The Mayo Administration: 1965-1978
Part 6 of 10
Pres. Robert Mayo
"The times they are a'changin'"
- Bob Dylan, 1964
Robert Murrah Mayo, Hinds Junior College's fifth president, was a native of Smith County and a graduate of Raleigh High School. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Millsaps College in 1937 he spent five years as a teacher and coach in the Pelahatchie public schools system. In 1942 he joined the Army Air Corps, rising to the rank of captain. From 1946-48 Mayo served as principal of Liberty Grove School in Jackson.
He received a master's degree from Peabody College in 1948 and in that year became superintendent of the Hinds County public schools system. As such, he served as an ex officio member of the Board of Trustees of Hinds Junior College. Mayo was superintendent of the Clarksdale school system from 1955 until 1960, when he accepted a position as executive assistant to Hinds President George McLendon. In February 1965 the Hinds Board of Trustees selected him to succeed McLendon upon the latter's retirement in May.
Mayo, who had received an honorary doctorate from Millsaps in 1961, faced an impending explosion, or more correctly, a boom. In the fall of 1964 the first class of a massive wave of "Baby Boomers," the generation born in the aftermath of World War II, reached college age. This demographic spike led to unprecedented growth, straining the college's resources to the hilt. Hinds' enrollment in September 1964 increased 24 percent over the previous year's to approximately 1,700 full-time students. A 28 percent increase followed in 1965, with enrollment topping 2,000 for the first time. Only six years later, in 1971, Hinds registered an astounding 4,600 students, due in part to the increased availability of financial aid, a burgeoning evening program and an attractive adult non-credit curriculum. Enrollment soared to 6,400 in 1975, while in 1971 alone Hinds welcomed 39 new full-time faculty.
Student expenditures simultaneously skyrocketed. In 1966 tuition increased by 25 percent - to a total of $50 per semester. By 1973 this had doubled to $100 before reaching $125 in 1976. Room and board during the same period increased from $180 to $470.
A massive building program, begun under McLendon and expanded by Mayo, struggled to keep pace with demand. Construction on the Raymond Campus included a student union (1965), an imposing fine arts building (1969, now Reeves Hall), a math and social studies building (1973, Herrin-Stewart Hall), vocational-technical addition (1970), five-story women's dorm (1970, Davis Hall), three-story men's dorm (1966, Greaves Hall), science building annex (1973), fine arts building annex (1977, Brooks Hall), theater, and physical education complex (1978, Mayo Field House). Mayo also for the first time expanded the college's physical facilities to remote locations with the opening of the Jackson Branch in 1970 and the Vicksburg Branch in 1975.
Changes in the student body were qualitative as well as quantitative. Indeed, the Boomers were typically quite different from their predecessors. More affluent and not having experienced the rigors of the Great Depression or World War II, they were mobile, technologically savvy and subject to temptations unimaginable to their parents. The college Catalog in 1973 addressed the issue of drug abuse for the first time, banning "Use, possession, or distribution of ...barbiturates, narcotics, marijuana, amphetamines, LSD, heroin, or other controlled substances." Also, by 1978 the student body reflected a growing ethnic diversity, with almost 25 percent of African American descent (covered more fully in the next issue).
Spartan rules governing student behavior, especially for women, were rapidly relaxed. Mini-skirts replaced more conservative attire, leading one faculty member to opine that he had "seen more cotton in an aspirin bottle." In 1969 The Hindsonian published a photo of a weekly "Hinds Honey" wearing - gasp - a two-piece swim suit, and a 1972 article noted cryptically that "girls will be able to go barefoot." For boys, long hair replaced the flat-tops and butch cuts of the 1950s, and the abominable leisure suit was soon to follow.
In athletics, legendary coach Troy Ricks in 1967 led the Eagle men's basketball team to its first ever state championship. Ricks retired from coaching three years later with an overall career record of 441-156 (73 percent wins), figures that led to his induction into the Hinds Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. New coach Robert Garrison led the Eagles to a second state championship in 1971, with only a loss at Perkinston blemishing an otherwise perfect record.
Football during the Mayo era was not as successful. Restrictions on out-of-state recruiting took their toll, and for much of the period Hinds maintained a coaching staff of two.
Long-time coach Joe Renfroe retired in 1970 and was succeeded for one year by former Hinds All-American and NFL star Earl Leggett. With Leggett's return to the NFL as a coach, another former Hinds All-American, Durwood Graham, took the reins.
The real revolution in college athletics in the 1970s grew out of Title IX, a federal law that outlawed gender discrimination in athletics. With scholarships in women's athletics available for the first time, Hinds under the leadership of Rene Warren and Polly Rabalais quickly fielded quality teams in a variety of sports.
After 13 years as president, Mayo retired from Hinds in 1978. His successor, Dr. Clyde Muse, would inherit leadership of a multi-campus institution that had become a giant in academic, vocational, technical and continuing education.