Wichita Falls, Texas
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2012)|
|City of Wichita Falls|
The restored "Falls" of the Wichita River in Wichita Falls, Texas, off Interstate 44
|Nickname(s): Falls Town|
Location in the state of Texas
|• City Council||Mayor Glenn Barham
|• City Manager||Darron Leiker|
|• Asst. City Manager||Kevin Hugman|
|• Asst. City Manager & CFO||Jim Dockery|
|• City||70.1 sq mi (183.1 km2)|
|• Land||70.66 sq mi (183.0 km2)|
|• Water||0.04 sq mi (0.1 km2)|
|Elevation||948 ft (289 m)|
|• City||103,931 (US: 269th)|
|• Density||1,474.1/sq mi (569.1/km2)|
|• Metro||150,261 (US: 266th)|
|Time zone||CST (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|GNIS feature ID||1376776|
Wichita Falls is a city in and the county seat of Wichita County, Texas, United States. Wichita Falls is the principal city of the Wichita Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Archer, Clay and Wichita counties. According to the 2010 census, the city had a population of 104,553 making it the twenty-ninth most populous city in the state of Texas. In addition to Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls is also home to the Newby-McMahon Building, constructed downtown in 1919 and since known as the "world's littlest skyscraper".
- 1 History
- 2 Geography and climate
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Economy
- 5 Media
- 6 Sports and recreation
- 7 Government
- 8 Education
- 9 Transportation
- 10 Notable people
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The Choctaw Native Americans settled the area in the early 18th century. White settlers arrived in the 1860s to form cattle ranches. The city was officially titled Wichita Falls on September 27, 1872. On that day, a sale of town lots was held at what is now the corner of Seventh and Ohio streets – the birthplace of the city. The Fort Worth and Denver Railway arrived in 1882, the same year the city became the county seat of Wichita County. The city grew westwards from the train depot. This area is now referred to as the Depot Square Historic District, which has been declared a Texas Historic Landmark.
The early history of Wichita Falls well into the 20th century also rests on the work of two entrepreneurs, Joseph A. Kemp and his brother-in-law, Frank Kell. Kemp and Kell were pioneers in food processing and retailing, flour milling, railroads, cattle, banking, and oil.
A flood in 1886 destroyed the original falls on the Wichita River for which the city was named. After nearly 100 years of visitors wanting to visit the non-existent falls, the city built an artificial waterfall beside the river in Lucy Park. The recreated falls are 54 feet (16 m) high and recirculate at 3,500 gallons per minute. They are visible to south-bound traffic on Interstate 44.
The city is currently seeking funding to rebuild and restore the downtown area. Downtown Wichita Falls was the city's main shopping area for many years, but lost ground to the creation of new shopping centers throughout the city beginning with Parker Square in 1953 and other similar developments during the 1960s and 1970s, culminating with the opening of Sikes Senter Mall in 1974.
Wichita Falls was once home to offices of several oil companies and related industries, along with oil refineries operated by the Continental Oil Company (now Conoco Phillips) until 1952 and Panhandle Oil Company (later American Petrofina) until 1965. Both firms continued to utilize a portion of their former refineries as gasoline/oil terminal facilities for many years.
A devastating tornado hit the north and northwest portions of Wichita Falls along with Sheppard Air Force Base during the afternoon of April 3, 1964 leaving 7 dead, more than 100 injured and causing roughly $15 million in property damage with approximately 225 homes destroyed and another 250 damaged. The tornado was rated an F5, the highest rating on the Fujita Scale, but this event is overshadowed by the 1979 tornado.
An F4 tornado struck the heavily populated southern sections of Wichita Falls in the late afternoon on Tuesday, April 10, 1979 (known locally as "Terrible Tuesday"). The storm was part of an outbreak that produced 30 tornadoes around the region. Despite having nearly an hour's advance warning that severe weather was imminent, 42 people were killed (25 in vehicles) and 1,800 were injured because the storm arrived just in time for many people to be driving home from work. The tornado left 20,000 people homeless and caused $400 million in damage, a U.S. record not topped by an individual tornado until the F5 Moore-Oklahoma City tornado of May 3, 1999.
