For decades a small white house on Miller Street in Hattiesburg served as home to Oseola McCarty, perhaps the University of Southern Mississippi’s most well-known benefactor.
When the house was placed in a recent tax sale, officials from the Hattiesburg Convention Commission had an idea to continue to preserve the property and McCarty’s legacy: purchase the home, relocate it and convert it into a museum.
“We realized that we were going to lose something that, for a very modest amount for our community, we could preserve and recognize someone who became well-known on the international stage for their selfless act,” said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention and Tourism Commission. “So we seized the moment and acquired the house.”
Although details beyond that — including cost, location and a time frame for the project — are still being worked out, Taylor said officials are in the beginning stages.
“There are just so many pieces that have to be put into place before I can really say much more,” he said. “We’ve got some ballpark (cost) figures, and that’s why we’re willing to take the risk and why we bought the house.
“We have a game plan, and we’re working with the city on that. But the rest of it, we’ve just got to figure it out, and we’ve got a window of time to do that.”
McCarty, a former washerwoman, revealed in 1995 she had established a trust fund that stipulated at her death that a portion of her life’s savings would be used for scholarships for students needing financial assistance. Those savings, which amounted to about $150,000, were donated to Southern Miss after McCarty died from liver cancer in 1999.
The Oseola McCarty Endowed Scholarship was soon after named in her honor.
The new museum would be the Hattiesburg Convention Commission’s seventh tourism facility. The commission operates the Hattiesburg Zoo, Lake Terrace Convention Center, Saenger Theater, African American Military History Museum, Eureka School Museum and Hattiesburg Visitors Center.
“(This McCarty house project) will really enhance the area,” Hattiesburg City Council President Carter Carroll said. “It’s going to be really nice, and the right people have it now.”