Two colleges, both known as Clarendon College, have operated at sites in Clarendon. The first, established in 1898 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and administered as a junior college until 1926, was followed in 1927 by the present Clarendon College, a nonsectarian, state-supported, two-year college.
A Methodist minister, Rev. W. A. Allen, conceived the idea for Clarendon College in 1879, when he established Allenton Academy at old Clarendon. When the town moved to its present site on the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway in 1887, local citizens offered the Northwest Texas Methodist Conference four acres of land and promised to build a two-story building to relocate the college. Church leaders made it clear that they would build only if saloons were eliminated from the town. Rev. J. R. Henson, a local Methodist minister, led a campaign, which succeeded by 1902, to clear out the saloons in Clarendon's Feather Hill section and vote Donley County dry. In 1898, when the town's population was 2,756, construction began on the three-story building that housed president, administration, teachers, and students on Clarendon's ten-acre campus. The institution, known as Clarendon College and University Training School, was accepted by the conference and opened in the fall of that year with four teachers and twenty-one students. Classes were offered in all grades, and primary and intermediate departments existed until 1923. J. W. Adkisson, the first president, was followed by W. B. McKeown, J. Sam Barcus, G. S. Hardy, J. Richie Mood, G. S. Slover, R. E. L. Morgan, S. H. Condron, and, in 1984, Kenneth D. Vaughan.
Despite financial difficulty, by 1900 the school had a faculty of eight, property valued at $8,000, and 109 students. The first interscholastic football game in the Panhandle was played on December 5, 1903, when the Clarendon College Cowboys defeated neighboring Goodnight Academy 16 to 10. After a drop in enrollment in 1914, in 1916 Clarendon College had the largest enrollment of any junior college in the South. By 1919 the physical plant, with two additional frame dormitories and a new administration building, was valued at $175,000, and enrollment reached 350. The school added its third year of work in 1924 and its fourth in 1925 and was recognized as a four-year accredited institution. Baccalaureate degrees, awarded only in 1927, went to nineteen students.
After considering proposals to relocate the college at Amarillo, the Methodist Church ceased supervision of the institution on August 15, 1927. School assets, valued at $654,749, were liquidated, and, on vote of the citizens, facilities were purchased by the Clarendon school board for the purpose of establishing a municipal junior college. In 1928 a vote to require a 20 percent ad valorem tax for support of the school was passed, and later the seven-member Clarendon College District voted a similar tax for the school's maintenance. In the 1960s the college moved to a new location, the former site of the home of pioneer rancher Thomas Sherman Bugbee, on a hill west of town. A new building complex was erected, and during the 1966–67 year, with a faculty of seventeen, enrollment reached 228. The college's Pampa Center, housed in Pampa's former Houston Elementary School, opened in December 1978 for night classes. In 1979 and 1980 vocational nursing programs were initiated with general hospitals in Shamrock and Childress. In 1980 the main campus maintained administration and classroom facilities, a physical education center, a fine arts building, a vocational-technological center, three dormitories, a cafeteria, and a library of over 19,000 volumes. During that year enrollment exceeded 400. Clarendon College is accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges and offers liberal arts and agriculture studies, as well as business and other vocational training. For the 1999 fall term, enrollment was 837 and the faculty numbered seventy-nine. Myles Shelton was president of the college in 2001.