178 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI opening of the $298,000 combination hotel and Gulf and Ship Island Railroad terminal, designed by New Orleans architect Thomas Sulley, in downtown Hattiesburg. As the hour grew late, both men rose to speak, extolling the virtues of Mississippi. This celebratory occasion trumpeted Hattiesburg’s rise as a regional rail center, comparable to other important cities in the region. Hattiesburg was well on its way to becoming one of South Mississippi’s most important cities. Jones, a former Union soldier who made his fortune in the Pennsylvania oil fields, was responsible for the completion of the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad between Gulfport and Jackson, Mississippi, in 1900. This rail line provided a direct connection between the mills of the Pine Belt and the deep-water international harbor at Gulfport. Hattiesburg was a crucial connection, as the New Orleans and Northeastern, the Mississippi Central, and the Mobile, Jackson, and Kansas City intersected in the city. Two important institutions of higher education, Mississippi Normal College and South Mississippi College, took root in Hattiesburg during the first decade of the twentieth century. Located on the southern edge of Hattiesburg, South Mississippi College opened its doors in 1906 and operated until a devastating fire in 1910 forced its closure. Local businessman W. S. F. Tatum then purchased the property and offered it to the Southern Baptist Convention, which reopened the school in 1911. The school operated as a women’s only college from 1911 to 1954 and, with the switch to coeducational status, changed its name to William Carey College. Since no state-supported institution of higher education existed in rapidly growing south Mississippi, the state legislature authorized a state-supported teachers college to be built in Hattiesburg. Mississippi Normal College, comprising five brick buildings on 120 acres of cutover pine timberland west of Hattiesburg, was founded on March 30, 1910. In 1922, Mississippi Normal College was authorized to award its first bachelor’s degrees, and in 1924 the name of the institution changed to State Teachers College. In 1940, the name of the college changed yet again, this time to Mississippi Southern College to reflect the growing breadth of its course offerings. These two institutions played an important role in the Hattiesburg economy, bringing in teachers and students from across the state. Thirty miles away, another whistle-stop on the New Orleans and Northeastern quickly developed into a thriving city. John Kamper erected a sawmill near the signal stop of Laurel in central Jones County in 1882, and a small community formed. In 1886 Laurel incorporated, and in 1891, the Eastman Gardiner Lumber Company purchased the mill. To replace the old Kamper facility, it erected a new PHOTOS COURTESY OF HOWARD INDUSTRIES INC. HOWARD INDUSTRIES Howard Industries, now a four-division company with a net worth of over a billion dollars, began in 1968 when Billy W. Howard, Sr. returned to his home state of Mississippi to start his own business, leaving behind a promising career at General Electric. Located on 504 acres in Laurel, Howard Industries has since grown to become one of the country’s leading computer and medical cart manufacturers. Howard has state-of-the-art facilities composed of 60,000 square feet of office space, 72,000 square feet of manufacturing space, and a 3,200 square-foot bridge connecting the two areas. Howard’s Technology Solutions division produces desktop and notebook computers, servers, medical equipment, and more, while its Lighting Solutions division creates safe, energy-efficient lighting. Howard Power Solutions, which is considered the largest transformer plant in the world and leads the nation in distribution transformer production, has more than 7 million Howard transformers currently in service around the globe.