Columbia, Tennessee

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Columbia, Tennessee
Columbia, Tennessee Town Square
Columbia, Tennessee Town Square
Official seal of Columbia, Tennessee
Nickname(s): Mule Town
Motto: Old South Charm, New South Progress
Location of Columbia, Tennessee
Location of Columbia, Tennessee
Coordinates: 35°36′54″N 87°2′40″W / 35.61500°N 87.04444°W / 35.61500; -87.04444
Country United States
State Tennessee
County Maury
 • Total 29.6 sq mi (76.7 km2)
 • Land 29.6 sq mi (76.7 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 643 ft (196 m)
Population (2013)Estimate
 • Total 35,558
 • Density 1,116.8/sq mi (431.2/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 38401-38402
Area code(s) 931
FIPS code 47-16540[1]
GNIS feature ID 1269483[2]

Columbia is a city in and the county seat[3] of Maury County, Tennessee, United States.

The population was 34,681 at the 2010 census[4] and in 2013 the population was 35,558.

The town is notable for being the self-proclaimed "Mule capital of the world" and honors this with Mule Day, a large celebration held annually in April. Columbia and Maury County are acknowledged as the "Antebellum Homes Capital of Tennessee", with more pre-civil war homes than any other county in the state. Columbia is also the home of the national headquarters for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.


Columbia is located at 35°36′54″N 87°2′40″W / 35.61500°N 87.04444°W / 35.61500; -87.04444 (35.615022, −87.044464).[5] It is nestled along the banks of the Duck River at the southern edge of the Nashville Basin with the higher elevated ridges of the Highland Rim located to the south and west of the city. The Duck River is the longest river located entirely within the state of Tennessee. Free flowing for most of its length, the Duck River is home to over 50 species of freshwater mussels and 151 species of fish, making it the most biologically diverse river in North America. It enters the city of Manchester and meets its confluence with a major tributary, The Little Duck River, at Old Stone Fort State Park, named after an ancient Native American structure between the two rivers believed to be nearly 2,000 years old. The Duck River is sacred to most of the founding Native American tribes east of the Mississippi River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.6 square miles (77 km2), of which 29.6 square miles (77 km2) is land and 0.03% is water. Incorporated in 1817, the city is at an elevation of 637 feet (194 m).


The James K. Polk Ancestral Home in Columbia is the only one of President Polk's homes that is still standing

A year after the organization of Maury County in 1807 by European Americans, Columbia was laid out in 1808 and lots were sold. The original town, on the south bank of the Duck River, consisted of only four blocks. The town was incorporated in 1817. For decades during the antebellum years, it was the county seat of the richest county in the state, based on agricultural wealth in plantations and high-quality livestock. Today, the county is a heritage tourist destination, because of its numerous historic sites in the area. Attractions include the James K. Polk Ancestral Home, the Columbia Athenaeum, Mule Day, and nearby plantation homes.

Famous natives of Columbia include Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves, James K. Polk, Governor, Congressman, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and eleventh President of the United States; A.O.P. Nicholson, state senator, U.S. Senator, and Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court; Sterling Marlin, NASCAR driver; Dr. Marion Dorsett, inventor of the serum to control hog cholera; Fran McKee, first female line officer to hold the rank of rear admiral in the U.S. Navy; Lyman T Johnson, civil rights movement; and Raphael Benjamin West former Nashville mayor and Civil Rights ally, noted architect James Edwin Ruthven Carpenter, Jr.; and John Harlan Willis, United States Navy sailor and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

Columbia is the location of Tennessee's first two-year college, Columbia State Community College, established in 1966. President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird Johnson arrived to dedicate the new campus on March 15, 1967.

