Mississippi Heights Academy
Blue Mountain College
A brief history taken from History of Tippah County,
written by Andrew Brown
During the Civil War, General Mark Perin Lowrey moved his family
Kossuth, where skirmishes were becoming more common to the safer
part of Tippah County to escape the dangers of fighting. When the
war was over he returned to this area and decided to settle there
In 1873, General Lowrey began building a girls school that he named
Mountain Female Institute. In the following years a community
up around the school and on January 31, 1877, Blue Mountain the
was incorporated. More families moved to the area and
businesses were established. Blue Mountain Female Institute
Blue Mountain Female College and eventually the name changed to Blue
College and is still operating under that name today.
The first establishments in Blue Mountain were; a steam saw mill
and operated by the Norris family, a general store owned by Mr. Spencer
Gibbs, Macedonia Baptist Church, pastored by Rev. L. P. Cossitt,
a mercantile store owned by Mr. Oliver Ray, and a doctors office
owned and operated by Dr. Merritt.
In 1886, due in large part to the friendship between Col. W.
Falkner and Gen. Lowrey, the Ripley Railroad line was routed through
Mountain on it's way to Pontotoc. This helped solidify Blue
as a town and it's still a thriving village today.
(Photographs provided by Tommy
MISSISSIPPI HEIGHTS ACADEMY
By Larry Allen Wright, 1962
In the spring of 1904 the citizens of
Blue Mountain, Mississippi organized a company for the purpose of
establishing and maintaining a high-grade training school for boys and
young men who needed wholesome restraint and preparation for
college Dr. B.G. Lowery, of Blue Mountain, as president and a number of
interested citizens made up a stock company known as the Mississippi
Heights Company where stock was sold. Enough money was obtained
to buy the land where the academy stood for almost forty years.
A brick building was erected upon one of the
tallest hills of Mississippi and there, opposite the girls Baptist
school, named Blue Mountain College, a boys’ school was formed.
One of the first persons thought of to head
such an enterprise in the field of education was the daring, brilliant,
young teacher, and superintendent of New Albany, Mississippi city
schools, who had not only his own brains, but had with him a charming
and talented wife who could help him with his work. In March of
1904, Prof. J. E. Brown became the first superintendent of Mississippi
Heights Academy. Ten years later the school was deeded to him to
own and operate for the next thirty years.
To get this school started Prof. Brown printed
advertisements that read, “Brown’s In Town. What’s He Want?” and
on the reverse side he had, “Your Boy.” With this, the first
season opened September 8, 1904, with an enrollment of thirty-four
Prof. Brown was very equipped to head the
academy. He had been born August 20, 1866, on the Brown
plantation near Iuka, Mississippi. His father had ridden with
Forrest in the Civil War and was captain in that first-rate
command. After graduating from Iuka Normal Institute, then
the outstanding school of its kind in North Mississippi, Prof. Brown
had become a public school teacher. While teaching at Old Liberty
School in South Mississippi he had met and married Miss Addie Garrow of
Gloster. After teaching for nineteen years in public schools of
the state, he had become superintendent of New Albany city schools. 
Prof. J. E. Brown, who was said to have
made his first dollar at the dedication of Shiloh National Park when he
held General Grant’s horse and Grant gave him a dollar, was now
president of Mississippi Heights Academy. (Editor’s
note: This evidently refers to someone playing the role of
Grant. President Grant died in 1885 and the park was
founded in 1894.)
Prof. Brown was a great teacher. The
subjects he taught were the entire curriculum at various times:
biology, physics, mathematics, languages, and any combination of
these. Caesar, Virgil, and Horace were as well known to him as
the Hebraic and Greek testaments he taught.
Professor P.H. Lowery, a graduate of
Mississippi Heights, of Blue Mountain College, had this to say of the
teaching of Prof. Brown: “I have sat at the feet of a number of
professors. Two of them were great, Ellett and Brown. His
teaching had pith, pungency, and impact. He lifted
education from drabness into drama.”  Prof. Brown taught that
greatness of a man is measured by those things which continue on beyond
his physical life here on earth, and that which influences the minds of
others to do good to his fellow man and to love his God. The
standards lived and taught by Prof. Brown became a part of the hundreds
of boys that attended Mississippi Heights Academy and what he gave to
them was, and is something permanent, enduring, and everlasting;
ideals that will not vanish with the years. 
Prof. Brown had several sayings that became
connected with him and his academy. They were:
“What a boy
needs in life is someone to make him do his best.”
“Send us the Boy
– We will return you the man.”
“You may not
find what you are looking for, but you will never find anything unless
you are looking for something. “
“The bird with
the broken pinion never flies high again.”
“The time recipe
for happiness is found in the first Psalm.”
Prof. Brown had a quick temper and a keen sense of humor. Once a
student asked, “Prof. is this a co-ed school?” Prof. Brown
replied quick as a flash, “No son, it’s a John-Ed school?” 
Along with Prof. Brown to help him with his
work was his charming and talented wife. Mrs. Brown saw the boys
come and go. She was always on hand to teach music and science,
and she conducted an orchestra and taught every known musical
instrument. Having studied music in New York, her education was
now of great help to the academy. It was her duty always to be
available in case a youngster became homesick or needed some sound
advice while he was far away from home.
