The Man With a Plan: Theodore Bilbo's Adaptation of National Progressivism In Mississippi

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bradley Bond

Advisor Department



Was Theodore G. Bilbo a demon or a saint? This study examined the educational reforms attempted in Mississippi during Governor Bilbo's terms in office. Although Bilbo has generally been characterized as provincial and reactionary, this research focuses on Bilbo's reliance on national experts' advice on educational reform. Picking and choosing from a host of progressive reforms, Bilbo selectively adhered to national advice that reinforced his own views on race and white supremacy. This study examines three public institutions in Mississippi: The Model County School, The Mississippi School and Colony for the Feebleminded, and the Greater University of Mississippi. Following the national progressive trends toward efficiency and scientific management, Bilbo supported state educational reforms that would increase educational and economic opportunities for poor whites in Mississippi. Supported by a cadre of state educational reformers, Bilbo instituted a plan to make Mississippi public education more efficient, especially for whites.