William Plumer Jacobs, II (1935-1945)
Already a successful businessman, William Plumer Jacobs II, grandson of the college’s founder, became PC’s 12th president in 1935. Jacobs, himself a graduate of PC and board member, agreed to take over the financial and promotional tasks of the presidency, leaving the management of the day-to-day activities of the campus to Dean Brown.
As PC historian Ben Hay Hammet put it: “Of all the ingredients William Jacobs brought to the presidency, perhaps the most important was his ability to inspire confidence.” His tenure saw the end of the Great Depression and World War II when continued accreditation of the college was in peril due to Southern Association’s financial standards. Jacobs led a recruiting drive in the summer of 1935 which helped the college achieve a 13% enrollment increase over the previous year, enabling PC to operate in the black for the first time in ten years.
Jacobs’ other accomplishments include establishing a publicity office, expanding the curriculum and faculty, recruiting prominent speakers to campus, and developing a newsletter to keep alumni fully informed of PC developments. In addition, the Walter Johnson Club was formed in 1940 to encourage interest in and support of the PC athletic program.
During his tenure, his own sons, William P. Jacobs III ’40, and Hugh S. Jacobs ’41, were among the students on campus. Jacobs was known for welcoming students at the president’s home and keeping everyone updated on developments of importance to the college.
After ten successful years at the college, Jacobs resigned to work as executive director of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association. He left a much stronger college, debt-free, and in the best financial position in its history. After his presidency, Jacobs headed the PC Board of Trustees and expanded the family printing business, the publisher of three national magazines. He died suddenly on July 25, 1948, at the age of 54, during a business trip to Washington, D.C.
Source: Information provided by PC Archives