Architects of Mississippi: James Manly Spain

I recently came across this great obituary for architect James Manly Spain in the Jackson Daily News-Clarion Ledger. It’s another in a line of really evocative obituaries that tell us not only about the buildings the man designed (important information!) but also about the man himself, his character and imprint on his community. Most of Spain’s known buildings are classical in style–he was a traditional architect, not a ground-breaker, but many of his buildings are beloved in their communities. A number are listed on the National Register, and a few, such as Carthage Elementary School are designated Mississippi Landmarks. Not bad for a man who started out as a Superintendent of Education in Pontotoc County.

The MDAH Historic Resources Database gives a long list of known Spain buildings around the state in addition to those listed below.

J.M. Spain Played Key Role in Building Greater City And State

James Manly Spain, whose passing is mourned throughout Mississippi, was a builder in every sense of the word. One of the South’s foremost architects, he also made many notable contributions to the progress of Jackson and Mississippi as an educator, Christian layman and civic leader.

Since first coming to Jackson in 1921, to launch his eminently successful career as an architect, Mr. Spain played a key role in the development of our state. His efforts and leadership did much to aid Jackson’s growth from a relatively small town to one of the South’s most outstanding metropolitan centers.

James Manly Spain leaves many impressive monuments to his genius and vision. His architectural firm has designed scores of leading industrial, commercial, public and institutional structures in our city and state, as well as many of our better homes.

Mr. Spain designed The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson Daily News Building, all the newer sections of the Baptist Hospital, the Medical Arts Building, the Baptist Book Store, a number of our city schools, the Parkway Baptist Church, many buildings of the Baptist Orphanage, the Fondren Presbyterian Church and other outstanding structures.

He also designed the new First Baptist Church of Vicksburg which is nearing completion, the Clinton High School, various buildings at Mississippi College including the Library, Nelson Building, Girls Dormitories, Fine Arts Building and others on the Clinton campus. Throughout Mississippi are schools, hospitals, commercial centers and various structures of his creation. These are merely a few of the lasting monuments to the superb craftsmanship of James Manly Spain.

A native Mississippian, he was a member of a pioneer family in Pontotoc County. Born at Ecru, he spent his boyhood on a farm before graduating from Mississippi College. Mr. Spain served as associate engineering professor at the Clinton institution. He taught in the public schools of our state, once serving as Superintendent of Education at Shelby for five years.

His versatile abilities stamped him as a leader wherever his influence was felt in our business, religious, civic and social progress. A devout and active member of the First Baptist Church, he served for many years on its Board of Deacons. Every religious and humanitarian movement commanded his full support.

Mr. Spain felt a deep obligation to his family, community, state, church and fellow Mississippians. He discharged his responsibilities fully and ably. Jackson and Mississippi have lost a valuable citizen of rare talents and sterling character, but his splendid works and beneficial influence will be remembered gratefully for many years to come.

Jackson Daily News-Clarion Ledger, Sunday, May 11, 1958

Nelson Hall, Mississippi College



Categories: Architectural Research

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  1. Mississippi by Air: Mississippi College, 1949 « Preservation in Mississippi
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