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.
The 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, convened at the old Capers Chapel CME Church in Nashville. A 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.
Due to the great yellow fever epidemic of 1878, the committee’s work was hindered. However, 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 to help formulate plans for the founding of what would be called the CME High School, later named Lane College. For $240, Bishop Lane purchased the first four acres of land to be used for the new school, 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. In January 1883, Professor J.H. Harper of Jackson, took over her unexpired term. In the spring of that year, Bishop Lane recruited Harper’s successor, Reverend Dr. Charles H. (C.H.) Phillips to serve as principal of the school with Phillips’ wife to serve as teacher. Their tenure began in October 1883. Under Dr. 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, 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.” Dr. Phillips resigned in the summer of 1885. Reverend T.J. Austin was his replacement, serving until 1887, the year of Lane Institute’s first graduating class. The 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, making 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. Dr. Bray was succeeded by Dr. James Franklin Lane, the son of the founder. Dr. Lane served for 37 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 regulatory agency in 1936, as well as partial accreditation, the only level 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 in 1945. Dr. Yarbrough served until 1948 when 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 Dr. Chester Arthur Kirkendoll was elected president. Dr. Kirkendoll served for twenty (20) years until his election as a Bishop of the CME Church in May 1970.
During Dr. Kirkendoll’s 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., who served as the Dean of the College for ten (10) years, was elected President in July 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 (16) years as President, Dr. Stone retired in May 1986. He was succeeded by Dr. Alex A. Chambers who 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 Board of Trustees. Dr. David served from March 1992, until his successor, Dr. Wesley Cornelious McClure, was named as the 9th President 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 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, the $5.2million building was named the Chambers-McClure Academic Center (CMAC).
In April 1996, the College purchased the property formerly owned by the Budde & Weiss Manufacturing Company, a firm that designed and made church furniture. Budde Street, which is adjacent to the original properties, is named in its honor. The 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 Professor 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 that housed a computer student center, a bookstore, a communication and copy center, and a study lounge/café; a spiritual life center; the Health Services Center; and remodeling of the Heating Plant.
In 1997, the College began renovation of the Bray Administration Building. Built in 1905 and known as the “Crown Jewel” of the campus, Bray Hall 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 of 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 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. During the years between 2006 and 2009, the College executed some of the most aggressive expansions in enrollment and facilities in its history.
In 2001, 672 students were enrolled at Lane. In Fall 2009, student enrollment was 2,250, a 235 percent increase, of which the ratio of males to females was approximately 1:1. 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 of The Archives, now known as the Water Tower Place. As a result of these renovations, on November 4, 2004, the Cyber Café opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The facility is suited for meetings, coffee, or quiet study. During the evenings, the Café is also utilized by students for live entertainment and poetry readings.
In 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 full-time radio station.
Between March and December 2006, the College acquired an off-campus residence hall named Eastbrooke, with a capacity for 76 occupants; renovated P.R. Shy Hall (formerly named Meeting Hall and Production Center), the home of WLCD; secured through a gift from the City of Jackson the 3,500-seat (another document indicates 2,500-seat) Rothrock Stadium located on the west side of Hays Avenue between Lexington and College streets, now Lane Field, the home of the Lane College Dragons 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 the College’s eastern boundary. This building has been renamed The Lighthouse.
In the summer of 2007, the College completed construction of two new 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 expansion, now seats 800 students.
Beginning in summer 2008 and continuing through 2009, the College completed the construction of three (3) residence halls (Alumni, Harper, and Jennie E. Lane) and a 42,000 square foot Science and Business Building. Alumni Hall accommodates 86 students and Harper Hall and Jennie E. Lane Hall each accommodates 129 students.
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, heightened the aesthetic appeal of the campus. The project included the installation of decorative streetlights and crosswalks, street resurfacing, sidewalk replacements, landscaping beautification, and the installation of brick overlays in front of Cleaves 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.
In October 2010, the College completed construction of the new Berry Hall, replacing the former building that was moved to campus over 65 years ago. This building, now called the Berry Hall Teaching Learning Center is the facility where teacher education courses are taught and education faculty offices are located. Additionally, the Teaching Learning Center houses a resource area in which materials are available to enhance instruction.
The year 2012 was 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 hypertension have been implemented in the College’s Wellness Program since 2006.
