Rhea County, Tennessee
|Rhea County, Tennessee|
The Rhea County Courthouse, site of the Scopes Trial
Location in the state of Tennessee
Tennessee's location in the U.S.
|Named for||John Rhea|
336 sq mi (871 km²)
316 sq mi (818 km²)
20 sq mi (53 km²), 6.08%
90/sq mi (35/km²)
|Time zone||Eastern: UTC-5/-4|
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 336 square miles (870 km2), of which 316 square miles (820 km2) is land and 20 square miles (52 km2) (6.08%) is water.
Adjacent counties 
- Cumberland County (north)
- Roane County (northeast)
- Meigs County (east)
- Hamilton County (south)
- Bledsoe County (west)
As of the census of 2000, there were 28,400 people, 11,184 households, and 8,108 families residing in the county. The population density was 90 people per square mile (35/km²). There were 12,565 housing units at an average density of 40 per square mile (15/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 95.41% White, 2.04% Black or African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.75% from other races, and 1.08% from two or more races. 1.67% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 11,184 households out of which 31.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.40% were married couples living together, 11.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.50% were non-families. 23.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.90% 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 2.90.
In the county, the population was spread out with 23.70% under the age of 18, 10.00% from 18 to 24, 27.50% from 25 to 44, 25.00% from 45 to 64, and 13.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 94.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.70 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $30,418, and the median income for a family was $35,580. Males had a median income of $30,066 versus $21,063 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,672. About 11.40% of families and 14.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.00% of those under age 18 and 15.20% of those age 65 or over.
Populated places 
Cities and towns 
Unincorporated communities 
- Old Washington
Former communities 
|2008||72.0% 8,033||26.0% 2,905|
|2004||66.0% 7,301||33.1% 3,665|
|2000||60.4% 5,900||38.1% 3,722|
|1996||48.7% 4,476||43.2% 3,969|
|1992||47.0% 4,860||41.4% 4,860|
|1988||66.2% 5,144||33.4% 2,595|
|1984||66.3% 5,692||32.7% 2,804|
|1980||59.4% 4,689||38.9% 3,070|
|1976||47.6% 3,449||51.6% 3,735|
|1972||72.5% 3,842||24.8% 1,312|
|1968||40.7% 2,428||21.8% 1,301|
|1964||50.9% 2,730||49.1% 2,637|
|1960||59.8% 2,721||38.7% 1,761|
Rhea County uses the county commission form of local government. There are nine seats on the county commission, each representing a geographical area of the county. Members of the commission and the county mayor are elected to four year terms.
Rhea County is part of the 3rd Congressional District of Tennessee. Until 2003, Rhea County was part of the 4th Congressional District, and was represented by Rhea County native Van Hilleary. Hilleary ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002. Beginning in 2013, Rhea County will again be part of the 4th District.
At the state level, Rhea County is part of the 31st district of the Tennessee House of Representatives. The 31st is made up of Rhea County and the northern portion of Hamilton County. The county is part of the 12th district in the Tennessee Senate.
Rhea County is generally a Republican-leaning county in Presidential elections and in congressional elections. The county voted for John McCain in 2008. The last Democrat to win a majority in the county was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Bill Clinton kept his Republican opponents to less than fifty percent in both 1992 and in 1996. Ross Perot drew 11.2% and 7.6% of the vote in 1992 and 1996, respectively.
The county-administered public school system serves most Rhea County students.The system operates three elementary schools, two middle schools, two K-8 schools, one high school, and one alternative school. The K-8 school, Rhea Central Elementary, is currently the largest K-8 school in the state of Tennessee in terms of number of students.
The City of Dayton operates a K-8 school that serves the children who live within the city limits. All public school students in the county, however, attend Rhea County High School, in Evensville, upon leaving the eighth grade, as the city does not have a high school. The high school has an enrollment of approximately 1,500 students.
Bryan College, a four-year Christian liberal arts college, has its campus in Dayton. The college is named for William Jennings Bryan. Chattanooga State Technical Community College also has a small satellite campus in Dayton.
During the American Civil War, Rhea County was one of the few counties in East Tennessee that was heavily sympathetic to the cause of the Confederate States of America. It was the only East Tennessee county that refused to send a delegate to the East Tennessee Convention of 1861. Rhea raised seven companies for the Confederate Army, compared to just one company for the Union.
Rhea had the only female cavalry company on either side during the Civil War. It was made up of young women in their teens and twenties from Rhea County and was formed in 1862. The girls named their unit the Rhea County Spartans. Until 1863, the Spartans simply visited loved ones in the military and delivered the equivalent of modern day care packages. After Union troops entered Rhea in 1863, the Spartans may have engaged in some spying for Confederate forces. The members of the Spartans were arrested in April 1865 under orders of a Rhea County Unionist and were forced to march to the Tennessee River. From there they were transported to Chattanooga aboard the USS Chattanooga. Once in Chattanooga, Union officers realized the women were not a threat and ordered them released and returned to Rhea County. They first were required to take the oath of allegiance to the United States government. The Spartans were not an officially recognized unit of the Confederate Army.
The Scopes Trial, which resulted from the teaching of evolution being banned in Tennessee public schools under the Butler Act, took place in Rhea County in 1925. The trial was one of the first to be referred to as the "Trial of the century". William Jennings Bryan played a role as prosecutor in trial, and he died in Dayton shortly after the trial ended. A statue of Bryan was recently erected on the grounds of the Rhea County Courthouse. In 1954, the laws were changed to allow teaching of evolution alongside Bible studies in school. On June 8, 2004, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling banning further Bible instructions as a violation of the First Amendment principle of "Separation of church and state".
On March 16, 2004, Rhea County commissioner J.C. Fugate prompted a vote on a ban on homosexuals in Tennessee, allowing the county to charge them with "crimes against nature." The measure passed 8-0. Several of the commissioners who voted for the resolution chose not to run for reelection or were voted out of office. The resolution was withdrawn on March 18. In protest, a "Gay Day in Rhea" was held on May 8, 2004 with about 400 participants.
See also 
- Bettye Broyles, "Rhea County," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved: 20 March 2013.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- Based on 2000 census data
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Rice, Charles. Begun as a Lark, the All-Girl Rhea County Spartans Soon Attracted the Attention of Unamused Union Officers. America's Civil War, July 1996: pages 8, 77-79.
- "Rhea County Commission Rescinds Gay Ban," The Chattanoogan, 19 March 2004. Retrieved: 20 March 2013.
- Lisa Neff, "Together in Tennessee," The Advocate, 22 June 2004, p. 80.
- Official site
- Rhea County Department of Education
- Rhea County Chamber of Commerce
- Rhea County, TNGenWeb - free genealogy resources for the county
- Rhea County at the Open Directory Project
||Cumberland County||Roane County|
|Bledsoe County||Meigs County|