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History of Lane College      


In 1882, one of the nation’s early Black Church denominations founded what has since evolved into Lane College. Now referred to as The Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, the organization was originally named the Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church in America when it formed in 1870. Among its top priorities was the establishment of schools to educate the newly freed Negroes following the Civil War. This enterprise of building a school in Tennessee was conceived as early as November 1878 at the CME denomination’s Tennessee Annual Conference. The CME church’s first Bishop, William H. Miles, presided over the meeting which convened at the old Capers Chapel CME Church in Nashville, Tennessee. A most pivotal moment of the conference occurred when Reverend J.K. Daniels presented a resolution to establish a Tennessee school. Amid much applause, the resolution was adopted, and a committee was appointed to solicit means to purchase a site. Reverends C.H. Lee, J.H. Ridley, Sandy Rivers, Barry Smith, and J. K. Daniels constituted this committee.

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Due to the great yellow fever epidemic of 1878, the committee’s work was hindered; but when Bishop Isaac Lane was appointed to preside over the Tennessee conference in 1879, there was a turning point. He met with the committee, gave advice, and helped to formulate plans for the founding of what would be called the “CME High School” (now Lane College). For $240, Bishop Lane purchased the first four acres of land to be used for the new school, and they were located in the eastern part of Jackson, Tennessee.

On November 12, 1882, the “CME High School” began its first session under the guidance of its first principal and teacher, Miss Jennie E. Lane, daughter of Founder Isaac Lane. This first day of school marked the beginning of a powerful and ongoing commitment to the uplifting of people throughout the south, the nation, and the world.

Miss Lane went on to marry a CME minister, Nelson Caldwell Cleaves. Thereafter, in January 1883, Professor J.H. Harper of Jackson, Tennessee took over her unexpired term. In the spring of that year, Bishop Lane recruited Harper’s successor, Rev. Dr. Charles H. (C.H.) Phillips to serve as principal of the school and Phillips’ wife to serve as teacher. Their tenure began in October 1883. Under Phillips, the first curriculum and the first catalog were developed; the school’s name was changed in 1884 to Lane Institute in acknowledgement of Bishop Lane’s vigorous work in establishing the school and chartered under the laws of the State of Tennessee. These actions were significant in furthering the development of the school and gearing its curriculum towards preparing “preachers and teachers.” Phillips resigned in the summer of 1885. T.J. Austin was his replacement, serving until 1887, the year of Lane Institute’s first graduating class for which commencement exercises were held in May of the same year. That class consisted of five students including Nelson Caldwell Cleaves, a future bishop of the CME Church and future Chair of the Lane College Board of Trustees. The four other members of the inaugural graduating class were: Isaiah C. Davis, Ida Lane Burrows, Marie E. Payne, and Edward E. Smith.

In September 1887, Reverend T. F. Saunders, a member of the Memphis, Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was appointed the first President of Lane Institute and made numerous contributions to the school. It was during his presidency that the need for a college department was discerned. The College Department was organized in 1896, and at that time, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name from Lane Institute to Lane College. The College Department broadened the curriculum by its organization into the classical, the natural and physical sciences, and mathematics.

In 1903, Reverend James Albert Bray, later elected a Bishop in the CME Church, was elected President. He held that position until 1907. During his tenure, the present Administration Building was erected. President Bray was succeeded by Dr. James Franklin Lane, the son of the Founder. Dr. Lane served with distinction for thirty-seven years. During his administration, the College improved its educational facilities and its physical plant. The College attracted the attention of several philanthropic organizations such as the General Education Board of the Rosenwald Foundation and the Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. These agencies and boards gave liberal contributions to the educational program of the College.

One of the few Negro schools to be approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (SACS), Lane College received a “B” rating from the influential regulatory agency in 1936, as well as partial accreditation, the only level that was given to Negro schools by SACS at that time. In December 1961, Lane College was admitted into full membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

With the passing of President J.F. Lane on December 11, 1944, Reverend Peter Randolph Shy, who was later elected a Bishop of the CME Church, was elected as the Acting President until Dr. D.S. Yarbrough was elected President in 1945. Dr. Yarbrough served until 1948. He was succeeded by Professor James H. White. Professor Richard H. Sewell, Dean of Instruction, was elected the Acting President in 1950 and served until Reverend Chester Arthur Kirkendoll was elected President in July of the same year. Dr. Kirkendoll served with distinction for twenty years until his election as a Bishop of the CME Church in May 1970.