In July 2013, the College acquired the former Baptist Student Union Building located on Middleton Street from the Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Education (TBM&E) Convention. It is utilized as office space for faculty and staff.
Dr. McClure passed away after a short illness in December 2013 after leading the College for twenty-one years.
Dr. Logan Hampton was named the 10th President of Lane College by the Board of Trustees on June 12, 2014. He assumed this role with a commitment to advance the mission of the College. Under his leadership, Dr. Hampton has launched transformative initiatives to lead the campus in expanding online course offerings, receiving approval from SACSCOC to offer associate degrees and online instruction for the Bachelor of Arts in Religion, strengthening the College’s brand and Christian ethos, establishing a more conventional student residential community with a robust first-year experience program, and improving the arts, recreation, and athletic facilities. Giving to the College has increased significantly and steadily since Dr. Hampton’s arrival at Lane.
One of Dr. Hampton’s marquee initiatives is the Power of Potential® (POP) Scholars Program launched in 2015. Built on the premise that preparing students for lives of meaningful work has always been a central purpose of the College, the Program is designed to develop and enhance skills necessary to prepare each scholar to be an expert learner and assume leadership roles on campus and beyond. The program, led by two Scholar Leaders, is managed by students for students. Together, cohorts of students join a community of scholars aimed at attracting and supporting talented students.
In 2017, President Hampton led the campus to develop five strategic themes. Since its founding, the College has transformed lives, liberated minds and souls, and celebrated excellence in Christ as the institution has helped each student to achieve and realize the Power of Potential®.
Under the leadership of President Hampton, the College was designated a veteran-friendly campus. The College continued the improvement of existing facilities with the renovation of the aquatic center and gym floor in the J.F. Lane Building and bathroom areas in Cleaves, Hamlett, Graves, and Smith Halls. In addition, computer laboratories were added to each of these residential facilities and the windows were replaced in Cleaves Hall. During the 2018-19 year, the College completed the renovation of the Kirkendoll Student Union Building to include state-of-the-art conference facilities, meeting rooms, and student lounge areas. Lane Institute, First-Year Experience, and Second-Year Experience are housed on the lower level of the facility. In this same year, the Lady Dragons made history as the 2019 SIAC Women’s Basketball Champions.
During the 2018-19 academic year, the College also was successful in submitting its Fifth-Year Interim Report to SACSCOC. The Report, along with the QEP Impact Report, was accepted without any follow-up reports required.
Dr. Hampton also sought to expand community support and involvement. Through a partnership with the Jackson-Madison County School System, the College was granted a lease of the music area at the former Jackson-Central Merry High School campus.
President Hampton has dedicated significant time and energy to igniting creativity and full participation within the campus community. This cross-institutional approach has contributed to an increase in successful grant making; the creation of the Student Textbook Exchange Program (STEP), a collaboration of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Auxiliary Services that provides each student with course materials; and, in 2019, broadened the pathway for students through enhanced interactions between the College and a top research university.
In Spring 2020, the College was gifted the former Lincoln Elementary School property by the City of Jackson. This property houses faculty offices and practice areas for the Concert Choir and the cheerleading program.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, higher education has experienced a transformational period and Lane College was no exception to the trends, both long- and short-term. Since the sudden pivot to online and hybrid instruction in March 2020 and continuing through the Spring 2021 semester, the College remained committed to supporting the well-being of its students and the need for both flexibility and compassion during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through this difficult season, President Hampton used this global pandemic as an opportunity to welcome creative ways to pursue a path forward and cultivate an environment of incremental improvement and innovation. In so doing, Dr. Hampton broadened the College’s national reach, raised the profile of the campus, and promoted collaboration across academic disciplines and administrative units as he guided the College through a period of significant financial challenges.
In June 2020, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) invited Dr. Hampton to testify on behalf of the HBCU community, in particular, and the greater higher education community, in general. During his testimony, Dr. Hampton asked for $1 billion in support for HBCUs, the doubling of the Pell grant, and relief from the HBCU Capital Financing Program. Thus, in December 2020, the passage of the coronavirus stimulus legislation included $1.7 billion appropriated for HBCUs, increases in both the amount of the Pell grants and the number of eligible students; and forgiveness of the $1.3 billion in loans secured through the HBCU Capital Financing Program for several institutions.
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.