and Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong. Other noteworthy events of the McCain era include formation of the Oral History Program in 1971 and establishment of the Southern Miss Gulf Park Campus in 1972. Also in 1972, the nickname of the athletic teams was changed from
“Southerners” to “Golden Eagles.” Dr. McCain retired from the presidency June 30, 1975. During his 20-year presidency, enrollment grew to 11,000. On July 1, 1975, Dr. Aubrey Keith Lucas became the sixth president of Southern Miss, having served as instructor, director of admissions, registrar, and dean of the Graduate School, in addition to holding both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school.
Among the accomplishments that punctuated the Lucas years were the formation of the Teaching and Learning
Resource Center; creation of the Faculty Senate; establishment of the Center for International Education; replacement
of the quarter system with the semester system; creation of the Polymer Science Institute; reorganization of the
university’s 10 schools into six colleges; formation of the Institute for Learning in Retirement; and affiliation with the
new athletic conference, Conference USA. After 21 years, Dr. Lucas stepped down from the presidency December 31,
1996, saying it was time for someone new.
Dr. Horace Weldon Fleming, Jr. assumed his duties as the university’s seventh president January 3, 1997. During his
tenure, the School of Nursing became a college, the Office of Technology Resources was created; a master’s program
in hydrographic science was added in the Department of Marine Science; a master’s program in workforce training and development was added in the School on Engineering Technology; and online classes were instituted.
In addition, a strategic plan for the future was unveiled. Designed to plot the university’s course over the next three
to five years, the plan envisions Southern Miss as “a national university for the Gulf South.” In 2001, Dr. Fleming
introduced the public phase of a $100 million comprehensive campaign. Dr. Fleming resigned the presidency in July
2001, and President Emeritus Dr. Aubrey Keith Lucas was selected to serve until the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning hired a new president. On May 1, 2002, Dr. Shelby Freland Thames became The University of Southern Mississippi’s eighth president. Thames has an extensive history at Southern Miss, starting in 1955 when he walked onto
the campus as a student earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University of Southern Mississippi in chemistry and organic chemistry. His previous administrative positions at Southern Miss were chair of the Department of Polymer Science, dean of the College of Science and Technology, vice president for Administration and Regional
Campuses, and executive vice president. In 1970, he was the founder of the Department of Polymer Science, and, in
1973, cofounder of the Waterborne and High-Solids Coatings Symposium. He was an inductee, in 1998, to Southern
Miss’s Alumni Hall of Fame, and in that same year, the Polymer Science Research Center was named in honor of
Dr. Thames and is now known as the Shelby Freland Thames Polymer Science Research Center.
During Thames’ presidency, the state college board voted unanimously to establish a second campus for The University
of Southern Mississippi, and on August 19, 2002, Southern Miss admitted its first class of freshmen on its Gulf Park
Campus, making the university the only comprehensive university in the state with dual-campus status. Additionally, Southern Miss has multiple teaching sites that include Stennis Space Center, Jackson County, Keesler Air Force Base, J.L.Scott Aquarium, Gulf Coast Research Lab, and Pontlevoy, France.
The current president, Dr. Martha D. Saunders was elected as the first female president of the university in May 2007.
The earliest nickname for the university's athletic teams was Tigers, but early teams were also referred to as Normalties. Then, in 1924, our teams' name was changed to Yellow Jackets.
When the college was renamed Mississippi Southern College in 1940, a name change for the athletic teams
was fitting. In April 1940, the student body voted to name the teams Confederates. The teams were called
the Confederates during fall 1940 and spring 1941. In September 1941, Confederates was dropped, and the
teams were named Southerners.
Several years later, in 1953, General Nat (for Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest) was approved as the Southerners' mascot.
In 1972, alumni, faculty, students, and staff were asked to submit new names for the athletic teams, and an ad hoc committee appointed by the Alumni Association voted on the submissions. Our present mascot, the Golden Eagles, was chosen as the athletic teams' name.
