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Centennial Event Honors Demonstration School, Alumni, Faculty PDF Print E-mail
Monday, March 01, 2010
Contact David Tisdale, 601.266.4499   

It’s been nearly half a century since their beloved Demonstration School closed its doors forever, but the passion its former students have for their alma mater and the teachers who shaped their lives grows stronger with time.

Established in 1927 as a learning laboratory for students at what was then State Teachers College (STC), the Demonstration School offered valuable training in their preparation to become educators, while serving as a K-12 school for local grade school students. It ceased operations in the early 1960s.

On Friday, Feb. 26, a group of its former students gathered at the George Hurst Building on The University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg campus, the site of the former school, for the unveiling of a marker from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Two other markers funded by alumni honoring its faculty and students who lost their lives in military service were also introduced, along with an information kiosk located at the front of the school.

The event was part of the university's yearlong schedule of Centennial activities commemorating its founding in 1910. 

Speaking at the opening of the ceremony in what was once the school’s library, former Hattiesburg mayor and Demonstration School alum Bobby Chain said his mind was “flooded with memories” of what were ‘some of the happiest days of my life” when he was a student at the school. He serves as chairman of the school’s Alumni Planning and Steering Committee.

“It wasn’t until I was well into my college years (at then Mississippi Southern College) that I realized how blessed I was to have attended the school,” he said.

Prior to the Demonstration School, STC had only a three-grade practice school, and administrators believed this was insufficient to meet the college’s mission of providing first-rate teacher training. Dr. George Hurst, director of the training school, worked to secure funding from the state legislature for a laboratory school that included 12 grades. Master teachers were brought in to work at the school and served as mentors to the prospective teachers.

Classes were limited to 24 students or less, and although small in size, it offered a variety of sports teams and music programs for extracurricular activities, and produced a newspaper. The school also adopted the college’s black and gold colors, and its football games were played at the college stadium. For a time, the STC basketball team used the Demonstration School gymnasium for its games. 

Chain recounted several teachers, including school principal Carl McQuagge, who later became dean of the university's School of Education and Psychology. Now the Southern Miss College of Education and Psychology building bears his name. Others included M.C. “Tuffy” Johnson, who served as football coach and for whom the university’s natatorium is named; and Jake Scott, namesake of the university's J.L. Scott Marine Education Center.

“We had teachers who were wonderfully trained, and who expected, and demanded, our best,” said Chain.

Southern Miss President Martha Saunders also greeted the school’s alumni, praising their devotion to keep the school’s memory alive and paying tribute to its faculty’s steadfast dedication to delivering quality educational experiences, a goal shared by the university.

“The determination of the Demonstration School’s teachers to give their students the best possible education is admirable and set an example that illustrates our work today,” she said.  

Nicknamed the Demons, former students remember a faculty devoted to training them to behave in a decidedly non-demonic manner. Chain recounted the diligence of one teacher, Katherine Foote, to enlighten students on the finer points of etiquette. A mathematics and debate teacher, Foote “got in everybody’s business,” he said, laughing, “but she was teaching us how to live.”

Moran Pope Jr., who also served as mayor of Hattiesburg, recalled his years at the school with fondness. He said the school included students from a variety of backgrounds, from the children of college faculty and soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby to those who lived out in the country.

“It was an eclectic group,” he said. “To get to go to school with people from so many walks of life was a great benefit to me.”

And like many other students at the school, Pope “went on up the hill to the college” to continue his education after graduation. “So it took me 16 years to graduate from Southern,” he said.

Two other former students, Rex Jones and Joy Herrin Brown, remember their teachers as being determined to prepare them to be educated, productive citizens.

Brown said she was heartbroken when she learned she would not graduate from the school as plans were announced 1954 for its eventual closure, what she said was part of a school consolidation initiative of the time. She transferred to school in nearby Eatonville and went on to nursing school and a career as an operating room nurse.

“The teachers were your friends, and whether you were a senior or a freshman, everyone was treated equally,” she said.

Jones, a former Forrest County District Attorney and state legislator who graduated from the school in 1951, said he cherishes both the academic and life lessons its faculty imparted to him. He and his classmates continue to stay in touch, and remain devoted to the school whose bells now ring only in memory.

“Everything that we learned here, we live it in our lives,” he said. “Once a Demon, always a Demon.” 

Students gather outside of the Demonstration School, now the George Hurst Building, on The University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg campus. The school operated from 1927 until the early 1960s as a laboratory for students at the university studying to become teachers. (Submitted photo)

Demonstration School alumni gathered Friday, Feb. 26 on The University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg campus to unveil markers recognizing the historical significance of the school, as well as one honoring faculty; former students who lost their lives in military service and the faculty; and an information kiosk at the front of the site of the former school, now known as the George Hurst Building. (University Communications photo by Steve Rouse)

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at
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