Kilgore College, in Kilgore, was established in 1935 through the efforts of citizens of Kilgore Independent School District. From 1935 to 1946 the college operated under the direction of the school district's board of trustees; W. L. Dodson was superintendent. In January 1946 invitations were issued to neighboring school districts to join a union district for junior college purposes. Seven districts accepted: Sabine (1946), White Oak (1946), Leverett's Chapel (1946), London (1947), Overton (1947), Gaston (1948), and Gladewater County Line (1951). A board of nine trustees from the union district directed the affairs of the college after 1946, and B. E. Masters served as president.
Kilgore College offered senior college and university preparatory courses, terminal technical and vocational programs, and an adult education program in the evening division. Associate degrees in arts, science, and business administration were offered. The curriculum was grouped into business administration, engineering-science, fine arts, liberal arts, and technical-vocational divisions. The Texas Education Agency, the Association of Texas Colleges and Universities, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools approved or accredited Kilgore College as a two-year college. Twelve permanent buildings were in use by 1966. The library contained 40,000 volumes in 1969. Business, technical-vocational, fine arts, and library buildings were built. The college engaged in intercollegiate competition in football, basketball, golf, tennis, and track as a member of the Texas Junior College Football Federation and the Texas Eastern Conference. The Kilgore Rangerettes, a nationally known precision drill corps of sixty-five coeds, was organized in 1940.
By the 1974 fall term 3,169 students were enrolled. The faculty numbered approximately 120. The college continued to expand thereafter. In the fall 2000 it enrolled 4,000 students, of whom 2,214 were full-time, taught by 145 full-time faculty members. Most of the student body comes from East Texas; in the fall of 2000 just over half came from Gregg County. The campus has hosted the Texas Shakespeare Festival since 1986 and is also the site of the East Texas Oil Museum, dedicated on October 3, 1980, the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the East Texas oilfield.