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Blog: The 1840’s Before Opening The University: The Board of Trustees

Ole Miss was chartered by the Mississippi Legislature on February 24, 1844. Shortly thereafter, a Board of Trustees was appointed. It consisted of these persons: J. Alexander Ventress, John A. Quitman, William L. Sharkey, Alexander M. Clayton, William Y. Gholson, Jacob Thompson, Pryor Lea, Edward C. Wilkinson, James M. Howry, John X. McCaughan, Reverend Francis Hawkes, J. N. Waddel, and A. H. Pegues. Members of the Board held their first meeting in Jackson, Mississippi, on January 15, 1845. The founding of a new university was a big task, and it is interesting to learn of the actions that took place before classes at a new university could begin.

Minutes of the first meetings of the Board:

At a meeting of the Board, convened at the Capitol of the State, on the 15th day of January 1845 present John A Quitman, William L. Sharkey, Alexander M. Clayton, James M. Howry, Edward C. Wilkinson, A. H. Pegues, and Pryor Lea– John A. Quitman was appointed Chairman, and Pryor Lea Secretary pro tempore.

On motion of Mr. Clayton, Ordered, that a committee of three be appointed by the Chair to report, as early as practicable, a System of Bye-Laws, for the Government of the Board. Messrs. Clayton, Howry, and Lea were appointed to be on said committee–to which, on motion of Mr. Sharkey, the Chairman was added.

The Board then adjourned until Friday morning 9 o’clock,

Friday: The Board met pursuant to adjournment–present as before. Mr. Clayton, from the Committee on Bye-Laws reported the following–

Bye-Laws for the Organization and Government of the Trustees of the University of Mississippi.

1. The Officers of the Corporation shall consist of President, Secretary, and Treasurer, and an Executive Committee of three trustees.

2. All the Officers shall be elected by ballot annually at the Meetings of the Board in January, and shall hold their respective offices until their successors shall be elected.

3. In case of a failure of any regular meeting in January, the Officers shall be elected at the next meeting thereafter.

4. The President shall preside at all the meetings of the Board, and shall have- power at any time, with the consent of two trustees to call a meeting of the Board– but an extraordinary meeting of the Board may be held at Oxford at any time, on the call of any five members.

5. In case of a vacancy in the office of President, or in his absence, the Board may appoint any one of their number President pro-tem.

6. The Offices of Secretary and Treasurer may be vested in one person.

7. The Secretary shall record in a well bound book all the proceedings of the Board, preserve files of all papers belonging to the Corporation, and deliver the same to his successor. In case of a vacancy in the Office, or in the absence of the Secretary, the Board may appoint one of their number Secretary pro tem.

8. The Treasurer shall take charge of and keep, under the direction of the Board, such moneys, funds, or evidences of debts and claims, as may from time to time be committed to his charge by resolution of the Board. He shall keep regular accounts of all his receipts and disbursements, and lay before the Board at each stated meeting a full report of his proceedings and accounts.

9. Before entering upon the duties of his Office, the Treasurer shall enter into bond, with sureties to be approved of by the President, in the sum of Five thousand dollars, conditioned that he will faithfully perform the duties of his office, and will account for all moneys, which may come to his hands–which bond shall be payable to the Corporation, and be kept by the President.

10. The Secretary and Treasurer shall semiannually, and immediately after each stated meeting of the Board, transmit to the Office of the Secretary of State, certified transcripts of the proceedings of the Board, and of the accounts of the Treasurer, to be there filed.

11. The person acting as Secretary and Treasurer, as a compensation for his services, shall receive an annual salary of two hundred and fifty dollars, payable semi-annually, and to commence at such time as the Board shall hereafter direct.

12. The Executive Committee shall have such powers; and perform such duties, as may from time to time be prescribed by the Board of Trustees. In case of a vacancy in their number, the President shall have power to appoint a trustee to fill such vacancy until the next election, and in all cases a majority of said committee may act. Said Committee shall keep a journal of their proceedings, and report the same to the Board of trustees at every meeting.

13. No portion of the moneys or funds of the University of Mississippi, or of the Seminary fund, which now is or may hereafter be placed in the State Treasury, shall be withdrawn therefrom, except in pursuance of a resolution adopted by a majority of the whole number of the trustees–and the vote on the passage of such resolution shall always be taken by yeas and nays, and entered on the Journal– and all moneys so drawn from the State Treasury shall be placed in the hands of the Treasurer of the University before disbursement.

