Henry Lewis Whitfield: Forty-first Governor of Mississippi: 1924-1927
Although Henry Lewis Whitfield served in the state’s highest office, he is perhaps best known for his career in public education and his many contributions to the development of Mississippi’s public school system. While still a student at Mississippi College, Whitfield began his teaching career at age sixteen. Because of his limited financial resources, Whitfield never had the opportunity to attend school two years in succession and it took him ten years to earn his bachelor’s degree.
Whitfield, who was born in Rankin County, Mississippi, on June 20, 1868, served as school principal at Westfield and Steen’s Creek during the early stage of his career. Whitfield aspired to be a lawyer and enrolled in the law department at Millsaps College. However, just before he was about to begin his law practice, he was appointed state superintendent of education by Governor Anselm McLaurin in 1898. He was subsequently elected superintendent in 1899 and re-elected in 1903. As superintendent, Whitfield was a strong advocate of industrial training and agricultural high schools.
In 1907 Whitfield was appointed president of the Industrial Institute
and College at Columbus. The institute experienced significant growth
under his leadership, and in 1920 its name was changed to Mississippi
State College for Women, and is now Mississippi University for Women.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Posted January 2004
Baker, Bill. Catch the Vision: The Life of Henry L. Whitfield of Mississippi (Jackson, 1974).
Kelly, Thomas E. Who’s Who in Mississippi, 147.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1924-1928), 58-60.
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