Boys as young as seven years old came to live with Mrs.
Brown and received the guidance needed for preparation for later
life. She learned to know each and every boy as an
individual. Little did this charming lady know as years went by
that she would be mother of over 4,000 boys over a period of forty
Prof. and Mrs. Brown had a college preparatory
school really teaching fourteen grades. Because when the boys
started as young as seven years of age, Mrs. Brown taught them
separately. At the academy they had grades seven through twelve
with a faculty of seven members. Included in this faculty was the
Brown’s daughter, Mrs. Natalie Watson. The average enrollment for
a session was around two hundred.
These two hundred students were placed in
private homes of Blue Mountain because Prof. Brown believed that the
city boys never knew what a real home was like. Too, he said that
the problem boy needed home environment. Usually around twenty of
these boys lived on the second floor of the Brown
home. Rowdism of the boarding houses was
restrained, first by the people who owned the homes, and second, by a
teacher who lived in the home with the students, or visited in the home
frequently. These homes were owned by families who had been
established in Blue Mountain for a long time. They were
people who had more interest than that of meeting the requirements of a
boarding master. It was their purpose to help each boy to become
a better citizen as he grew into manhood. These homes supplied
conveniences necessary for making the students comfortable and
happy. Too, the boys ate in the homes they lived in and the
Browns fed around twenty-eight of the boys in a large dining room in
their home, which was just across the street from the academy.
For a period of thirty-nine years boys came
from thirty-six states, Mexico, Guatamala, and Cuba. There
was no class distinction at Mississippi Heights. For the boys
were from the poorest to the richest homes. In fact, the youths
from rural areas who would have been financially unable to attended
school otherwise, found an opportunity in this modest academy in Blue
Another fact about the students was that it
was not at all unusual for Prof. Brown to get boys paroled from prison
to enter his school simply because he believed that all they needed was
someone to make them do their best. Also, many parents who found
their sons becoming unmanageable shifted their responsibilities to the
bright eyed little man on the hill. On the other hand, there were
many boys from good homes enrolled at the academy because their parents
felt that Prof. Brown had what it took to prepare a boy for life.
The boys could work their way through school,
paying for their books, tuition, and laundry by doing physical
work. Prof. Brown received any staple food as payment for a boy’s
education. Split wood, kindling, potatoes, and corn – any of
these credited a boy’s account. Board was twenty dollars a
month. A boy was paid for his work at ten cents an hour.
Today, some of these working boys are millionaires who come back to see
the trees they planted when they did not possess a dime.
There was not a great deal of formal
ceremonies at the academy. No graduation was ever held at
Mississippi Heights Academy. Instead, when a boy had finished his
course he was issued a written or typed certificate by Prof. Brown,
which told of the splendid performance of the student and of his
worth-while character. This was for his entrance into
college. There was no system of credits either at the
academy. A boy studied English, mathematics, science, history,
foreign language, and other things he should know to have a basic
education. A boy studied these subjects until he learned
them. This method proved to be very good because there were few
who went to college who did not get along fine. This was due to
the fact that they had been taught to study.
Mississippi Heights Academy truly did become a
place where boys were sent to learn. One reason for this was that
with the strict discipline rules of the academy a boy had to
study. Prof. Brown did not worry much about discipline. He
had his own methods and when he said “jump” it was not long before
those receiving the instructions learned the word meant what it
implied. Prof. Brown believed in firm discipline. He had no
juvenile delinquency in his school, for he believed in Solomon’s method
of control, “Spare the rod and you will spoil the child.” He did
practice this, at all times. To make a boy mind he did not
hesitate to make use of the paddle depending upon the working
philosophy of a practical school teacher by asserting, “At first
I appeal to his honor, if no results, to his pride, and if that fails,
as a last resort to his hide.” It is easy to see why Prof. Brown
usually got results. 
Prof. Brown never held punishment over his
students. Instead, he took his boys fishing, hunting, and
swimming. He also engaged in watching their games of football and
baseball. Prof. liked his boys and he looked after them. He
made the boys feel important and was always doing things for them such
as bringing them apples and watermelons.
Social life was never dull at the academy
because the boys were always being invited to socials at Blue Mountain
College. Many romances occurred among the Blue Mountain College
girls and the academy boys. Even though the boys were still in
preparatory school and the girls were in college the boys were usually
older than the girls. However, not all social life was in going
to see the girls at Blue Mountain College for on Friday nights Mrs.
Brown would set up Rook tables in her living room and the boys would
play Rook, sing songs, and tell about things of current interest.
Besides social activities, much of the
student’s extra time was spent participating in sports.
The large academy grounds had athletic fields, which furnished ample
facilities for such sports as football, baseball, basketball, lawn
tennis, and other athletic exercises suited to the needs of the high
school boy. To see that sports did not intrude with their school
work only those students who maintained a good standing in their
classes were permitted to engage in athletic contests.