Golden Eagles was chosen over Raiders, War Lords, Timber Wolves and Southerners.
Originally called “Southern to the Top!” the university’s fight song was penned in 1955 by Robert Hays, assistant
director of The Pride of Mississippi Marching Band. Hays wrote the song as a closer for the first act of “Hey Daze,” a
three-act musical based upon student life at Mississippi Southern College. The song became so popular that it has
been echoed at athletic contests for more than four decades. The university’s fight song was recently renamed
“Southern Miss to the Top!” to reflect the university’s popular nickname, Southern Miss.
Southern Mississippi to the top! To the top,
So lift your voices high, show them the reason why,
That Southern spirit never will stop.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Southern Mississippi all the way, banners high
And we will Fight! Fight! Fight! to victory,
Hear our battle cry!
In 1941, when Southern Miss was known as Mississippi Southern College, Yvonne Hamilton, ’43, and Clara Davenport,
’42, wrote thelyrics for the school’s alma mater. The conductor’s score was arranged by Mary Leila Gardner. In 1963,
the alma mater was retooled, with changes made to the first verse and Luigi Zaninelli arranging the current score. The
alma mater is as follows:
We sing to thee, our Alma Mater,
USM thy praises be.
Southern mem’ries we shall cherish
Loyalty we pledge to thee.
Spacious skies and land of sunshine,
Verdant trees and shelt’ring walls.
Now our hearts left ev-er to thee
As we praise thy hallowed halls.
Oh give us courage to go forward to our tasks,
And let us be:
Men of trust for thy name’s keeping,
USM we hallow thee.
And now we pledge thee by our honor,
Steadfast love and loyalty.
Working ever for thy glory,
USM thy glory be.
FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE FOUNTAIN...
THE SOUTHERN MISS PEP RALLY
Friday Night at the Fountain…the Southern Miss pep rally, designed with considerable student input, has rapidly evolved
into a tradition rich celebration that takes place on campus at the fountain in front of the Aubrey K. Lucas Administration Building. The event encompasses pep rally activities from past years of Southern Miss spirit and organizes them into a consistent happening at a permanent and highly visible
location the evening prior to home-game festivities. Friday Night at the Fountain was designed to bring the thrill and excitement of tailgating and game-day activities on Saturday into game week and has been enhanced by the
traditional Friday evening activities among student groups associated with The District. The festivity includes The
Pride of Mississippi Marching Band, the Dixie Darlings, the Southern Miss cheerleaders, Seymour, the Southern Misses, coaches, players, and an occasional fireworks display.
The historical district, simply known as The District, has acted as a gathering place for Southern Miss students and
alumni since the founding of the university. The area offers visitors an opportunity to take a walk in the rose garden
during the day, to see the illuminated dome at night, to enjoy the black-eyed Susans in spring, and to participate in
the Eagle Walk in fall. But The District is more than pathways and gardens. This historic part of campus is also a
tangible reminder of Southern Miss’ heritage. It is where one can go to most closely feel the spirit of the university;
it is a builder of loyalty and admiration. During the football season, The District becomes a hotbed of activity as
students, alumni, and friends of Southern Miss gather to tailgate before each home game.
THE EAGLE WALK
An unrivaled parade, a march into war, Eagle Walk is a celebration of the spirit of South Mississippi, the Gulf South
and the university. On game day at Southern Miss, a cannon is shot and a walk is made from The District to The Rock.
The Pride of Mississippi Marching Band strikes up “Southern Miss to the Top!” as thousands cheer their Golden Eagles to victory.
THE PAINTING OF THE EAGLE WALK
Before the first home football game of each year, the freshman class gathers to leave its signature on the university
by giving the Eagle Walk a fresh coat of gold paint. This time-honored tradition transforms Eagle Walk Drive into a street
of gold. The painting of the Eagle Walk is often one’s first memory, one’s first significant mark, and one’s first contribution to the university.