Geography and climate
Wichita Falls is located at  The city is about 15 miles (24 km) south of the border with Oklahoma, 115 miles (185 km) northwest of Fort Worth, and 140 miles (230 km) southwest of Oklahoma City. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 70.71 square miles (183.1 km2) of which 70.69 square miles (183.1 km2) is land and 0.02 square miles (0.052 km2) (0.03%) is water.(33.897047, −98.514881).
Wichita Falls experiences a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa), with some of the highest summer daily maximum temperatures in the entire U.S. outside of the Desert Southwest. Temperatures have hit 100 °F (38 °C) as early as March 27 and as late as October 17, but more typically reach that level on 28 days annually, and there are 102 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ annually; the average window for the latter mark is April 9–October 10. On the other end, there are 59–60 nights of freezing lows, and 4.8 days where the high does not rise above freezing. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 42.0 °F (5.6 °C) in January to 84.4 °F (29.1 °C) in July. Extremes in temperature have ranged from −12 °F (−24 °C) on January 4, 1947 to 117 °F (47 °C) on June 28, 1980. Snowfall is sporadic and averages 4.1 inches (10 cm) per season, while rainfall is typically greatest in early summer.
|Climate data for Wichita Falls, Texas (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1923–present)|
|Record high °F (°C)||87
|Average high °F (°C)||54.2
|Average low °F (°C)||29.8
|Record low °F (°C)||−12
|Precipitation inches (mm)||1.14
|Snowfall inches (cm)||1.4
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||4.8||5.3||6.7||6.2||8.7||7.7||5.0||6.2||6.0||7.4||5.3||5.0||74.3|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||0.6||0.4||0.2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.1||0.7||2.0|
|Source: National Weather Service, Weather.com|
Wichita Falls is under exceptional drought conditions and is conserving water in every way possible by implementing Stage 5 Drought Catastrophe restrictions on May 17, 2014. The city began planning for the water to run out in 2012. The plan is to take water straight from the waste treatment facility, send it to the water treatment plant for cleaning, and then distribute it back into the water system. The city's main source of water comes from Lake Arrowhead, at only 24-percent capacity. City Mayor Glenn Barham explained “This reuse system will put five million gallons [of water] back in the distribution system a day...So, it saves us taking five million gallons out of the lake.” The wastewater recycling plan was approved conditionally by TCEQ on June 27, 2014.
Cloud seeding began in Wichita Falls in March 2014.
Texas Almanac: 1850–2000
As of the census of 2000, there were 104,197 people, 37,970 households, and 24,984 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,474.1 inhabitants per square mile (569.2 /km2). There were 41,916 housing units at an average density of 593.0 per square mile (229.0 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 75.11% White, 12.40% African American, 0.86% Native American, 2.20% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 6.39% from other races, and 2.95% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.98% of the population.
There were 37,970 households out of which 33.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.7% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.2% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.7% 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 3.04.
In the city the population was spread out with 24.7% under the age of 18, 15.2% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 106.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 106.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $32,554, and the median income for a family was $39,911. Males had a median income of $27,609 versus $21,877 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,761. About 10.8% of families and 13.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.7% of those under age 18 and 10.3% of those age 65 or over.
According to Wichita Falls' 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
|#||Employer||# of Employees|
|1||Sheppard Air Force Base||12,272|
|2||Wichita Falls Independent School District||2,059|
|3||North Texas State Hospital||1,974|
|4||United Regional Health Care System||1,778|
|5||City of Wichita Falls||1,477|
|6||Midwestern State University||1,284|
|7||James V. Allred Unit||971|
|9||Work Services Corporation||730|
- American Classifieds" (free weekly)
- Times Record News (daily)
- KBZS 106.3 FM (Active Rock)
- KLUR 99.9 FM (Country)
- KMCU 88.7 FM (National Public Radio)
- KMOC 89.5 FM (Contemporary Christian)
- KXPN-FM 95.5 FM (Sports/ESPN Radio)
- KXXN 96.3 FM (Urban Adult Contemporary)
- KQXC 103.9 FM (Rhythmic CHR)
- KWFB 100.9 FM (Adult Hits)
- KWFS 1290 AM (news/talk radio)
- KWFS-FM 102.3 FM (Modern Country)
- KZKL 90.5 FM (Contemporary Christian)
- KYYI 104.7FM (Classic rock)
- KNIN 92.9 FM (CHR)
By default, Dallas' KERA-TV serves as the default PBS affiliate for Wichita Falls via a translator station.
