The 1940s saw the U.S. drawn into World War II. There were food rations and a host of efforts to support the war on the home front. Radio was a mainstay in homes, for news and for big band and jazz music. with hits like the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by The Andrews Sisters, “All or Nothing at All” by Frank Sinatra, and “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday. Big names in music were Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Nat “King” Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
As Jackson Junior College continued into its second decade, the Depression years were waning and enrollment continued to grow. Beginning in 1939, sharing of space with the high school created some difficulties. The board began to consider the possibility of finding more room for the College. “The board felt that early consideration to the problem of supplying junior college students with their own building is necessary,” reported the Jackson Citizen Patriot.
The decade began with a small but significant event in June 1940: the College’s first graduating class held its first reunion at a 10th-anniversary dinner in Jackson. College programs had continued to grow beyond the traditional arts and science, with programs like engineering and general business offered. A civilian pilot training program, launched in 1939, expanded in the 1940s. Increasing numbers of graduates went on to take advanced military flying instruction.
With the country’s entrance into World War II in 1941, problems with a need for more space came to a sudden end. Within a year, enrollments had dropped 25 percent. Enrollments would continue to drop during the war years until, in 1944, only 15 sophomores – all of them women – graduated. During the war years, JJC men and women saw duty in every branch of the service and all corners of the globe. Sadly, by war’s end, 39 JJC students had given their lives.
The end of World War II again brought a rapid shift in college enrollment. In 1946, John George Hall, also downtown, was purchased with assistance from the John George Fund. John George was a Jackson publisher who had passed away and bequeathed the income from more than one million dollars as an educational fund for Jackson County young people. The board of trustees named to administer the fund later bought the building from its owners, the Shaughnessy family, and in 1946, made it available to the College.
As veterans returned from the war, new challenges sprang up for Jackson Junior College. With faculty and staff in short supply, arrangements had to be made for the handling of a steadily-increasing number of discharged veterans under the provisions of the G.I. Bill of Rights. Enrollment began an upward climb; by fall of 1946 there were more than 550 students at JJC, and more than 350 of them were men. nor was there any relief from the upward spiral for, as the veterans eventually began to disappear from campus, they would be replaced by even larger numbers of young people who had been born during the war years who were now growing up in a technically complex world which demand that they pursue education beyond a high school diploma. The pattern was being duplicated on every college campus across the country.