NATCHEZ, Miss. (WJTV)- The General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi (GMBSC) has been awarded a $750,000 grant for the restoration of the T.J. Huddleston Memorial Chapel on the historic Natchez College campus.

The funding is provided as a pass-through grant by Lilly Endowment Inc. It is part of a $2.5 million grant to the Foundation for Mississippi History to support Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) programs that promote public understanding of the role of religion in Mississippi history and culture, according to MDAH Director Katie Blount.

Blount said the Lilly Endowment is also providing $36,000 for Jefferson College to preserve and interpret the school, an MDAH site-Mississippi’s first institution of higher learning, birthplace of the Methodist Church in the state, and home of the 1817 Mississippi Statehood Convention.

 Rev. Reginald Buckley, president of GMBSC, said the restoration will occur in three phases:

  • Phase One will focus on the chapel,
  •  Phase Two will include the restoration of the women’s dormitory, which will house the collection of convention and college archives and serve as a repository of the convention members’ church history.
  • Phase Three will include the construction of a café, courtyard, and an outdoor amphitheater. It will become the Baptist Heritage and Art Center

“I don’t think we ought to forget about how we got over here,” he said. “You can walk around Natchez and see antebellum homes that former slaves have built, but I haven’t found anything that slaves have left. I have seen the auction blocks where they were sold. But in this place, we cannot cover up the stones that were left here by our ancestors, that helped make not only Natchez, but America as great as she is.”