Dr. Marshall Fortenberry served as the first chairman of the Board of Trustees, and it was primarily through his vision and energy that the school became a reality. Jackson Prep opened its doors in August, 1970, and Jesse L. Howell, Jr. served as its first headmaster.
The Board of Trustees purchased acreage on Lakeland Drive in Flowood, Mississippi, which at the time was a completely undeveloped area. They felt the site would be easily accessible to Jackson and that it had great potential for development. Construction of the high school building began in April of l970, allowing only five months before school started to complete the job. Not only did they want a first-rate building finished in a short amount of time, but also they expected the building to contain complete classrooms, science laboratories, administrative offices, and a library. Also during the spring, work began on the football field, practice field, stadium, and field house. The high school was finished in time for classes to start in September, and the football facility was completed soon thereafter.
From 1970 to 1972, construction continued around the campus. During the l970-1971 school year, workers completed the gymnasium, which is now part of the McRae Center. This gymnasium originally served not only as a basketball court but also as an all-purpose meeting area for the school. During the summer of 1971, the school erected the junior high building to accommodate the burgeoning enrollment—after the first school year, the number of students increased from 646 to 966. At the same time, construction crews added the band and choir rooms and a lunchroom at the back of what is now the McRae Center.