14. No money shall be paid by the Treasurer of the University, except on the warrant or written order of a majority of the Executive Committee, or of the President. Every such warrant or order shall be issued in pursuance of a resolution of the Board, and shall specify the particular expenditure for which it is drawn.

ttab_394313a15. The Seal of the Corporation shall be procured and kept by the President, and shall have the words, “University of Mississippi,” engraved around the margin, with an Eye in the centre.

16. No contract for the erection of the University buildings shall be valid, unless the Seal of the Corporation be affixed thereto.

17. The stated meetings of the Board shall be held

at Oxford on the second Mondays in July & January, except that, when the stated meeting in January occurs during the Regular Session of the Legislature, such meeting shall be held at Jackson.

18. As soon as the buildings shall be in a sufficient state of preparation, the Board of trustees shall prescribe a plan of education, employ teachers, and provide all rules and regulations necessary and proper for the Institution. Additional Bye-Laws, not inconsistent with these, may be adopted at any meeting of the Board–but these shall not be altered without the concurrence of a majority of the whole number of trustees–and on any such alteration the yeas and nays shall be taken and recorded.


To meet contingent expenses for the present, the President shall be authorised to receive from the State Treasurer, on account of interest due on the Seminary fund, the sum of Two hundred and fifty dollars, which sum, or the balance that may remain unexpended, shall be paid to the Treasurer of the University when he shall have given bond.

Which report was received, read, and adopted by a unanimous vote of the Board.

On motion of Mr. Howry, The Board proceeded to the election of a President–and on counting out the ballots it appeared that Mr. Clayton was duly elected–who thereupon took the Chair.

Mr. Howry presented the resignation of William Y. Gholson, as a trustee of the University, which was accepted–and thereupon Thomas H. Williams, of Pontotoc, was selected to fill the vacancy.

The Board then proceeded to the election of a Secretary & Treasurer, and an Executive Committee–Whereupon Mr. Williams was elected Secretary and Treasurer–and Messrs. Howry, Pegues, and Quitman the Executive Committee. Mr. Williams being absent, Mr. Lea was appointed Secretary pro tem.

On motion of Mr. Quitman,

1. Resolved, that the President be requested to procure from the State Treasurer a Statement of the funds in his hands belonging to the University of Mississippi, and of the amount of interest due thereon to the 1st of January instant–and to procure and lay before the Board such information in relation thereto as he may think advisable.

2. Resolved, that the Secretary & Treasurer be authorised and required to procure a safe or iron chest for the safe-keeping of the moneys and effects, which may be committed to his charge–and that the Executive Committee be authorised, on the certificate of the Treasurer, to draw an order on the Treasurer for the expense of the same.

3. Resolved, that the President be authorised to contract for the printing in pamphlet form of One hundred copies of the Bye-Laws–One copy of which shall be transmitted to each Trustee–ten copies be forwarded to the Governor–and the remainder be deposited with the Secretary of the University.

On motion of Mr. Howry,

Resolved, that William Nichols, architect, be invited, by the Secretary pro tem, to attend a meeting of the Board at 3 ½ o’clock P.M.

The Board then adjourned until 3 1/2 o’clock P.M. At which time the President presented the following report from the State Treasurer.

“The State of Mississippi in account with the Seminary Fund by this amount of principal & interest up to the 26th July 1843, in conformity with the Statute passed at the July Session 1843……. $61,718.05.

By this amount for interest at 8 per cent per annum from 26th July 1843 to the 26th July 1844 ………$4,937.44

By net amount received between July 26th 1843, and the 26th July 1844 …… $13,065.58

By net amount received 15th August1844…$10,177.02

Total $89,898.09

The above sum of Eighty nine thousand eight hundred and ninety eight 09/100 dollars has been recd. in Auditor’s

Warrants & cancelled. There is no cash on hand belonging to that fund.

W. Clark

State Treasurer”

Gerald W. Walton HeadshotGerald W. Walton was born in Neshoba County, Mississippi, on September 11, 1934. He graduated from Dixon High School and attended East Central Community College for two years. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1956 and enrolled that fall at the University of Mississippi, where he received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees. After serving as an instructor for three years, he became an assistant professor of English in 1962 and was later promoted to associate and full professor. He served as Director of the Freshman English Program, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs on three occasions, and Provost. He retired in 1999 and continues to live in Oxford.


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