Emma Shanklin Binnion, teacher and a first lady of East Texas State Normal College (present-day Texas A&M University-Commerce), was born in Beech Grove, Tennessee, on August 12, 1880, to farmer William Thomas Shanklin and Laura Melissa Shanklin. According to the 1880 census, the couple had at least seven other children. At the age of fifteen, Emma Shanklin traveled from Tennessee to Paris, Texas, where she lived with J. L. Shanklin, her uncle, and his family into the early 1900s. She graduated from Paris High School in 1899 with a classical degree and honors as an essayist.
On May 17, 1900, Paris school board members elected new school staff, including Shanklin as a supernumerary. She began her career in teaching at the elementary school in Paris, but she later taught Latin at the high school. While teaching in Paris, Emma Shanklin met her future husband, Randolph B. “R. B.” Binnion, who was the superintendent of Lamar County schools. They married on June 12, 1907, and Emma Binnion quit teaching but later continued her education. The couple moved to Austin, Texas, in 1911 when R. B. received a new job at the State Department of Education. Once they moved to Austin, Emma enrolled at the University of Texas. In 1917 they moved to Commerce, Texas, when R. B. Binnion became the president of East Texas State Normal College. Although she no longer taught school, Emma Binnion was very involved in social groups. She became the teacher of the women’s Bible class at the Presbyterian Church. Binnion was also a very active member in the Twentieth Century Club, and she was named vice president in 1945. She had memberships with additional clubs, including the Women’s Culture Club and the College Dames Club, which she founded and served as the first president. Members of the Twentieth Century Club elected Binnion as one of the local clubwomen representatives to travel to Austin to honor Clara Driscoll at “Clara Driscoll Day” in 1939. On her personal time, Binnion maintained an interest in the history of Texas.
Although the Binnions never had children of their own, they raised their niece Louise, who was the daughter of Emma’s late sister. By 1920 Louise lived with the Binnions, along with R. B.’s mother Ella Binnion, his sister Cynthia Sanders, and his nephew Harry Sanders. Aside from raising their niece, the Binnions helped boys and girls who had successful careers later in life. In 1924 the Binnions moved once again, this time to Nashville, Tennessee, where R. B. began working at George Peabody College for Teachers. Emma Binnion continued her involvement with social groups by joining the Ladies’ Hermitage Association and teaching a Bible study group at the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville. She resided in Tennessee until her husband’s death in 1934, when she moved to Desloge, Missouri, to live with Louise Lehning Fuhrmeister, the niece she had raised. Emma Binnion eventually returned to Paris, Texas; city directories listed her as a resident as early as 1936, and she lived there into the early 1960s. Emma Shanklin Binnion died at the Home for Aged Masons in Arlington, Texas, on March 21, 1966. She was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.