During his tenure, the College became fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Smith Hall, Graves Hall (formerly known as Jubilee Hall), Hamlett Hall, and the Student Union Building were erected.

Dr. Herman Stone Jr., served as the Dean of the College for ten years and was elected President in July 1970. He assumed office on September 1, 1970. During his presidency, Lane College’s accreditation was reaffirmed twice by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition, the J.F. Lane Health and Physical Education Building was added to the facilities of the College. After serving for sixteen years as President, Dr. Stone retired in May of 1986. He was succeeded by Dr. Alex A. Chambers, who was elected President in May 1986 and took office on June 1, 1986.

The College’s accreditation was reaffirmed by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1991, under the leadership of Dr. Chambers. The College also received a grant from the United States Department of Interior as a part of the Historical Preservation Program to restore Cleaves Hall, Saunders Hall, J.K. Daniels Building, and the Old President’s Home to their original appearance. These buildings, in addition to the Bray Administration Building and the Old Central Heating Plant, comprise the Lane College Historic District. This designation was given by the Department of the Interior in 1988. On March 18, 1992, after a short illness, Dr. Chambers passed away.

Dr. Arthur L. David, a 1960 graduate of Lane College who was serving as Dean of the College, was appointed Interim President by the Lane College Board of Trustees. Dr. David served from March 1992, until his successor, Dr. Wesley Cornelious McClure, was named on August 20, 1992. Dr. McClure, a 1964 alumnus, assumed the position of President on September 1, 1992.

Under Dr. McClure’s leadership, the College has experienced significant growth in enrollment, financial stability, an increase in faculty strength, an expanded curriculum, strengthened management, a significantly improved physical plant, and a student-centered campus climate, including heightened student morale. In addition, construction of the Academic Center, which houses the Library/Learning Resource Center, an auditorium, several classrooms, seminar rooms, skills laboratories, and a telecommunications center resumed in 1996 and was completed in 1997. In February 1997, this $5.2 million building was named the Chambers-McClure Academic Center (CMAC).

In April 1996, the College purchased the former Budde & Weiss Manufacturing Company, a company that designed and made church furniture. Budde Street, which is adjacent to the original properties, is named in its honor. Their successor in title was Tennessee Dimensions, Inc. This purchase of 6.7 acres, plus the June 1996 acquisition of the property at 536 Lane Avenue, formerly the home of Mrs. Essie Mae Atwater Perry, increased the size of the campus to approximately 25 acres.

An extensive campus beautification initiative was undertaken in 1998, which included: a New Football Practice Field; Recreational Center; The Archives, housing a Computer Student Center, a Bookstore, Communications/Copy Center, and Study Lounge/ Café; Spiritual Life Center; the Health Services Center; and remodeling of the Heating Plant.


In 1997, the College began renovation of the Bray Administration Building. This edifice, built in 1905 and known as the “Crown Jewel” of the campus, received a complete interior overhaul, costing $2.2 million. Funds for this project were acquired through the U.S. Department of Education. The renovation was completed in July 2000. Under Dr. McClure’s leadership, the College’s accreditation was reaffirmed in 2002, with commendations for Library Resources and Information Technology.

In September 2001, the Lane College Board of Trustees approved the administration’s strategic plan to expand the College’s curriculum, strengthen the quality of its faculty, and increase student enrollment. Since 2002, and particularly during the years between 2006 and 2009, the college executed some of the most aggressive expansions in enrollment and facilities in its 130-year history.

The spiraling increase in enrollment over the last eleven years has been dramatic. In 2001, 672 students were enrolled at Lane. Fall 2009, student enrollment was 2,250, a 235 percent increase of which the ratio of males to females was approximately 1:1.

In order to accommodate planned and sustained growth in student enrollment, the College’s administration established a strategic plan to meet the needs of the increased student population.

During the fall 2002, the College began to expand its campus acreage and, in the summer of 2003, began extensive renovations on The Archives (now known as Water Tower Place). As a result of these renovations, on November 4, 2004, the Cyber Café opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. This facility is ideally suited for meetings, coffee, or quiet study, and is equipped with wireless Internet access. During the evenings, the Café is also utilized by students for live entertainment and poetry readings.

