Jefferson Davis – People/Persons

Johnson, Jonas Edward “J.E.”

In 1907 the Prentiss Institute was founded by Jonas Edward “J.E.”Johnson (a Laurel native) and his wife Bertha LaBranche Johnson (of Wesson). Mr. Johnson graduated valedictorian from Alcorn A&M College, while Mrs. Johnson studied under Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute. The Prentiss Institute was an offspring of the Tuskegee Institute “emphasizing the training of the head, heart and hand.” The Johnsons also organized the Committee of One Hundred, which now is continued by the coalition of 100 black women and others.


Matthews, Jaman, Rememberance of Days Past: The Prentiss Institute at 100.

Johnson, Bertha LeBranche

Bertha LaBranche Johnson was born in Wesson. She was the co-founder of not only the Prentiss Institute but also the Oak Park Vocational School of Laurel. She was the ex-president of the Mississippi State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, the executive council of the Committee of Interracial Cooperation, the president of the Southeastern Federation, a member of the Mississippi Association of Teachers in Colored Schools, and a honorary lifetime member of the National Council of Colored Women. She wrote “Lifting As We Climb”(1940).

Height, Dorothy

Educator and noted civil rights activist Dorothy Height talks about Heifer’s involvement at the Prentiss Institute as the inspiration for her own initiative the “pig bank”in her 2003 memoir “Open Wide the Freedom Gates.” “Participating families were trained to care for pigs, to establish cooperatives, and to work together to improve the community’s nutrition and health. Each participating family signed a “pig agreement,”promising not to sell the pigs and to bring back 2 piglets from each litter to deposit in the bank. That way more and more families could receive pigs over time.”

Eash, Wallace and Laura

Wallace and Laura Eash came from a farm in Iowa and served for 10 years in Mississippi. Under the direction of Mr. Eash the program grew to include more than 300 head of cattle distributed in 4 counties. The couple remained in Mississippi after their service to Heifer ended.

Metzger, Thurl

Thurl Metzger, former Heifer executive director, was involved in the project since its inception, visiting the Prentiss campus many times. Remembering the project in this book “The Road to Development”he recalled, “Heifer Project was involved in a small part of the struggle for equal opportunity. We were there before the civil rights legislation, and we witnessed the violence that followed the Supreme Court decision requiring equal education.”


Matthews, Jaman, Rememberance of Days Past: The Prentiss Institute at 100.

McMillen, Neil R., Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow, 308-09 (1989).

Harrison, Alferdteen, Black Exodus: The Great Migration from the American South, 91 (1991).

Myers, Lulla

Presently, Lulla Myers is president of the Prentiss Institute board of directors, the only remaining functioning body of the school in south Mississippi. She was once a student at the Institute as well.


Matthews, Jaman, Remembrance of Days Past: The Prentiss Institute at 100.

Hooker, Rosie and Alexander, Luther

Rosie Hooker and Luther Alexander also presently serve on the board of directors for the Institute. Mrs. Hooker is a life-long resident of Prentiss and a 1942 graduate of the school. es’>