Located in McKenzie, Carroll County, Bethel College is one of two institutions of higher learning for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In 1842 the college began in nearby McLemoresville as the Bethel Seminary, established by the West Tennessee Synod, Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Reverend Reuben Burrow was the principal. Incorporated in 1847, the institution became Bethel College in 1850. As McKenzie grew as a railroad junction town in the years after the Civil War, college leaders in 1872 decided to move the school to this rapidly developing town.
In 1919 the college was presented to the General Assembly, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which decided to upgrade the academic program, facilities, and staff of the college. Four years later, in 1923, Bethel College was reorganized and a new and larger endowment was established, with one hundred thousand dollars alone coming from the Iowa estate of John T. Laughlin. From 1924 to 1928, four new brick buildings to house a modern four-year college and seminary were constructed. At the center of the new McKenzie campus was the college's main administration building, Campbell Hall, designed by architect A. F. Lindsey.
Bethel College weathered the depression decade to grow and expand into a larger campus, still centered on Campbell Hall, in the second half of the twentieth century. A religious, educational, and cultural center for McKenzie and Carroll County, Bethel College celebrated its sesquicentennial year in 1992. By the end of the century, the college had become the state's first “IBM ThinkPad” institution, with instruction and services geared to the laptop computers full-time students received upon enrollment.