During July 2005, the College acquired the FCC license to operate its own radio station, WLCD-FM. Lane is one of only two private colleges or universities in West Tennessee with its own radio station.

Between March and December 2006, the College acquired an off-campus residence hall named Eastbrooke, with a capacity for 100 occupants; erected P.R. Shy Hall (formerly named Meeting Hall and Production Center), the home of WLCD and the College’s Wellness Program; acquired title to the 3,500-seat Rothrock Stadium from the City of Jackson (the home of the Lane College Dragon’s football team); purchased a telecommunications system to alert students, faculty, and staff of any emergency; and bought the historic St. Paul CME Church building located on its eastern boundary. This building, renamed The Lighthouse, is now used for concerts, plays, and other cultural activities.

In the summer 2007, the College completed construction of two residence halls: The Edens and The Orchards, each with a capacity of 86 students; and a new dining facility, Phillips Hall, which as the result of a 2009 renovation, now seats 800 students. The former dining hall was converted to The Grand Student Lounge, a learning/relaxing facility that houses a computer laboratory supporting 200 computers, a lounge section, offices, meeting rooms, study halls, and a counseling center.

In the summer 2008, work was completed on another men’s residence hall, Alumni Hall, which also houses 86 students. In summer 2009, work was completed on an additional men’s residence hall, Harper Hall, and an additional women’s residence hall, Jennie E. Lane Hall. All residential facilities provide free local telephone service, Internet and cable service, and wireless computer facilities. The new three-story residence halls (Harper Hall and Jennie E. Lane Hall) each house 129 students.

During the spring and summer 2009, construction was finished on the 42,000 square foot science and business building and two additional residence halls. The new science and business building, Millennium Hall, includes twelve classrooms; six laboratories; four lecture rooms replete with state-of-the-art technology; telecommunications capabilities; and office and lounge space to meet the needs of sixteen instructors. This new facility supports the College’s goal of claiming recognition as a major producer of graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program, and will prepare students to be truly competitive as they enter business and global marketing careers.

Over the past twelve years, the College has invested more than $25 million in the acquisition of land, improvements and renovations to existing structures and construction of new capital facilities.

A major facelift along the heart of the College during the summer of 2010, particularly the three-block area proceeding easterly on Lane Avenue from the railroad tracks to Middleton Street, has heightened the aesthetic appeal of the campus. The project included the installation of decorative street lights and crosswalks, street resurfacing, sidewalk replacements, and landscaping beautification. Of particular note is the installation of brick overlays in front of Cleaves Residential Hall.

Also, during the summer of 2010, the College completed construction of a pedestrian underpass that connects Harper Hall, a men’s residence hall, with the North campus by creating a walkway under the West Tennessee Railroad. With student safety paramount, the project was designed, approved, and constructed in only 70 days.

In October 2010, the College completed construction of the new Berry Music Hall that replaced the former building that was moved to campus over 65 years ago. Students of music now enjoy state-of-the-art facilities within the new music hall that enhance their vocal and musical talents. In the near future, this new facility will also house certain telecommunications functions that will allow for the demolition of an adjacent building previously used as a classroom and administrative support facility and the creation of additional parking space.

During the winter of 2010, the College acquired Rothrock Stadium, now Lane Field, and acquired title to property on the west side of Hays Avenue, between Lexington and College Streets, containing one of the historic buildings on the former Union University Campus...namely Adams Hall. After obtaining the necessary approval from the Jackson-Madison County Historic Zoning Commission, this building was demolished...making way for additional parking and pedestrian spaces during the annual Homecoming football game and attendant festivities that occur at the largest and most successful event in Madison County each year.

Lane College’s 130th year is marked by enormous growth, but also the upholding of its mission to serve the disadvantaged. Community health initiatives promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention of such diseases as diabetes and high blood pressure have been implemented in the College’s Wellness Program since 2006.

The Lane College Evening Classes Program is another such vehicle for outreach. For working adults and other non-traditional students who are unable to attend college during the day, the Evening Program has offered affordable evening courses to degree-seeking students since 2007.

From its humble beginnings, Lane College has been a source of inspiration for countless numbers of youth and adults throughout this nation. Today, it stands as a symbol of Christian education for persons of all faiths, creeds, colors, and nationalities


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