Sports and recreation
Nearby Lake Wichita was dredged in 1901 at a cost of $175,000 through the efforts of entrepreneur Joseph Kemp. There is a 234-acre (95 ha) Lake Wichita Park on the north shore of the lake. This park offers a 2.6-mile concrete hiking and bicycling trail that runs from the southern tip of the park at Fairway Avenue to the dam. The trail resumes northward to Lucy Park. The park has a playground, basketball goals, and multiple picnic areas. There is a 10-unit picnic shelter that can seat sixty persons and is available for renting. The park also has two lighted baseball and two-lighted softball fields, three lighted football fields, and an 18-hole disc golf course. The park has the only model airplane landing strip in the Texas state park system. There is an off-leash dog park.
Because of drought, the fish population in Lake Wichita has been damaged by golden alga blooms and periods of low dissolved oxygen. Therefore, the lake is not recommended in 2013 as a destination for fishing. When available, the fish population consists mostly of white bass, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, and white crappie. Camping facilities are also available.
Mark Rippetoe, a popular strength coach and author of Starting Strength – Basic Barbell Training, resides in Wichita Falls and owns the black-iron gym, the Wichita Falls Athletic Club.
The city has been home to a number of semi-professional, development, and minor league sports teams, including the Wichita Falls Drillers, a semi-pro football team that has won numerous league titles and a national championship; Wichita Falls Kings (formerly known as Wichita Falls Razorbacks), the professional basketball team Wichita Falls Texans of the Continental Basketball Association; Wichita Falls Fever in the Lone Star Soccer Alliance (1989–92); the Wichita Falls Spudders baseball team in the Texas League; the Wichita Falls Wildcats (formerly the Wichita Falls Rustlers) of the North American Hockey League, an American "Junior A" Hockey league; and the Wichita Falls Roughnecks (formerly the Graham Roughnecks) of the Texas Collegiate LeagueJames Darren Black, a once youth goalie phenom, still resides here today. He won All American Goalie of the year 1999, 2000, and 2001.. The Dallas Cowboys held training camp in Wichita Falls during the late 1990s.
Lucy Park is a 170-acre (69 ha) park with a log cabin, duck pond, swimming pool, playground, a frisbee golf course, and picnic areas. It has multiple paved walkways suitable for walking, running, biking, or rollerskating, including a river walk that goes to a re-creation of the original falls for which the city was named (the original falls were destroyed in a 19th-century flood; the new falls were built in response to numerous tourist requests to visit the "Wichita Falls"). It is one of thirty-seven parks throughout the city. The parks range in size from small neighborhood facilities to the 258 acres of Weeks Park featuring the Champions Course at Weeks Park, an 18 hole golf course. In addition, there is an off-leash dog park within Lake Wichita Park and a skatepark adjacent to the city's Softball Complex. There are also unpaved trails for off-road biking and hiking.
The Mayor of Wichita Falls is Glenn Barham. The Wichita Falls City Council has six members: Dorothy Roberts-Burns, Michael Smith, Annetta Pope-Dotson, Brian Hooker, Tim Ingle, and Tom Quintero. The City Manager is Darron Leiker.