With all of its fine qualities offered there
was nothing to keep Mississippi Heights Academy from growing. It
grew in the equipment and in its courses of study. It also met
the standard required by the colleges and universities of Mississippi
and other states. From session to session this once small academy
grew and by the 1942-1943 session the enrollment was over two hundred.
Of the more than 4,000 young men that attended
Mississippi Heights Academy most of them did well in life. They
took up all types of business and professional occupations. Some
of the well known graduates of this excellent training school that
continued to live in the Mid-South were:
Mr. R.W. Griffith, Assistant Superintendent, State of
Mississippi, Department of Education; Jackson, Mississippi.
Dr. T.K. Martin, Assistant to the President, Mississippi State
University, State College, Mississippi.
Dr. W. “Jeff” Cunningham, Methodist Minister of St. John Methodist
Church, Memphis, Tennessee.
Dr. Lawrence T. Lowery, President Emeritus of Blue Mountain College and
educator with world renown.
Mr. Hugh Cunningham, outstanding criminal lawyer, Jackson, Mississippi.
Mr. Fred B. Smith, high ranking Mississippi lawyer, Ripley, Mississippi.
Mr. E.R. Jobe, Executive Secretary, Board of Trustees Institutions of
Mr. R.B. Smith, Jr., member of Mississippi Board of Trustees
Institutions of Higher Learning, Ripley, Mississippi.
Most of these men and many others like
them all say that they owe much of their success to Mississippi Heights
Academy and to its owner/president, J.E. Brown.
Mississippi Heights was experiencing
great success. It had gained both local and national recognition
when in the spring session of 1943 Prof. Brown suffered a blood clot in
his head and became very ill. He was ill for several days and was
left with poor eyesight, but he finished out the session for he knew
his work so well that he did not need to see books in order to teach
his boys. The catalogues for the next year were published and
Prof. was in hopes that his eyesight would improve, but during the
summer session his health only became worse.
Before the fall session of 1943 opened
Prof. Brown had to announce his retirement from his school and with his
retirement the academy closed.
Prof. Brown’s health became worse and in April
of 1947, Prof. J.E. Brown, who had taught in Mississippi for
fifty-eight years and had served on the Mississippi State Board of
Education for eight years, died in his home across from his long loved
After Prof. Brown’s death, the building, which
had been a home for a great academy for forty-seven years, remained as
it was for several years, but by 1957 the old building became a fire
hazard and became dangerous, so it was torn down.
For several years nothing remained on the hill
where the academy had been until on Sunday afternoon, June 11, 1961, in
exactly the same spot where the building had stood, a white marble
monument with the old academy bell on top of it was dedicated to Prof.
Brown to his memory by the Mississippi Heights Academy Alumni
Mississippi Heights Academy played a great
role in the life of many men. In 1962, many of these high ranking
business and professional men of the Mid-South still returned to Blue
Mountain for a homecoming each spring and to visit Mrs. Brown and her
daughter Mrs. Natalie Watson, who were still living in the Brown
 “History, Character, and Purpose,” Catalogue of Mississippi Heights
Academy, Blue Mountain, Mississippi (Session 1929 – 1930) p.8.
 Lois Anderson, “Our Senior Citizens,” Southern Sentinel, (Ripley,
Mississippi; Thursday June 9 1960).
 Natalie Watson, “The Most Unforgettable Character I Have Met” (An
unpublished manuscript) p. 2.
 Lois Anderson, op. cit.
 Natalie Watson, op. cit., p. 1.
 “Professor J. E. Brown has Birthday,” The Commercial Appeal,
(August 20, 1940).
 Mrs. J. E. Brown and Mrs. Natalie Watson, (Personal
Interview) Blue Mountain, Mississippi, April 19, 1962.
 Natalie Watson, op. cit., p.1.
 P.H. Lowery, “The Speech of Dedication and Delivery” (An
Address of Dedication) June 11, 1961, p. 3.
 Boyce Biggers, “The Speech of Response and Acceptance” “An
Address of Acceptance) June 11, 1961. p.3
 “Dedication to Prof. J.E. Brown,” Southern Sentinel,
(Ripley, Mississippi; June 14, 1961.
 Natalie Watson, op. cit., p. 2
 Lois Anderson, op. cit., p. 2.
 Mrs. J.E. Brown and Mrs. Natalie Watson, op. cit.
 Natalie Watson, op. cit.
 Ewart A. Autry, “What Every Boy Needs,” American Mercury,
(September 1956) p. 94.
 Natalie Watson, op. cit. p. 4.
 Lois Anderson, op. cit.
 R.W. Griffith, “Descriptive Characterization of Professor J.E.
Brown,” (An unpublished manuscript) p. 2.
 “Athletics,” Catalogue of Mississippi Heights Academy, op.
cit. p. 27.
 Mrs. J.E. Brown and Mrs. Natalie Watson, op. cit.
 Dr. K.T. Martin, (Personal Interview) State College, Mississippi
May 1, 1962.
 Mrs. J.E. Brown and Mrs. Natalie Watson, op. cit.
 “Professor J. E. Brown Dies,” The Commercial Appeal (April
 Dedication to Prof. J.E. Brown, op. cit.
 Paul Flowers, “Greenhouse,” The Commercial Appeal.
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