The Johnson Bible College was founded as the “School of the Evangelists” in 1893 by Ashley S. Johnson at Kimberlin Heights (approximately twelve miles southeast of Knoxville). Johnson, a Knox County native and successful evangelist, author, and educator, transformed his “Correspondence Bible College” (established in 1886) into an institution to provide education for poor young men who desired to preach the gospel. The name of the school was changed to Johnson Bible College in 1909 in honor of its founder. It remains a single-purpose educational institution offering a Bible major and specialty programs for students seeking church-related vocations. This nondenominational college draws most of its students and support from Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
Ashley S. Johnson (president, 1893-1925) and his wife, Emma E. Johnson (president, 1925-27), provided a Bible-centered curriculum to train ministers as well as an academy for those who had not completed high school; a work program aided students who could not pay for their education. The difficult years of the Great Depression severely strained the college's resources and the efforts of Alva Ross Brown (president, 1927-41), but the college experienced modest growth. Robert M. Bell (president, 1941-68), long-time preacher and professor of economics at the University of Tennessee, restored the college to a solid financial base. Throughout its existence, only a small number of women have enrolled at the college, but it officially became coeducational in 1948. The college has undergone increased growth throughout the administration of David L. Eubanks (1969-present), a fact illustrated by the graduation of a record one hundred students in its centennial year. The second oldest continuing Bible college in the United States, it was one of the first two Bible colleges to be accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.