The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Brown (Katherine) Scrapbook
Collection Number: M402
Volume: .7 cubic ft.
Miss Katherine India Brown was born on February 15, 1912 in Newton, Mississippi, where she spent most of her youth. Her parents were John Hamilton Brown and Kate Mae Poole Brown. She also had one brother, Julian Hamilton Brown. She attended Newton Elementary and graduated from Newton High School in 1929 as Valedictorian. She graduated from Clarke Memorial College in 1931 and two years later in 1933 she graduated from Mississippi Woman’s College (present-day William Carey College) with honors and a degree in English. She then began helping with secretarial duties for her father, who was a dentist in Newton.
In 1953, Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi) Registrar Dr. O. N. Darby asked Brown to come and work for him. Darby was also an English major from Newton, Mississippi and former Superintendent of Schools there. Brown and her mother moved to Hattiesburg, where they were next door neighbors to Dr. and Mrs. Aubrey Lucas. Dr. Lucas, then Director of Admissions, would later become president of the University of Southern Mississippi. The Lucases and the Browns became very good friends, and Katherine rode to work every day with Dr. Lucas.
Brown’s work in the Registrar’s Office consisted of evaluating academic credentials of students enrolling at Mississippi Southern College, producing transcripts, and secretarial duties. When the Bootstrap program began in 1959, Brown took on the responsibility of handling it. She was named Coordinator of Armed Forces Education in 1959 and was the only person to ever hold that position. She served full-time until 1977, and then part-time until 1987.
The Bootstrap program was so named because the participants were “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” by means of a college education. Bootstrappers came from all branches of the Armed Services. They were officers seeking further career advancement and enlisted personnel who desired a college degree in order to qualify for officers training. Many were married men with children, and some were women.
As Coordinator, Brown facilitated the admission and enrollment of active duty armed forces personnel pursuing a degree. She evaluated the Bootstrappers’ academic credentials, advised them about what courses to take in order to complete their degree requirements in the time allowed by their branch of the service, and generally counseled them from registration to graduation. She encouraged them, attended social functions sponsored by auxiliary organizations like the awarding of the Ph.T. (Pushing Husbands Through) degree, and responded to their 400-500 Christmas cards each year with a university newsletter for them all.
Brown has received numerous honors during her life. In her youth, she won first place in a piano performance, first place in the state of Mississippi in English Literature, and received the Alpha Sigma Alpha award. Her career at the University of Southern Mississippi also garnered her many honors. The Bootstrappers’ Pen and Sword Fraternity established the Kathy Brown Scholarship in 1965, which is still providing financial assistance to qualified students. She was also named Outstanding Staff Member in 1973. However, possibly her greatest accomplishment was being the first recipient of the Hattiesburg Jaycees’ Boss of the Year award in 1974. She won this award because the Bootstrappers regarded her affectionately as their "boss. "
Brown’s work took her to military bases throughout the United States and in Europe, where former Bootstrappers entertained her. Her very active life has included receiving her Master’s Degree in English at Mississippi Southern College in 1957 by taking evening courses, volunteer work, and serving as pianist at the Court Street Methodist Church. Most impressive of all, Brown accomplished all of this with leg braces and crutches as a result of having polio.
Her former Bootstrappers include Colonels, Majors, Brigadier Generals, and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Major John J. Tominac. Another of her Bootstrappers was David Senne, a professor of military science at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Now that Brown is retired she has many interests and hobbies such as composing and listening to music, reading and writing poetry, playing the piano and the organ, and bird watching.
The Katherine Brown collection is a fascinating group of documents that shed light on the “Bootstrap” program at the University of Southern Mississippi. The collection is divided into two series.
Series 1: Katherine Brown’s Scrapbook contains many items that Brown collected throughout the years she worked at the University of Southern Mississippi. There are numerous letters and cards from various people Brown knew. There are also many newspaper clippings that mention both the Bootstrap Program and the Pen and Sword Fraternity. Perhaps most interesting are the pictures Brown collected, most of which portray Brown, Bootstrappers, and their families.
Series II: Office Files contains Brown’s personal files. However, the bulk of this series is lists of the hundreds of Bootstrappers that attended the University of Southern Mississippi. Also included are a selection of letters, programs, and various other documents.
Photograph Log: Available