State and federal politics
Wichita Falls is located in the 69th district of the Texas House of Representatives. Lanham Lyne, a Republican, represented the district from 2011 to 2013; he was the mayor of Wichita Falls from 2005 to 2010. When Lyne declined to seek a second term in 2012, voters chose another Republican, James Frank. Wichita Falls is located in the 30th district of the Texas Senate. Craig Estes, a Republican, has held the senate seat since 2001. Wichita Falls is part of Texas's 13th congressional district for the U.S. House of Representatives. Mac Thornberry, a Republican, has held this seat since 1995.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice James V. Allred Unit is located in Wichita Falls, 4 miles (6.4 km) northwest of downtown Wichita Falls. The prison is named for former Governor James V. Allred, a Democrat and a native of Bowie, Texas, who lived early in his career in Wichita Falls. The United States Postal Service operates the Wichita Falls Post Office,the Morningside Post Office, the Bridge Creek Post Office,and the Sheppard Air Force Base Post Office.
Wichita Falls is home to Midwestern State University, an accredited 4-year college and the only independent liberal arts college in Texas offering both bachelor's and master's degrees. A local branch of nearby Vernon College offers two-year degrees, certificate programs, and workforce development programs, and also Wayland Baptist University,offering both bachelor's and master's degrees, whose main branch is located in Plainview, Texas.
Public primary and secondary education is covered by the Wichita Falls Independent School District, the City View Independent School District, and the Bright Ideas Charter School. There are several parochial schools, the largest of which is Notre Dame Catholic school and [Christ Academey]. Other private schools operate in the city, as does an active home-school community. Many of the local elementary schools participate in the Head Start program for preschool-aged children. The Wichita Falls ISD is one of only a handful of school districts in Texas that does not require its students to attend a particular school in the district based on their residency.
Two schools in the Wichita Falls Independent School District participate in the International Baccalaureate programmes. Hirschi High School offers the IB Diploma Programme, and G.H. Kirby Junior High School for the Middle Years Programme. Other public high schools are Wichita Falls High School and S. H. Rider High School (Wichita Falls ISD) and City View High School (City View ISD).
Wichita Falls is the western terminus for Interstate 44. U.S. Highways leading to or through Wichita Falls include 287, 277, 281, and 82. State Highway 240 ends at Wichita Falls and State Highway 79 runs through it. Wichita Falls has one of the largest numbers of freeway mileage for a city of its size as a result of a 1954 bond issue approved by city and county voters to purchase right-of-way for several expressway routes through the city and county, the first of which was opened in 1958 as an alignment of U.S. 287 from Eighth Street at Broad and Holliday streets northwestward across the Wichita River and bisecting Lucy and Scotland parks to the Old Iowa Park Road, the original U.S. 287 alignment. That was followed by other expressway links including U.S. 82–287 east to Henrietta (completed in 1968), U.S. 281 south toward Jacksboro (completed 1969), U.S. 287 northwest to Iowa Parki and Electra (opened 1962), Interstate 44 north to Burkburnett and the Red River (opened 1964), and Interstate 44 from Old Iowa Park Road to U.S. 287/Spur 325 interchange on the city's north side along with Spur 325 itself from I-44/U.S. 287 to the main gate of Sheppard Air Force Base (both completed as one single project in 1960). However, cross-country traffic for many years had to contend with several ground-level intersections and stop lights over Holliday and Broad streets near the downtown area for approximately thirteen blocks between connecting expressway links until a new elevated freeway running overhead was completed in 2001.
Efforts to create an additional freeway along the path of Kell Boulevard for U.S. 82–277 began in 1967 with the acquisition of right-of-way that included a former railroad right-of-way and the first project including construction of the present frontage roads completed in 1977, followed by freeway lanes, overpasses and on/off ramps in 1989 from just east of Brook Avenue west to Kemp Boulevard; and similar projects west from Kemp to Barnett Road in 2001 followed by Barnett Road west past FM 369 in 2010 to tie in which a project now underway to transform U.S. 277 into a continuous four-lane expressway between Wichita Falls and Abilene.
