Paris Junior College was established by the Paris Independent School District on June 16, 1924, in response to the community's need for an institution of higher learning after the demise of Aikin Institute and Mary Connor College. The board of education elected B. E. Masters, principal of Paris High School, as dean, and the college opened its downtown campus in the high school building in September with seven faculty members and 91 students. Later 39 extension students were added to the roll, for a total of 130 students for the first year. At the end of that year the college moved into an old two-story post office that the federal government had donated to the Paris Independent School District. In 1931 the college became an independent unit of the school system, and J. R. McLemore became the first president. In 1934 Paris Junior College became a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and in 1937 the board voted to establish the Paris Junior College District, independent of yet coterminous with the Paris Independent School District. State support for Paris Junior College is determined by a student contract-hour formula set by the Texas legislature. Additional operational support is derived from local taxes, tuition, fees, and private donations. The funds for all plant operations and maintenance are provided by the local district from nonstate revenue sources. The campus was moved to its present site of fifty-four acres in 1940, and in 1949 the first board of regents was elected and began meeting. J. R. McLemore served as president until 1961. Charles Clark took over the duties until Frank Grimes became president in 1963. Louis B. Williams succeeded Grimes in 1967 and served until 1983, when he was named president emeritus. Dennis Michaelis served as president from 1983 to 1988 and was succeeded by Bobby R. Walters, who retired in 2003. Pamela D. Anglin became president of the school in that year.
In 1963–64 the J. R. McLemore Student Center, the J. H. Newton Library, and Hatcher and Thompson halls were constructed, along with a maintenance building. In 1972 the Center for Applied Sciences was constructed. Other major construction around that time included the W. Frank Grimes Natural Sciences and Mathematics Center, the four applied sciences annexes, the Henry P. Mayer Center for the Musical Arts, the Art Center, and the renovation of the gymnasium and the Louis B. Williams Administration Building. In 1980 the Jess B. Alford Center for Lifelong Learning was built to offer a comfortable site for the many community-service and continuing-education classes offered to the public. The B. E. Masters Apartments serve married students. In 1978 the Mike Rheudasil Learning Center was built. It houses all instructional support services and includes more than 45,000 volumes of the Newton Library. An important addition to the Learning Center is the Welma and A. M. Aikin, Jr. Regional Archives, which contains the papers of Senator A. M. Aiken, Jr., cosponsor of the Gilmer-Aikin Bill and member of the Texas legislature for forty-six years. The archives includes a gallery of Aikin memorabilia and a furnished replica of Aikin's office in the Capitol. The Aikin Archives is the first regional depository of the Texas State Library to be established at a junior college.
In 1942 the first jewelry course was added to the curriculum, and now the college's Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology is a major training center for jewelers, jewelry designers, manufacturers, and horologists. The associate-degree nursing program received full accreditation from the National League of Nursing in 1978. Vocational nursing is taught in Paris, Greenville, and Sulphur Springs. The learning skills program, housed in the Learning Center, is designed to provide individualized skill improvement programs to students, from semester-length and short-term courses to drop-in services. This program has been recognized by the National Center for Developmental Education as one of the 166 exemplary developmental education programs in the nation. The Adult Basic Education Program assists adults in learning to read, study for a high school General Equivalency Diploma, and improve skills in many subject areas. Paris Junior College also operates the Greenville Technical Center and the Sulphur Springs Technical Center as satellite campuses and offers developmental courses on the campus of Texas A&M University–Commerce. The college had 167 faculty and 2,894 students in the fall of 1999.