In February 1964, Eugene Carson Blake (1906-1985), Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA and chairman of the NCCC’s Commission on Religion and Race, presented a proposal for a long term civil rights project in the Mississippi River Delta. Led by Presbyterian minister and executive secretary of the NCCC’s Division of Home Missions, Jon L. Regier, the Delta Ministry of Mississippi became the largest civil rights group in the South despite opposition from the leaders of Mississippi’s predominately white churches. Projects were located throughout Mississippi and included voter registration, education and job training, locating and building houses, distributing food and supplies, and “desegregation tests” of public facilities and schools. In its first year, the DM attracted over 300 volunteers and staff from various denominations.
In 1965, the Delta Ministry played a central role in the organization of the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM), a statewide Head Start program. Mary Holmes Junior College, a Presbyterian school in West Point, Mississippi, received a grant of nearly $1.5 million from the U.S. Government’s Office of Economic Opportunity to administer the program for its first year. It operated 84 centers in 24 counties, enrolled 6,000 children, and employed 1,100 people, mostly local black women. Children received health care, nutritious meals, and educational support.