Biographical / Historical
Randolph Bunyan Binnion, second president of East Texas, was born in the Rocky Ford Community near Biardstown, Lamar County, Texas, on August 4, 1878. The eldest of four brothers and a sister, Binnion attended the rural public school near Rocky Ford and later enrolled at Sam Houston Normal Institute, the first teacher training college established in Texas. He received a permanent teacher’s certificate in 1899 after two years of study.
He taught in a rural school in Lamar County from 1897-1898 and went on to serve as principal of the Fourth Ward School of Paris during 1902-1904 before becoming superintendent of the Roxton Public Schools. He was next appointed Lamar County school superintendent in 1907 and remained in this position until 1911. During his years in Paris, Binnion organized the Corn Clubs, the forerunners to the 4-H Clubs, for the young people of Lamar County.
In 1907, he married Ms. Emma Shanklin, a public school teacher in Paris. Although the couple remained childless, they reared their niece, Louise Lehning, calling her their daughter.
In August 1911, he resigned his position as superintendent to become chairman of the State Board of Examiners, the agency responsible for the certification of teachers in Texas. While serving as chairman, Binnion completed one year of additional studies at the University of Texas in 1912. He served as chairman until September 1913 when he was appointed first assistant state superintendent of public instruction in the Texas Department of Education. While with the DOE, he worked on the passage of statewide compulsory school attendance laws, programs to provide aid to rural schools, and the reorganization of the DOE.
In June 1917, he was elected president of East Texas State Normal College. As president, he oversaw several renovations to the campus of ETSNC, including the addition of the Education Building (now called the Ferguson Social Sciences Building) and the Heating Plant. He also expanded the library collection. His greatest achievement was overseeing the college during the delicate transition from private college under the leadership of President W.L. Mayo to a state funded institution. In 1920, he began work at George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. He received his degree in 1923. In all, he spent about one quarter of his time at East Texas on leave to study and research at Peabody. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, in 1923.
In 1924, after seven years as president of East Texas, he resigned to accept the position of provost of Peabody College. He was later elected treasurer of the College and promoted to director of extensions in 1929. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church, Rotary Club, Masonic Order, Shriners, Kappa Delta Phi, and the National Geographic Society. He attended New York University later in life, receiving an A.M. degree in 1934. He died in Nashville on March 20, 1934, at the age of 55.