HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI PTA
The Mississippi PTA was founded in1909 at Lake Chautauqua, Crystal Springs. The first PTA was organized at Walthall Elementary School in Hattiesburg, MS. The first President, Mrs. Bessie Lackey Stapleton, was born in Crystal Springs and resided in Hattiesburg for 32 years. Mrs. Stapleton died in Jackson on October 6, 1940.
During the 1919 State Convention the slogan “A PTA in Every School in “Mississippi.” was adopted. Now years later, it will take the effort of every PTA member to make this dream become a reality.
Mississippi PTA had 10,504 PTA members and 288 PTA Units in 1923-1924. Membership reached its peak in 1963-1964 with a membership of 99,037 members and 402 PTA Units. Mrs. Opal Worthy was state PTA President at this time. The largest number of PTA Units during these 75 years was 428.
In 1936 Selena Butler founded the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers in Atlanta, Georgia and adopted the same objectives and worked in the South in schools that were segregated. That same year, Mr. W.W. Blackburn (Jackson has a school named for the gentlemen) led in the organizing of the Mississippi Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers.
The PTA worked with the Legislature to secure free textbooks under Governor Paul B. Johnson, Sr’s administration. Teacher Day was inaugurated on the second Sunday of October, 1944 and was observed again in 1945. This observation now “Teachers Appreciation Day”, revived in 1954-1955 is observed by local PTA units during American Education Week.
From 1959-1960 thru 1983-1984 Mississippi PTA issued 519 Life Memberships. In 1982 Mississippi PTA began a Life Membership Luncheon at Convention to honor all who held state Life Memberships. Janette Garner agreed with then President Bob Jones that much of our great accomplishments and the heritage of PTA in Mississippi is as a result of those who have been recognized with Life Memberships and that we needed a special time at Convention to recognize and remember these outstanding leaders. Additionally, this was established as a time to honor all of our past Presidents and to visit with the leaders who still are vitally interested in PTA.
Mississippi Congress of Parents and Teachers Scholarship Program were begun with contributions from 24 PTA’s in 1962-1963 and 62 PTA’s in 1963-1964. Seven scholarships were granted.
In 1970 the two National Congresses became one. On March 12, 1971 the two in Mississippi unified. Mississippi was one of the first states to accomplish this. At the time, H. L Evans was the President of the Mississippi Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers and Babbs Stauss was President of Mississippi Congress of Parents and teachers during this merger.
In 1970, Starkville High PTSA was the first PTSA to be organized in Mississippi. PTSA’s were organized in Junior and Senior High Schools to give students an opportunity to be involved in PTA.
In 1972, during Babbs Strauss as PTA President, the Post Office issued a commemorative Stamp, recognizing the contribution of the PTA to our nation’s schools.
In 1973 instead of conducting summer short courses, the Mississippi PTA Board of Directors held 16 schools of instruction, geographically located scattered over the state and hosted by a council. The schools were structured so that each PTA Officer and Chairperson were involved in a workshop that would help the person prepare for his/her new PTA position.
In 1975 Mississippi Congress of Parents and Teachers decided to use the MCPT Program for training PTA leaders by sending the Outstanding PTA Unit to National PTA Convention.
In 1977, President Willie Mae Mitchell placed emphasis on increasing the legislative activities of PTA members to meet the issues of Public Education. PTA Legislative Day workshops were held each fall to give the membership information on impending legislation.
In 1982 during the Special Session of the Legislature, Mississippi PTA called its first press conference ever. PTA wanted to let the public know that they were supporting the Education Reform Act of 1982. Mississippi PTA played a major part in the passing of the Educational Reform Act of 1982.
On February 12, 1984 Mississippi Congress of Parents and Teachers returned to Walthall Elementary School in Hattiesburg, MS to celebrate the first 75 years of PTA. State President, Bob Jones placed a memorial wreath upon the grave of Mrs. Bessie Lackey Stapleton, buried in Cedarlawn Cemetery on West Capitol Street in Jackson, MS.