Jefferson College hosts 27th reunion

Published 2:58 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Once again the former cadets of Jefferson Military College, which closed its doors in 1964, will be gathering this weekend for their 27th reunion in Natchez and on the historic campus in Washington. Alumni from the Miss-Lou and from as far away as California, Arizona, Florida and Latin America will participate in the many activities scheduled by the JMC Foundation and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

The reunion will start with a reception Friday night at the Historic Natchez Eola Hotel. Sim Callon will present a slide show depicting cadet life of the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Jefferson College was incorporated by an act of the first general assembly of the Mississippi Territory in 1802. The school was named in honor to President Thomas Jefferson. Territorial Gov. William C.C. Claiborne served as president of the college’s first board of directors. By 1817 Jefferson College had become a full-fledged college and 10-year-old Jefferson Davis attended in 1818. By 1819 a new building, the East Wing designed by prominent Natchez architect Levi Weeks, was complete. In 1830 the college purchased the Methodist church building that had housed the 1817 Mississippi statehood convention. After the War Between the States, Jefferson College became a preparatory school for young men in the Deep South and toward the end of the century it became known as Jefferson Military College.

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It was at Jefferson that Aaron Burr was tried for treason, General Andrew Jackson camped his troops on his was to the Battle of New Orleans, John James Audubon reportedly taught, John Wayne and John Ford filmed the famous movie Horse Soldiers and recently the movies North and South and Huckleberry Finn were filmed.

Jefferson College, the first institution of higher learning in Mississippi, was acquired by the State of Mississippi in the 1970s and is now part of the Historic Properties Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Visitors can tour a restored dormitory room, student dining room, kitchen buildings and other historic sites. The adjacent nature trail, which is named in honor of T.J. Foster, winds up and down through a wooded ravine, past St. Catherine’s Creek, over bridges past Ellicott Springs and a historic cemetery, with plants and trees clearly identified along the way.

The alumni association will conduct its annual business meeting Saturday morning while spouses and friends will enjoy a continental breakfast and tour of the 1835 President’s House followed by a guided tour along the T.J. Foster Memorial Nature Trail. They will rejoin the former cadets for a fish fry on the grounds at noon. The public is invited to the fish fry at a cost of $10 per person, and to other JMC Foundation events. For information please call 601-442-2901 or e-mail

For the past 26 years, former cadets attending reunions have looked forward to the Saturday night closing banquet not only for the fellowship and food, but also for the variety of interesting speakers. This year we are very pleased to be addressed by Mr. Kearby Swofford, a former Dallas Detective and known authority on the JFK assassination.

The JMC Foundation is a private, non-profit organization composed of former students, faculty and friends of the school. Founded in 1980 as the “Jefferson Military College Alumni Association,” the organizations membership has expanded to include family members, friends of students and anyone interested in the preservation of Historic Jefferson College.

The Foundation is active in assisting the Mississippi Department of Archives and History with the preservation of Historic Jefferson College. In the 1990s, the organization played a vital role in the state’s acquisition of property near the school, safeguarding the historic sit. Currently, the foundation is raising funds through its Memorial Brick Walk Project to assist with the renovation of Raymond Hall, a 1915 dormitory building for future use as a museum about the school’s 20th Century history. Information about the JMC Foundation please call me at (318)765-0139 or

Pat Mauterer is president of the Jefferson Military College Foundation and a former cadet in 1957-59.