The town of Kilgore, Texas was founded in 1872 by C.M. “Buck” Kilgore, whose family first settled in nearby Danville. When the International and Great Northern Railroad came to East Texas and located its terminal four miles west Danville, Mr. Kilgore realized the advantages of living near the railroad and moved his family to a new home near the depot located in present-day Kilgore.
As time went by, many from the Danville area migrated to the new settlement; and by 1880, the town had a population of 300 with a hospital, drugstore, depot, two mercantile stores, five dry goods stores, several nice homes, eight saloons, and a commitment to education.
In 1873, Professor Isaac Alexander, a prominent educator, established the Alexander Institute in Kilgore and operated a very successful educational institution until it was moved in 1894 to Jacksonville, Texas, where it became Lon Morris College. Gregg County made its first serious attempt at a uniform school system in 1893 by dividing the county into eleven districts. By 1912, the Kilgore School District was a better-than-average school district in the state with an area of 25 square miles and an enrollment of 125 students.
The Oil Boom years:
The normal, everyday life of the Kilgore community was dramatically altered on December 28, 1930, when the Lou Della Crim #1 came in with more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The boom was on! Derricks sprang up everywhere, and the town grew from a population of 800 to 15,000 in a matter of months. The city was formally incorporated in February of 1931.Kilgore civic and business leaders realized that the best oil resources now made it possible to pursue what had earlier been an impossible dream. They envisioned a new service for the young people of the area, one that would have long-range effects on every community in East Texas. They would establish a community college.
The beginnings of KC:
W. L. Dodson, superintendent of the Kilgore Independent School District, urged the board to take the necessary steps to create a junior college; and they authorized him to bring in B. E. Masters, president of Amarillo Junior College, to assist in the actual implementation of the plan. Mr. Masters came in April of 1935 and met with the board of education. In August, the board formally named Mr. Dodson as president with Mr. Masters as dean.In order to begin classroom instruction by fall, all parties concerned agreed that the college should be operated by the Kilgore Independent School District and would temporarily utilize the public school facilities. Thus Kilgore College opened in the fall of 1935 with 11 faculty members and 229 students.
In 1946, the Board of Trustees of the Kilgore Independent School District issued invitations to neighboring common and independent school districts, inviting them to join a union district for junior college purposes. Seven districts—Sabine, White Oak, Leverett’s Chapel, London, Overton, Gaston, and Gladewater—have since joined the Kilgore College District. The college district is now directed by a board of trustees of nine members elected by the individual districts.
Kilgore College has made many changes since 1935, but it has not changed its goal to meet the needs of the people of East Texas. In the beginning, the curriculum was designed to serve university-bound students; but today, the college offers training in cosmetology, nursing, law enforcement, manufacturing technology, and numerous other vocational fields. It is also the home of an excellent athletic program, an agriculture demonstration farm, the Rangerettes, the East Texas Oil Museum, and the Texas Shakespeare Festival.
Kilgore College received recognition by the Southern Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges in 1936 and by 1940 had the largest enrollment of any public junior college in the South. In 1948, it was the second junior college in the nation in the number of transfers to senior colleges.
The college has maintained a center in Longview since 1976 and serves more than 5,000 students yearly. During the past 30 years KC-Longview has grown into a comprehensive college center with university transfer courses, adult education, GED preparation, a small business development center, a variety of workforce and applied technology programs, and QUEST, which is an accelerated evening degree program for adults. KC-Longview is the region's leading provider of emergency medical technicians, licensed vocational nurses and certified nurse's assistants.
Fulfilling the dreams of its students:
Kilgore College has come a long way toward fulfilling the dreams of the men and women who founded it in 1935. Each year more than 11,000 students are served in academic, continuing education, workforce development and adult education programs. Many more are served through a broad array of cultural and athletic events. More than 150,000 East Texas former students have benefited from a Kilgore College education. The college is led by Dr. William "Bill" Holda, who has served as president since 1996.
Kilgore College is still a growing, vibrant, progressive institution with a faculty, an administration and students who dream of great, exciting accomplishments in the future.
History researched and written by Bonnie Durning and Doris Bolt, retired KC history instructors.