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CONNORS STATE COLLEGE

At the turn of the twenty-first century Dr. Donnie L. Nero, as president of Connors State College and the first African American to hold that position in an Oklahoma higher education institution other than Langston University, was charged with responsibility for continuing the college's legacy that had begun in the twentieth century. Before statehood, men gathered in Guthrie, the territorial capital, to frame a state constitution. Because agriculture would be a leading industry, the constitutional framers made provisions for state-supported agricultural instruction through the public school system.

The Oklahoma Constitution mandated that no less than eighty acres be donated to the state for agricultural schools in each of the Supreme Court Judicial Districts and that the schools be administered by the state's Board of Agriculture. As a result, lively competition developed between two towns over the location of an agricultural school in the First Judicial District. It appeared that Muskogee would be chosen, but a group of influential citizens of Warner, led by their State Sen. Campbell Russell, carried petitions to Guthrie. Warner was finally selected as the school site, due to Russell's influence. Warner citizens donated 160 acres for the school's campus; J. K. McClarren and Campbell Russell were the largest donors. The institution was named in honor of the Board of Agriculture's first president, John P. Connors, who assisted in locating the school in Warner.

The institution opened February 3, 1909, with four faculty and J. A. Liner as president. The first classes of thirty-five students were held in the Warner public school at night for the first semester and later moved to the second floor of the T. G. Overstreet Building. In 1911 the first permanent building was constructed on the present main campus, located one mile west of Warner.

By legislative act in March 1927 the institution became Connors State Agricultural College, a fully accredited junior college. In 1941 oversight was transferred from the Board of Agriculture to the newly created Oklahoma State System of Higher Education and in 1944 to the Board of Regents for Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges. In 1967 the state legislature changed the name of the institution to Connors State College of Agriculture and Applied Science.

In 1977 Connors offered off-campus extension courses in Muskogee with classes held at night in public school buildings. The school leased the Holly Building and purchased it in 1986. By 1988 the college was granted branch campus status. With title to the eight-story Charles N. Haskell Building given to Connors in 1992, the branch campus moved to that facility. In 1993 Connors acquired 1,316 acres five miles south of Warner, where the Harding Ranch and Research Station was established. In 1996 the 28,500-square-foot Ronald D. Garner Science Building was constructed on forty acres in northeast Muskogee.

With two Muskogee campuses, Connors at the beginning of the twenty-first century had adequate room for future expansion at its Three Rivers Port Campus location. As Connors State College approached its centennial, it claimed a nationally recognized Phi Theta Kappa chapter, national championship men's and women's basketball teams and livestock judging teams.

SEE ALSO: AGRICULTURAL AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION, COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES–STATE, JUNIOR COLLEGE MOVEMENT.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: County News (Warner, Oklahoma), 27 April 1972. C. W. "Dub" West, Muskogee: From Statehood to Pearl Harbor (Muskogee, Okla.: Muscogee Publishing Co., 1976).

Jimmie L. White, Jr.

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