Although it is not owned and administered by the Graves County Baptist Association, nevertheless, the Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College has been strongly supported by the Association and its churches since its founding. Also, the association is now one of nine similar bodies electing trustees of the institution.
1. The Clinton, Hickman County, Kentucky Period, 1949-1957.
What is known as Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College had its origin in the West Kentucky Baptist Association, composed of Baptist churches in Carlisle, Hickman, and (then) Fulton Counties, in the latter part of the year 1948.
During the summer of 1948 discussion among the pastors and others in the above associations on the need for a local “Preacher’s School” culminated in the meeting of the Executive Mission Board of the West Kentucky Baptist Association, on August 31, 1948, whereupon Calvin M. Hudson, pastor of the oldest church in the body, Mayfield Creek, suggested that the body discuss such a project. On Hudson’s motion, three pastors were appointed as a committee to study the matter and make initial plans.
The above committee met on September 14, 1948, composed of Walter M. Martin, Leo Galey and Calvin M. Hudson, and developed a report which they submitted to the annual session on October 6, meeting with the West Hickman Baptist Church, as follows:“We as a committee, appointed by the West Hickman Baptist Association, submit the following recommendations concerning a Preacher’s Bible School:Hudson read the report; it was approved; and the following committee was appointed to pursue the matter and report to the Executive Board: James G. Heisner (Fulton, First), Galen Hargrove (Milburn), and Walter Martin (Mississippi).
“1. That a Preacher's Bible School be properly established, endorsed, and supported, by the churches of the West Kentucky Baptist Association.
“2 That a committee be appointed by the Association, composed of members or pastors of churches of the Association, to work out the details of the organization.
“3. The following subjects to be taught, mainly bible and English, and any other subjects the school may deem advisable.
“4. To be supported by free-will offerings.
”5. That the meeting place, time, length of term, and the selection of teachers be worked out by the committee, and presented to the Executive Board of the Association.
“Walter M. Martin
This committee reported on December 21, 1948, to the Board, indicating that classes would start on January 10, 1948, in the First Baptist Church, Clinton, at 6:00 0’clock in the evening; the report was accepted; and Moderator C. O. Simpson, pastor of the Clinton Church, was made responsible for the opening of the school at the appointed time.
Thus, according to schedule, the school opened on January 10, 1949, in the basement of the First Baptist Church, Clinton, Kentucky, with Pastor Curry O. Simpson serving as Acting President, and continued for four months with classes meeting two days a week in the evening. The teachers for the first semester were: C. O. Simpson, O. C. Markham, G. R. Abernathy, and L. W. Carlin.
Three other significant actions were taken in 1949. On June 28th, the Executive Board elected nine trustees for the purpose of directing the affairs of the school. At this meeting O. C. Markham was proposed as the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the school. On July 4, 1949 this last-mentioned action was approved by the Board of Trustees. In addition the Executive Board of the Association adopted a Constitution for the School and the name was changed from the “Preacher’s Bible School” to the “West Kentucky Baptist Bible Institute.” It should be noted that up to this time the school had been the “child” of the West Kentucky Baptist Association. In the Fall of 1949, at their annual sessions and at the insistent encouragement of representatives of the school, the West Union, Graves County, and Blood River Associations joined with the original group in electing trustees to control the school, providing two each.
The selection of Clinton, Kentucky, for the site of the school had special historical significance. The Clinton Seminary had been established there in 1830, and had a continued existence for several years. In the year 1874, Clinton Baptist College was founded, primarily by West Union Baptist Association, and after forty years of fruitful service was closed in 1914. It was about thirty-five years later that the new school came in being in the same community.
Early in the school’s history a residence was given to the school in which room and office space was adequate for approximately one hundred and twenty-five students. The first year’s classes were attended by about thirty students, from September 1949 through May, 1950. In April, 1950, a charter of incorporation was secured from the commonwealth of Kentucky. The afore-mentioned residence of eight rooms and a five acre campus had been given to the school by the First Baptist Church of Clinton. It was debt-free.
