Wilkes Community College, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Brushy Mountains, was founded in October 1964 by the North Carolina Board of Education. The first board of trustees was sworn into office on January 15, 1965, and classes began in August 1965 with an enrollment of 68 students. The campus originally covered 75 acres and included three buildings, Thompson, Hayes, and Lovette halls. The first president was Dr. Howard Thompson, who served from March 5, 1965, to June 30, 1977.

Today, Wilkes Community College's service area, comprising Wilkes, Ashe, and Alleghany counties, covers 1,423 square miles with a population of approximately 108,000 residents. It has multiple locations and an 1,100-seat cultural arts facility.

The Wilkes Campus now comprises 17 buildings and 151.7 acres. WCC also has an Ashe Campus; an Alleghany Center; a North Wilkesboro Center for the College Readiness Division; and Herring Hall, an integrated health science center.

Wilkes Community College is known for its serene mountain surroundings; lush gardens; recreational and cultural amenities; and a world-renowned roots music festival, MerleFest, which serves as the WCC Foundation’s largest fundraiser each year.