The photograph below is Dr. Robert Cecil Cook, UPM's founding director. Cook was President of the University of Southern Mississippi when this photograph was taken in 1949, and the “Photograph of Robert Cecil Cook, University President from 1945-1954” is courtesy of Special Collections, McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.
We recently discovered some interesting facts about the UPM's first days. From summaries of Dr. Cook’s personal papers in the McCain Library and Archives at USM we learn:
“In 1968, Governor John Bell Williams appointed Cook to a twelve year term on the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning, and he served as president of that body during the 1976-77 fiscal year.
As a member of the Board of Trustees, Cook discovered that Mississippi was one of only two states with no university press. To remedy the situation, he secured support from the board and the state's major colleges and universities, and in 1970, he organized the University and College Press of Mississippi, which operated on the second floor of the Student Union Building (now McLemore Hall) at the University of Southern Mississippi. Cook served as president (at no salary) until 1973, when operations were moved to” Jackson, Mississippi. “The Press’s first publication was Mississippi Black Folklore, a bibliography by William R. Ferris, a faculty member at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University).”
The Press started with two employees, the director and a secretary. Its first budget in The Report of the Presidents’ Council in the Board of Trustees minutes was $25,000. That first fiscal year it hoped to publish ten new books from its offices in the Student Union Building on the USM campus in Hattiesburg.
Today the Press employs nineteen full-time staff members. Its sales are annually above $2 million dollars. From its offices at the Education, Research, and Development Center on the fifth floor of the Paul B. Johnson Tower in Jackson, the press acquires, edits, designs, and markets over 200 author creations each year in traditional print, print-on-demand, and electronic book forms.
The press was from its beginning one of very few consortium presses. Then and now it is sustainably supported by and represents all of Mississippi’s eight public universities, being Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Mississippi University for Women, University of Mississippi, and University of Southern Mississippi.