Columbia Race Riot of 1946[edit]

On February 25, 1946, a civil disturbance dubbed "Columbia Race Riot" broke out in the county seat. It was covered by the national press as the first major racial confrontation following World War II. A fight instigated by a white repair apprentice became volatile when James Stephenson fought back and wounded him; Stephenson was a black Navy veteran who had been on the boxing team and refused to accept being hit. Stephenson had accompanied his mother to the repair store. A white mob gathered and Fleming's father convinced the sheriff to charge both Stephensons with attempted murder. Rumors were rife that they would be lynched, as had recently been done to 19-year-old Cordie Cheek. The white mob shot randomly into the black business district, which they called "Mink Slide." Armed black men patrolled their area for defense and exchanged shots, which increased white rage. The sheriff called in state troopers and highway patrol that night, who added to the destruction of the black district and rounded up more than 100 suspects through the next day. No whites were charged. Twenty-five black men were eventually charged with rioting and attempted murder. The main attorney to defend Stephenson and other men in the case was Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP, who achieved acquittal for all but one man from the all-white jury, and had charges against the last reduced. Marshall was later appointed as the first black United States Supreme Court justice, after gaining the overturn of segregation in public schools by the US Supreme Court in his case, Brown v. Board of Education.[6]

Films shot in or near Columbia[edit]

  • In 1986, a brief scene from the film At Close Range was filmed east of Columbia at a water filled rock quarry.
  • In 1999, parts of the film The Green Mile were filmed in Williamsport, near Columbia.
  • In 2002, Stuey was filmed in Columbia and Nashville.
  • The film Daltry Calhoun, starring Johnny Knoxville, was filmed in Columbia and Spring Hill in 2004.
  • In 2009, Hannah Montana: The Movie was filmed in downtown Columbia, at Maury County Airport, and a local dairy farm. Other local area film locations included Franklin High School in nearby Franklin and Nashville.[7]
  • In 2009, scenes for Bailey [1] (2010), a Mario Van Peebles film, were shot in downtown Columbia on the square and in other locations.[8]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 2,977
1860 4,069 36.7%
1870 2,550 −37.3%
1880 3,400 33.3%
1890 5,370 57.9%
1900 6,052 12.7%
1910 5,754 −4.9%
1920 5,526 −4.0%
1930 7,882 42.6%
1940 10,579 34.2%
1950 10,911 3.1%
1960 17,624 61.5%
1970 21,471 21.8%
1980 26,571 23.8%
1990 28,583 7.6%
2000 33,055 15.6%
2010 34,681 4.9%
Est. 2012 34,901 0.6%

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 33,055 people, 13,059 households, and 8,801 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,116.8 people per square mile (431.2/km²). There were 14,322 housing units at an average density of 483.9 per square mile (186.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 64.63% White, 30.13% African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.41% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.06% from other races, and 1.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.70% of the population.

There were 13,059 households out of which 32.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.8% were married couples living together, 16.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.6% were non-families. 27.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,879, and the median income for a family was $42,822. Males had a median income of $34,898 versus $22,093 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,004. About 10.9% of families and 13.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.7% of those under age 18 and 13.2% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people[edit]


City council elections[edit]

Year Elected Votes  % Seat
2011 Carl McCullen[12] 269 67% Ward 1
2011 Debbie Matthews[12] UO Ward 2
2011 Christa Martin[12] 242[12] 88% Ward 3
2011 Mike Greene UO[12] Ward 4
2011 Mark King 304[12] 57% Ward 5



The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Columbia has a humid subtropical climate. [13]


  1. ^ a b c "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Certified Population of Tennessee Incorporated Municipalities and Counties, State of Tennessee official website, 14 July 2011. Retrieved: 6 December 2013.
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  6. ^ Carroll Van West. "Columbia race riot, 1946". Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  7. ^ Chris Graham (May 22, 2008). "Sweet niblets!". Columbia Daily Herald. Retrieved 2008-05-23. [dead link]
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Resident Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Sterling, Marlin. "Driver". Daytona 500 website. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Richard Conn (November 2, 2011). "Newcomer nets council seat". Columbia, Tennessee: Mark Palmer. p. 2C. Retrieved November 2, 2011. Only 1,437, or 8 percent of 19,043 registered voters turned out at the polls. 
  13. ^ Climate Summary for Columbia, Tennessee

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert W. Ikard, No More Social Lynchings (1997)
  • Gilbert King, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, HarperCollins, 2012
  • Gail W. O'Brien, The Color of the Law (1999).

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°36′54″N 87°02′40″W / 35.615022°N 87.044464°W / 35.615022; -87.044464