After Walters State Community College was authorized by the 1967 General Assembly, Hamblen County was chosen by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission as a location. The Tennessee State Board of Education then chose a campus site located on the southeastern edge of the city of Morristown, two miles from the Hamblen County Courthouse. This main campus includes 134 acres of beautiful rolling land that faces east with access roads from the Appalachian Highway. This highway is the connecting link between Interstate 75 in Kentucky and Interstates 81 and 40 into North Carolina and Virginia. The college also occupies modern education facilities in Greeneville, Sevierville, and Tazewell, Tennessee.
In 1957, the Pierce-Albright Report on Higher Education in Tennessee was made to the Tennessee Legislative Council. This report reflected the need for additional higher education opportunities to be provided for the average Tennessean. Upper East Tennessee was one of many places where higher education was not readily available to the citizens.
In 1963, the Tennessee General Assembly appropriated $200,000 for use over a two-year period to implement the Pierce-Albright Report. The State Board of Education, under the direction of Commissioner J. Howard Warf, developed plans for the establishment of a group of community colleges to serve these areas without access to higher education. The goal was to have one of these colleges within a 30-40 mile commuting distance of every Tennessean. Admission to these colleges was not to be restrictive to recent high school graduates, but was to be an “open door” opportunity with colleges serving a whole community from ages 18 to 80. Acting upon the recommendations of Governor Frank G. Clement and the State Department of Education, the 1965 Tennessee General Assembly authorized the establishment of the first three of these colleges, one to be located in each of the state’s three Grand Divisions. Columbia, in 1966, became the first operational community college in Tennessee, Cleveland and Jackson opened in 1967. Dyersburg and Tullahoma provided sites for the next two which opened in 1969. Walters State Community College, located in Morristown, was the sixth such college. Its opening date was September, 1970.
In 1969, the General Assembly authorized three more community colleges: Roane State in Harriman, Volunteer State in Gallatin, and Shelby State in Memphis. The nine community colleges and the regional universities were under jurisdiction of the State Board of Education. Chapter 838 of the Public Acts of 1972 authorized establishment of the State University and Community College System of Tennessee, today known as the Tennessee Board of Regents system. The elements of the system include the state universities and state community colleges which had been under the State Board of Education, the Board of Regents, and the Chancellor. The new system of governance became effective on July 1, 1972. Chattanooga State Technical Community College, the 10th community college, was added to the community college system in 1973. Since that time, the state’s technical institutes have been upgraded to community college status and the addition of 27 colleges of applied technology has made the Tennessee Board of Regents System the sixth largest system of higher education in the nation. The Tennessee Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees of the University of Tennessee System are coordinated by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
This sixth community college, Walters State Community College, was named for former U.S. Senator Herbert S. Walters who played a key role in the establishment of a community college in Morristown. In 1970 the campus of Walters State was under construction and temporary quarters were used during the first year of operation. The College Center Building was completed in the fall of 1971. It was renamed the Dr. Jack E. Campbell College Center in 2005. The next major addition to the campus was the Career Technology Building which was completed in the winter quarter of 1975. The Career Technology Building was expanded and renovated in 1987 and the new facility was renamed the Technical Education Building. In 2001, this building was renamed the Clifford H. “Bo” Henry Center for Business and Technology. The Life Sciences Building, completed in December 1979, was essential to provide needed classrooms and faculty offices for a rapidly growing student body. This building, which was renamed the Math and Behavioral/Social Sciences Building, was completely renovated during the 2001-02 academic year. It re-opened to students and faculty in the fall of 2002 and was renamed the Doggett Mathematics and Behavioral/Social Sciences Building in 2004. In the summer of 1979 the construction of the Humanities Complex began. The project was completed in the fall of 1980. The Humanities Complex was renamed the Judge William H. Inman Humanities Complex in 2001. In December of 1979, the college added the Plant Operations Building to the physical facilities inventory to handle the functions of maintenance and repair. In 1994 the college began construction of the Campus Development Phase II master plan which includes a new Library, Math and Science Buildings, Public Safety Center, and Administration Building. The new Library opened in May 1997 and was named the R. Jack Fishman Library in 2004. The Natural Science Building was occupied in July 1998 and renamed the McGuffin-Jolley Natural Science Building in 2005. The college’s Great Smoky Mountains Expo Center opened in March 1996 and additional support facilities were added during 1998-99 and 2007.
Walters State has established four additional campus sites; the Sevier County Campus, the Niswonger Campus, the Claiborne County Campus, and the Newport Center. In 1999, the first building on the new Sevier County Campus was named Maples-Marshall Hall. Two more buildings on the Sevier County Campus, Cates-Cutshaw Hall and the Conner-Short Center, opened in 2008. In 2020, Kile-Ogle Hall became the fourth building to open. In 1995, the Greeneville/Greene County Campus moved into the former Laughlin Hospital building in the heart of downtown Greeneville. A new building was opened in 2017 and the Greeneville/Greene County Campus was renamed the Walters State Niswonger Campus in 2018. The college opened the Claiborne County Campus in 1995. The Walters State Newport Center opending in 2021.
Walters State received accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1972 and, after completion of an effective institutional Self Study Program, received reaffirmation of accreditation in December 1976. Extensive institutional Self Studies were completed during 1985-87, 1995-97, and 2005-07. Subsequent to the successful Self Studies, Walters State received reaffirmation of accreditation in December 1987, December 1997, June 2008, and June 2018.
Walters State will be the leader in transforming our community through education.
Through a focus on student success and innovative teaching, Walters State enriches the lives of our students and our community.
- Provides affordable, convenient access through multiple campuses, innovative technology, and distance education
- Collaborates with other educational institutions to promote access, completion, and transfer
- Partners with community businesses and organizations to meet specific educational and workforce needs
- Offers programs of study leading to associate degrees or certificates
- Provides pathways to institutional support services that improve student engagement and success
- Fosters an inclusive campus community through cultural awareness, diversity and open dialogue
- Delivers public service and non-credit programs in support of workforce training and personal development
- Invests in highly qualified faculty and staff
- Creates a culture of continuous improvement and accountability
- Seeks external sources of support and funding to further educational opportunities
- Provides resources to support community engagement and initiatives.
The Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) is Tennessee’s largest higher education system, governing 40 post-secondary educational with over 200 teaching locations. The TBR system includes 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology, providing programs to students across the state, country and world.