On May 2, 1950, in a meeting of the Board of Trustees, Curry O. Simpson was elected as the part-time President of the Institute, at the same time continuing as pastor of the Clinton Church. At this same meeting, Dr. F. M. Masters, Princeton, Kentucky, was elected to be Dean of the School, and to teach Old and New Testament, and kindred subjects, beginning the following September.
It was in November, 1950, that the Institute was approved by the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, now the Kentucky Baptist Convention, meeting that year at the First Baptist Church, Murray, Kentucky.
The second annual session of the Institute opened on September 11, 1950, with an enrollment of about forty students, which increased to sixty during the year. At commencement two students received the School Diploma, and five received the High School Diploma.
The full-time teachers during 1950-51 were F. M. Masters, O. C. Markham and O. C. Simpson. The part-time teachers that year were R. L. Bolin, Harry Harp, and Mrs. Maria P. Brinkley. The first nine-week summer term was also held.
At the meeting of the Board of Trustees in August, 1951, Harry E. Harp, pastor at the Bardwell Baptist Church, was elected part-time President, while also serving as pastor. During the 1951-52 school year about sixty students were enrolled, and four students received the Bachelor of Bible Degree. O. C. Markham and F. M. Masters were the full-time teachers; while the part-time teachers were Henry Wooten, Mrs. Maria P. Brinkley Miss Eva McKendree, Mrs. H. E. Harp, and D. T. Jones. The second summer term of nine weeks was also held. On May 23, 1952, upon the resignation of Dr. F. M. Masters as Dean, O. C. Markham was elected to the office.
The fourth annual session opened on September 8, 1952, with Harry E. Harp as part-time President; O. C. Markham and F. M. Masters were the full-time teachers; and J. T. Burdine, Jr. and Mrs. Inez Claxton were the part-time teachers. A third summer term of nine weeks was held. The enrollment for the year was fifty-six, and eight received the Bachelor of Bible Degree.
At the meeting of the Board of Trustees on May 29, 1953, Dr. W. A. Sloan, teacher in the Mountain Preachers’ Bible School, Pineville Kentucky, was elected as the first full-time President, entering upon his duties on July 1 of that year.
The fifth annual session of the school opened on September 7, 1953, and the enrollment reached seventy-four. Four students received the Bachelor of Bible Degree at the end of the year. Dr. Sloan continued as President of the school until May, 1957, the end of the school year, when he resigned on account of ill health. Dr. O. C. Markham, who had served as Executive Secretary-Treasurer from the beginning , and as Dean for some time, was elected by the Board of Trustees to become the fourth President and the second to fill the office on a full-time basis. He continues to the present in that office, now in his seventeenth year. He recently was the recipient of the Doctor of Divinity Degree from William Carter College.
The West Kentucky Baptist Bible Institute had as its purpose from the beginning the taking of “men and women whom God has called into special service, whatever their academic level, and seek to give them training on a level they can understand. Getting their start here in the Institute, many of them go on to college and seminary.”
The original idea did not include the purpose to establish a college. The first published catalogue said: “It is not a high school. It is not a college. It is not a seminary. IT IS A BAPTIST BIBLE INSTITUTE.”
In the early years the three year program offered courses in Old Testament, New Testament, Bible Doctrine, Preparation for Preaching, Ecclesiology, Religious Education, Pastoral Office and Parliamentary Procedure, Evangelism, Missions, English, Speech, and Music, and some useful electives. The Bachelor of Bible Degree was offered for completion of this work. Aid and assistance was offered to help those who had not completed their high school work to do so and secure their diplomas, after taking the required test.
During the first eight years of existence the school took steps, in 1956, toward accreditation, by joining with two other Southern Baptist institutions the “Association of Bible Institutes in the Southern Baptist Convention.” During this time also a library was begun. Students attended both day and evening classes.
Support for the school came from churches in the area, as was anticipated, and from many interested individuals. The school also published the West Kentucky Baptist, which carried news, articles, and reports from the school on a regular basis. The school year 1956-1957 was the last spent in Clinton.
