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Institutional History 

The Board of Missions for Freedmen, seeking to expand access to women’s education in East Texas, noted the large population of Blacks in Crockett and its existing parochial school. These primary efforts eventually contributed to the board's decision to assume full responsibility for converting the existing adult education anew. 

As such, the seminary originated as a primary, elementary, and high school. The institution's first president, Dr. J.B. Smith, presided over the seminary from 1885 to 1910. His leadership led to the rapid growth of Mary Allen, in terms of infrastructure and enrollment. During Smith's tenure, student enrollment tripled, from 88 to 266. However, World War I would present a challenge to the success of Mary Allen. In 1923, following the war, support for education in East Texas diminished, as Mary Allen received meager funding from donors. During this time, enrollment dropped to 35, and many students did not graduate due to financial limitations. In 1924, Mary Allen Seminary leadership revisited the mission and goals of the school and decided to place greater emphasis on hiring Black administration and faculty, as well as college preparedness in high school, and the ideals of Christian Service.



Thus, the Chamber of Commerce requested that the Texas legislature consider moving Mary Allen College under state control, who could then invest in making Mary Allen a four-year college. Yet, in 1943, World War II and the economic decline that ensued made it impossible for the state to invest in the transition. As a result, in 1943, Mary Allen Junior College closed. Student records were initially sent to Harbison Institute and later transferred to Barber-Scotia College in Concord, North Carolina, a Presbyterian junior college for Black women. In 1944, the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Texas bought Mary Allen College, and the school resumed operation under the Baptist Church that year. The first president under the new ownership, Dr. GL Prince, pursued accreditation as asenior college by purchasing additional library holdings, hiring new, qualified faculty, and organizing academics into eight departments: English, Mathematics, Science, Social Sciences, Education, Music, Agriculture, and Home Economics. Additionally, several social, cultural, and recreational activities were added, including the Mary Allen College Concert Choir, Science Club, Dramatic Club, French Club, Debate Team, men and women's basketball, football, and several sororities and honor societies. During the 1950s, the campus evolved with the construction of several new buildings, including Prince Hall (a men's dormitory) and the G.L. Prince Hospital, the first black hospital/clinic in the state of Texas. The Prince administration also facilitated and witnessed an influx of new students.

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Mary Allen Photo (2).jpeg

This led to the hiring of the first Black president of Mary Allen, Reverend Byrd Randall Smith, who served from 1924 to 1940, and the addition of junior college classes. In 1926, Smith's presidential tenure saw an explosion of growth in academic offerings and legitimacy and the State Department of Education accredited the high school department and listed Mary Allen as a private, denominational junior college. In 1932, Mary Allen College received an A rating by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the first college with a Black president to be so recognized in Texas. The lack of quality primary and secondary education for black students in East Texas forced Mary Allen College to play the dual role of providing preparatory courses and higher education courses.


Additionally, the Board of Missions and the Mary Allen College administration observed the shortage of education provided to men, and in 1933, opened its doors for male enrollment. This was followed by yet another expansion of Mary Allen's campus and programs, including a renovated church, gymnasium, farm shop,and an agricultural department. Nonetheless, the growth of Mary Allen College was not without limitations. Initially, the state presumed it vital that Mary Allen become a four-year institution. However, the Presbyterian Church USA and Board of National Missions could not afford to develop Mary Allen College into a four-year institution without additional financial support.


After nine successful years of service, in 1953, Dr. Prince resigned from his duties as president, and died three years later (in 1956). Following his departure, several other presidents took the helm—Dr. George J. Johnson [second], Professor James A. Stanley [third], Professor Jordon T. Washington [forth], Dr. Jodie C. Sanford [fifth], Dr. W.A. Westbrook [sixth], Dr. W.S. Brent [seventh], Dr. Ira L. Clark [eighth]. Throughout the latter half of the 1950s and 60s, Mary Allen College struggled to maintain its existence with many of its students having been drafted into the Vietnam War. During this period, the institution also lost its accreditation. By 1972, Dr. Ira Clark (the eighth president) resigned and the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Texas proposed the closure of Mary Allen College. Still, although it would go on to advertise the closing of the institution, the Board chose to make one last attempt to secure the legacy of Mary Allen College. In doing so, it hired the institution's final president, Ms. Agnes Bell Rhoder, who would protect and secure the legacy of Mary Allen for another four years. Still unable to regain financial solvency, the Board chose to permanently close its doors at the end of the 1976-77 academic year. 

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