In the fall of 1953, students entered the newly built Lee High School on Military Road. It’s not difficult to imagine the excitement they would have felt crossing the threshold of this larger, more modern facility. Lee High School had been housed in its original location since 1919.
That same fall, Scott Berry was born in Columbus, Mississippi. The grandson of Russell Johnston, owner of local furniture manufacturing company, Johnston Tombigbee, he eventually graduated from Lee High School in 1971 and went on to work in his family’s furniture business.
Lee High School has received generations of Columbus youth and undergone significant transformations over the course of its 56 years as a public school facility – including desegregation in 1971 and becoming a middle school in 1993 – until finally closing its doors in 2010.
It remained vacant for almost a decade until the city sold it to Scott Berry. In 2018, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History designated the site as an Historic Landmark.
Scott and his wife, Ruth, began investing in historic Columbus properties in 1988 when they purchased the old First Columbus Bank building downtown. For a time, it headquartered their furniture manufacturing business, JTB, and was later renovated into seven apartments and a commercial restaurant.
In 2005, Ruth purchased the historic Coca-Cola bottling plant, also located in downtown Columbus. Over the last two decades, the first floor has housed several different commercial businesses and the second floor has been rental apartments.
Scott and Ruth are committed to the revitalization and growth of historic Columbus and are excited about the prospects that the entire Lee High property has to offer. Already completed is the 23-unit apartment complex on the north side of the building, comprised completely of old classroom spaces. Also underway is the Academy Hall venue space, housed in the spectacular Lee High auditorium which can accommodate up to 800 guests. Future renovations will include a restaurant in the old cafeteria and an adjacent lounge occupying the old teachers’ lounge and shop facilities. Finally, the property boasts a North Wing, a gymnasium, and several acres that are available for lease or purchase.