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Marion Military Institute (MMI) is the nation’s oldest military junior college tracing its origin back to 1842 with the founding of Howard College in Marion, Alabama. During the Civil War, the Chapel and Lovelace Hall, both built in 1857, were used as Breckinridge Military Hospital, treating both Union and Confederate soldiers. Howard College remained in Marion until the Alabama State Baptist Convention made the decision to move the college to Birmingham, Alabama in 1887. It later becoming Samford University. At the time of the move, Colonel James T. Murfee was the Howard College president, a position he had held since coming to Marion in 1871 from the University of Alabama. Murfee along with several of the faculty and trustees, chose to remain on the existing campus in Marion and formally establish MMI. He and the new MMI Board of Trustees developed and implemented institutional policies demanding high standards for the development of character, academic excellence, and military traditions, which have been the hallmarks of MMI ever since.
Hopson O. Murfee, MMI’s second president, was one of the foremost advocates of a student run government that focused on honor and ethics within the student body. Because of this, MMI was one of the first schools in the south to establish a student government association as well as an honor system, both of which are still very much a part of the Corps today. Under H.O. Murfee’s leadership the school achieved national recognition. William Howard Taft served as President of the Board of Trustees, and Woodrow Wilson, President of Princeton University at the time, was the featured speaker at the convocation held in the MMI Chapel in 1905. In tribute to Woodrow Wilson and Princeton University, MMI’s school colors were changed to orange and black, and the tiger was adopted as the mascot.
The Service Academy Program had its beginnings at MMI with the establishment of the Army-Navy department in 1910. The Army ROTC program was introduced in 1916 in response to WWI, and the Army ROTC Early Commissioning Program was established in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War.
Until World War II, the campus consisted of primarily two buildings; the Chapel and Old South (Lovelace) Barracks, both from the old Howard College era. The MMI campus currently encompasses over 160 acres and includes 38 buildings.
MMI continued as a private institution that included both a high school and a junior college governed by an MMI Board of Trustees until 2006 when the Alabama legislature voted to merge the institute into the Alabama Community College System. The high school was disestablished, and MMI became a military junior college only. Today MMI is a member college of the ACCS and is governed by the ACCS Board of Trustees. The legislation retained the original MMI Board of Trustees as the new MMI Board of Trustees and Advisors with the role of governing the MMI Foundation that supports MMI fundraising and houses the endowment. Additionally, this Board now provides advice and counsel to the MMI President and the ACCS. MMI is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to award Associate of Science and Associate of Arts Degrees. Additionally, MMI is a member of the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States and the National Junior College Athletic Association.