Until it was established as a degree-granting institution in the 1950s, the Univ. of Tennessee at Martin operated as a state school under a campus Executive Officer. The first individual to hold this position was C. Porter Claxton.
Calvin Porter Claxton was born in Greensboro, North Carolina on April 23, 1898 to noted Tennessee educator Philander Priestly Claxton and his wife Anne Elizabeth Porter. He received a collegiate education at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science and Arts degree in Education in 1919. The same year he became principal of the Bell Buckle High School in Bedford County, Tennessee. He remained in the position until 1926, when he returned to the University of Tennessee to pursue a graduate degree. In 1927, Claxton was granted a Master of Science degree in Education. A few months later, in the early summer of 1927, he was approached by UT President Harcourt Morgan about establishing and overseeing a new unit of the University, a junior college in Martin, Tennessee. He accepted, and in July Claxton was appointed the executive officer of the University of Tennessee Junior College, charged with putting the new institution on its feet.
Porter Claxton was responsible for virtually every central activity of the new campus, from hiring faculty to recruiting students, from planning capital construction to buying a lawnmower. Widely respected as a generous administrator and excellent teacher, he served as the effectual head of the college until 1934. Enrollment at UTJC plunged to a mere 96 students for the 1933-34 school year. Though the parent institution was experiencing the same drastic economic downturns during the Great Depression, University of Tennessee administrators looked for a scapegoat on which to blame the enrollment decline at the Junior College. Claxton was recalled to a minor position at the Knoxville campus--an administrative firing.
Porter Claxton worked in Knoxville as an assistant professor in rural education for two years before leaving to serve as Director of Rural Education at West Georgia College from 1937 to 1943. Between 1943 and 1954 he served as an education specialist for the Institute of Inter-American Affairs in Washington, D.C. After 1954, Claxton served as a Chief Education Administrator for the United States Operations Mission to Panama, and as the Director of "Servicio Cooperative Interamericano de Educación" for the Panamanian government. C. Porter Claxton died on August 20, 1963 and was buried at Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville.