SCOOBA – Thelma Briggs McConnell’s devotion to preserving the history of Kemper County has made her living history. And now her passion has a home at East Mississippi Community College.
The archives room at the Tubb-May Library on the Scooba campus is now officially the Thelma Briggs McConnell Archives following a ceremony Friday at the Tubb-May Library on EMCC’s Scooba campus.
The designation had already been made and the sign hung in the library weeks prior. But Thelma Briggs McConnell Day on the Scooba campus signaled the official change, along with EMCC’s official “thank you” celebration of McConnell’s gifts.
“I wanted someone to have my collection, and I would rather this place have it than anyone,” said McConnell following the ceremony.
EMCC head librarian Donna Ballard said McConnell has donated and loaned an incredible amount of materials to EMCC over the years. The list includes documents, books and photographs depicting Kemper County through the decades as well as the EMCC campus back when it was still Kemper County Agricultural High School.
McConnell lived through most of what she documented. Born in 1918, her family moved to Scooba in 1923. She graduated from Kemper County Agricultural High School in 1936, nine years after the school began sharing a campus with East Mississippi Junior College.
She began substitute teaching at the Margie B. Aust Elementary School on the EMJC campus (now Aust Hall, EMCC’s art and band facility) in 1951 and soon became a permanent faculty member after completing her elementary education degree by taking night classes at EMJC before finishing her degree at Mississippi State University.
She would teach in Scooba for 31 years.
EMCC President Dr. Rick Young, one of several speakers at Thelma Briggs McConnell Day, said her contribution could not be overstated.
“What Thelma Briggs McConnell has brought to EMCC is a unique sense of identity and context that can only be found through knowing your history. She’s been a part of EMCC almost her entire life, and we couldn’t be more proud to count her as a member of our family,” he said.
Through the decades, McConnell has been as instrumental in making history in Kemper County as she has been in preserving it. In 1937 she was a charter member of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service, now the United Methodist Women. She was an original member in the Scooba Barbecue Club. Through five decades she maintained membership in the Twentieth Century Book Club, which she describes as “the most prestigious club in the history of Scooba” and a forerunner to the Kemper County Library System.
The Kemper County Historical Association organized in 1982 and McConnell has served as president and chaired a Pictorial History of Kemper County committee in 1999.
She was named Citizen of the Year in 2005 by the Kemper County Chamber of Commerce and featured as one of the Meridian Star’s Unsung Heroes that same year. The Kemper County Messenger presented her an appreciation award for writing Scooba news for more than 20 years.
Known for her humility, McConnell had no choice but to be the center of attention as more than 70 visitors attended the ceremony. Most stopped to hug and chat with McConnell.
“It’s been hard to keep from crying all day. I did this because I love Scooba and Kemper County and I’ll keep on doing it as long as I’m able,” said McConnell.