The first session of Itawamba Agricultural High School opened nearly 100 years ago at 10 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1921 with around 150 students enrolled. It was a day more than a decade in the making. According to a 2007 post by the Itawamba Historical Society’s Bob Franks on the Itawamba Historical Review, the county first levied a tax in 1910 raising over $1,300 for the maintenance of a school. It was a full decade before the construction began on the school.
According to Zereda Greene’s weekly column "These things I remember" in the Feb. 17, 1966 edition of The Times, it was the donation of funds by several Itawamba county residents that enabled the purchase of land from Isaac Lewis Sheffield, J.A. Senter, W.G. Orr, Annie Gaither, M.C. Benson as well as the estate of W.L. Gaither, . The cost of the nearly 100 acres of land under the hill west of the courthouse on the Bankhead Highway totaled just over $4,000.
The cornerstone of the Administration Building was laid on May 19 with thousands of Itawambians attending. According to the 1920 U.S. Census, less than 16,000 people lived in the county at the time.
The school opened with only two buildings completed, the Administration Building and girls dormitory, which became Monroe Hall. Until a wooden boys dorm was completed later in the school term, the boys lived on the second floor of the Administration Building or rented rooms in the homes of Fulton residents The girls dorm included the dining room along with a kitchen and parlors.
The school opened with the goal of preparing its students to be better farmers and homemakers and expected only a few to continue their studies beyond high school. However, none returned straight to the farm after graduation with several continuing their education at colleges and universities.
Tuition was free for Itawamba county residents for the first session but $10 for those who registered from out of county. Residents living in the dormitories paid for their room and board on a co-operative plan with students expected to do five to ten hours of practical labor a week with additional labor being paid at the rate of five to fifteen cents depending on the job. It was reported in May of 1922 that the school had received accreditation from the state’s accreditation committee.
Newspaper articles from across the state in the following decades noted the county’s growing support for the school during its first decade and by the late 1930s it had grown into one of the state’s largest high schools. In 1939, the school boasted 107 seniors, and in 1941 the school’s Board of Trustees voted to expand and add the curriculum for two years of college coursework. Due to World War Two, those plans were delayed, but in 1949, the first freshman coursework was offered as Itawamba Junior College.
In 1993, IAHS relocated to its current location south of Fulton and joined the Itawamba County School District in 1997.
IAHS graduates have played critical roles and earned distinction in their respective field from early in the school's.
An early graduate of IAHS was Frank Welch. Welch served as the Dean of Agriculture at both Mississippi State University and the University of Kentucky as well as Director of the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland and a stint on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors.
Welch was an early graduate to leave a mark in his field, but he certainly wasn’t the last. Doctors Billy Collum and Jim Stone are two of many healthcare providers who’ve graced the halls of IAHS. Also working in the sciences is Sherita Rogers Sage, a chemical engineer with Nestle.
William N. "Bill" Morris, a 1949 graduate served as sheriff and Mayor of Memphis for several terms. He is best remembered for taking custody of assassin James Earl Ray and his peace keeping methods during the city's most tumultuous times after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Shane Hooper served in the Marines and works in the insurance and financial services industry. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the state’s Institutes of High Learning.
Academically, the school has produced a Fulbright Scholar in Betsy Mann Chesnutt and Julie Grimes Waldorf was a Truman Scholar.
Mike Mills has served as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and on the Mississippi Supreme Court. He currently serves on the bench of the U.S. Federal Courts in Mississippi’s Northern District.
In the arts, April Beasley won the prestigious Gold Key award in photography part of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Mark Willcutt and Wes Sheffield are both accomplished musicians.
Chelsea Rick was named Miss Mississippi in 2013 and was a preliminary winner and top-15 finisher at the 2014 Miss America contest.
Football standout Roy Lee Crayton played professional football while basketball standout DewDrop Brumley went on to earn All-American honors with the Tupelo Redwings in the 1930s. More recently, Ally McDonald became a multi-year All-American in college and is a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour. Brian Dozier enjoyed a memorable career in Major League Baseball and won a World Series ring with the Washington Nationals, and Chad Ramey earned his first PGA Tour card this season..
Today, the school has more than 560 students and has the distinction of being one of only four Agricultural high schools remaining in the state and its students continue to excel in the classroom and in extra-curriculars.