The first community efforts to establish a local 4-H camp came in 1935 when approximately 55 children camped at the Research and Education Center at Greeneville (formerly UT Tobacco Experiment Station), located over the hill from today’s center. The campers slept in barns and swam in the creek. Some of them paid their way by bringing vegetables and chickens.
Beginning in 1947, Clyde Austin spearheaded a drive to establish a permanent 4-H camp. As part of the drive, he donated 23 1/2 acres as the site. With some buildings purchased and moved from what was then Camp Forest, a location used to house returning World War II soldiers, the camp officially opened in the summer of 1949. Campers that first year where presented with a recreation/dining hall that could seat 300; two dormitories built in the shape of an “H”, and a swimming pool.
Facilities began to show wear after 30 years and thousands of kids. Many buildings were outdated and in need of extensive repairs or remodeling. Accordingly, the camp was closed for renovation in 1979. Scheduled to be closed for a year, the final renovation process took three years. Under the supervision of Jess Francis, a new kitchen, dining hall, three dormitories, and a 200,000 gallon swimming pool were built. Andy Seals, who had served on the camp staff from 1972-74 moved to Greeneville with his wife Cheryl and daughter Amanda, and became the Center manager in 1981.
Through the 1990s and 2000s the camp continued to grow and improve. A demonstration kitchen was completed in 1986. A three acre lake has been added to provide campers with canoeing and fishing. In 1997, a pavilion area was dedicated in honor of Frank and Pearl Litz. Woodman of the World donated a new flag pole in 1998 after the original flag pole was destroyed in a storm. In 1999, a new camp office complex was completed, providing administrative offices and additional classroom space. In 2002, central heat and air conditioning was installed in the dormitories and recreation hall. A roof was added over the patio of the recreation hall as well. A paving project was undertaken to provide better access and more parking for the center. An environmental study area and wetland have been developed from the 4.6 acres of land donated by Tom Austin, son of Clyde Austin.
In the fall of 2001, Camp Explore began. It is an Environmental Camp aimed at enhancing student awareness, knowledge, and appreciation for the environment. Currently, Camp Explore serves 135 different schools from around the state of Tennessee and then nation.
2011 brought another new addition to the Clyde Austin 4-H Center, the 4-H Lodge. The 4-H Lodge was opened thanks to a large, generous donation. The Lodge was designed to accommodate smaller groups such as business meetings, weddings, family reunions, and more.
In 2014, the Center underwent a major remodeling project. All of the buildings were repainted, fixtures and doors were replaced, and a brand new pool was constructed. In 2015, a second round of renovations began expanding the roof of the 4-H Lodge and adding a 130 foot long waterslide to the pool.