Immediately following the election of Dr. O. C. Markham was the decision of the Trustees to add a fourth year’s study to the curriculum, change the name of the school simply to BAPTIST BIBLE INSTITUTE, and relocate the school in Mayfield, Kentucky, in the center of the Jackson Purshase.
The new location was in a building that the Christ Methodist Church had begun at North Fifteenth and Dunbar Streets. To this basement was eventually added another story in 1965, which building housed the complete operation of the Institute, including the print shop, bookstore, and cafeteria, until 1970, when Dollar Hall was built to house the men’s dormitory and the bookstore. The small concrete block building was erected on Dunbar Street to house the print shop. Five residences adjacent to the campus and across the street (Fifteenth) have been purchased in 1971-1973 for additional expansion. A new Multi-Purpose Building is now in the process of construction (1973), which will incorporate the print shop building into it, to become a two-story building of brick veneer. The residences serve as student housing.
In June, 1965, the school’s name was changed for the third time to MID-CONTINENT BAPTIST BIBLE COLLEGE. The change from West Kentucky Baptist Bible Institute to Baptist Bible Institute was accomplished and accompanied by the addition of a fourth year and a degree program. An A.B. in Bible became the standard degree, with a major in Bible and a minor in English, Greek, History, Speech and Preaching, Science, Religious Education, Music, and Electives, to total 128 required semester hours.
Support for the school came from churches and interested individuals. The 1961 catalogue listed Trustees from thirteen different Associations. A report in full of all contributions has been made in the HERALD, the school’s paper, which has represented the school now for years. This support continues.
To affect higher accreditation the school became a member of the Southern Accrediting Association of Bible Institutes, Bible Colleges and Seminaries in 1967-1968; and the school is now considering even higher accreditation.
To also maintain its original purpose the school still offers the Basic Bible Course on Bible Survey, Bible Doctrine, Evangelism, Intensive Bible, and Missions, for a total of 33 hours, wherein the Bible Training Certificate is given.
The Trimester Plan was begun in January, 1965, providing for three trimesters per year, thus enabling students to graduate in a period of less than three years. School is held for forty-eight weeks per year.
The Academic Dean of the College, R. Charles Blair, who had joined the school as a faculty member on August 27, 1965, was elected to this office on December 2, 1966. The present Bursar, Mrs. Hazel Bryan, began her services with the college on February 4, 1967; while the Librarian, Mrs. Ann P Markham, wife of the President, retired early from the English Faculty of Murray State University in order to serve in the school, becoming the Librarian in 1968. The Library, in consequence, has grown phenomenally from seven to fourteen thousand volumes at the present time.
W. Frank Carlton taught in the College and Institute from 1962 to 1973; now teaches many in Bible in a high school in Memphis, Tennessee.
The year 1972 saw many outstanding steps taken by the school. Thomas Perkins became Director of Development on April 15th, 1972; and Wendell H. Rone, Sr., became Dean of Graduate Studies on June 1, 1972, as a fifth year of studies for Graduate Students leading to the Bachelor in Theology Degree was added. The first graduate will receive his degree (Michael Morris) in December, 1973.
Other present members of the Mid-Continent Faculty are Charles Cloyd, Gerald S. Owen, J. Frank Young, Bill Keith, Herold Cathey, Orman Stegall, Billy Turner, James Tharp, Charles Dinkins, Bobby Pruitt, Harley Dixon, Joe Buckner, and Terry Clapp. The Music Department, under Frank Young, is becoming increasingly important. Mrs. Bryan Wagoner is now teaching Shorthand. Further expansion is in the offing.
Approximately 200 churches now support the college in its work; and with the added expansion taking place, it is encouraging to note the many Baptist women’s groups which are being added week by week as supporters of the latest building program.
On January 10, 1974, the school will observe its twenty-fifth birthday, and look forward to the completion of its first quarter-century of service in the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ and to the Baptists of the Jackson Purchase and adjacent areas. The future is as bright as God’s Promises.
[From Wendell H. Rone, Sr., A Short History of the Graves County [KY] Baptist Association, 1973, pp. 188-191. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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