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M.D. Jordan: Shaping a Generation

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Does the name Massathau D. Jordan mean anything to you? If you’re an African American who attended school in Pine Bluff between 1951 and 1980, there’s a good chance it does. M.D. Jordan was one of the most beloved and respected educators ever to grace the hallways of Merrill School. In this article, we take a look at his impact.

Who was Massathau D. Jordan, also known as M.D. Jordan? He was an educator. He was a leader. He was a motivator for thousands of students at Merrill School.

M.D. Jordan spent his career in education. He was the Dean of Men at Southern University before coming to Merrill School. Once he arrived in Pine Bluff, he served as principal of Merrill High School from 1951 to 1970, and principal of the junior high school from 1970 to 1980.

M.D. Jordan was one of those rare people who shape a whole generation. As principal of Merrill High School in Pine Bluff for nearly a quarter of a century, he is one of the main reasons why Merrill alumni have such a fierce loyalty to their school and its memory.

If you had to choose one identifying characteristic that describes Mr. Jordan's approach to students, it would be concern, but not concern in the mode of today’s helicopter parents or the overly sentimental expression that passes for caring nowadays. M.D. Jordan’s brand of concern was different. He kept tabs on hundreds of students every day, and each one felt like they were getting his individual attention.

Mr. Jordan inspired you to do better—to be better. He pushed. He prodded. He inspected. He inquired. He was relentless. He wanted to get the most out of every student because he knew that there was a lot in there to get out. It wasn’t just the smart kids that got his attention, or the not-so-promising students. It was everyone. If a kid was cutting class, Mr. Jordan went out and found them. When he spotted a talented youngster doing the minimum to get by, he called them out. In fact, bright kids who signed up for easy-A courses would find their schedule cards rearranged at the direction of the principal’s office.

Mr. Jordan was what we now call a strict disciplinarian. Like many in his day, he didn’t shy away from applying discipline in the physical sense if the situation warranted it. But here’s the thing. He rarely needed to raise a hand. Mr. Jordan, being Mr. Jordan, could convey his message with a look, a greeting, a probing question, the tone of his voice. Students shaped up fast.

Everything Mr. Jordan did, he did for the betterment of his students, including the decisions he made about faculty members over the years. It’s impossible to overstate his contribution. A great many folks who now are working to make Pine Bluff, our state, and our nation better today can trace their contribution back to the influence of Mr. Jordan. M.D. Jordan believed in his students. In the process, he showed them how to believe in themselves.

In 2020, the Pine Bluff City Council authorized the placement of a street topper in honor of Dr. Raye Jean Montague and Massathau D. Jordan for Jordan-Montague Way. The toppers are placed along Linden Street, from the corner of West Pullen Street, and north on Linden past Carver Elementary School.

Mr. Jordan died at the age of 70, but his legacy lives on in his students. For generations of Pine Bluff students, the sweet memories of Merrill High School and the memories of M.D. Jordan will be forever intertwined.

Source & Image Credit: Rosie Thomas Pettigrew

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