A number of short-line railroads operated in the Wichita Falls area in the first half of the 20th century, particularly the Wichita Falls and Southern Railroad, extant from 1921 to 1954. The southern terminus of the Wichita Falls and Southern Railroad was in Dublin in Erath County in Central Texas; on the north it reached to Waurika in southern Oklahoma. It was one of the properties of Frank Kell, Joseph Kemp, and later Orville Bullington. Some forty miles of the line from Graham in Young County to Breckenridge in Stephens County was operated until 1969 by the since defunct Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad.
The Wichita Falls and Southern Railroad was an expansion of the former Wichita Falls Railway, an 18-mile link between Wichita Falls and Henrietta in neighboring Clay County. This railway operated from 1894 to 1911, when it was sold to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, also known as the Katy.
Wichita Falls was the southern terminus of the defunct Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway, another Kemp-Kell property, which stretched to Forgan in Beaver County in the Oklahoma Panhandle. It was later purchased in 1923 by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. In 1973, the northern limit became Altus in Jackson County in southwestern Oklahoma. Starting in 1991, the route from Wichita Falls to Altus was operated by the Wichita, Tillman and Jackson Railway.
The Clinton-Oklahoma-Western Railroad Company of Texas, another Kell property, linked fifty-six miles of track from Hemphill to Gray counties in the Texas Panhandle. The headquarters for the line was in Wichita Falls. The "Clinton" in the railroad name refers to Clinton, Oklahoma, which was joined with Hemphill County by a separate but similarly named line, the Clinton, Oklahoma and Western Railroad Company. Kell and his business partners held this company only from 1927 to 1928, when it was acquired by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The lines were then leased in 1931 to the former Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway.
Greyhound Lines provides intercity bus service from Wichita Falls to other locations served by Greyhound via its terminal at the Jolly truck stop outside of town. Skylark Van Service shuttles passengers to and from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on several runs during the day all week long.
The Wichita Falls Municipal Airport is served by American Eagle with four flights daily to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The Kickapoo Downtown Airport and the Wichita Valley Airport serve smaller, private planes.
Wichita Falls Motor Company
From 1911 to 1932, the Wichita Falls Motor Company, located on Arthur Street in Wichita Falls, built some ten thousand heavy-duty vehicles, mostly trucks, for use by a number of specific industries, such as logging and oil. Known for their strength and durability, the trucks were adopted by the United States Army and many fire and highway departments.
The company was founded by Joseph Kemp, who became its largest shareholder. He had also procured fortunes in dry goods, groceries, banking, railroads, dairying, and petroleum. The trucks were sold worldwide; the French Army purchased 3,500 vehicles, and Russia bought 400. The company hence adopted the slogan, "The sun never sets on a Wichita truck."
At its peak during World War I, the plant employed one hundred workers. It sold a hundred passenger buses to New Orleans. In 1922, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce tried to lure the company to relocate to the Alamo City, but the offer was never considered. Two years before it ceased operations, the Wichita Falls Motor Company issued a concrete mixer truck. The era of independent vehicle manufacturing came to a quick end, and the company could not compete during the Great Depression with the much larger Ford and General Motors, which entered the heavy truck business to compensate for losses in the sale of passenger vehicles.
The Wichita Falls Motor Company was located in the building now occupied by Wichita Energy Company, which owns and maintains one of the original Wichita Trucks. The collector John Chadwell is, meanwhile, working to preserve for history the remaining artifacts left behind by Kemp's company.
- Bowling for Soup, rock band
- Joseph Sterling Bridwell, oilman, rancher, conservationist, philanthropist
- Orville Bullington, Republican Party nominee for governor of Texas in 1932; son-in-law of city entrepreneur Frank Kell
- Frank Kell Cahoon, Midland oilman and member of Texas House of Representatives; grandson of Frank Kell
- Greyson Chance, singer-songwriter and pianist
- Don Cherry, charting pop singer and a leading amateur golfer of 1950s and early 60s
- Phyllis Coates, actress who originated role of Lois Lane in first 26 episodes of Adventures of Superman
- William C. Conner (1920–2009), federal judge for United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
- Carlos Coy, rapper, also known as S.P.M.
- Nic Endo, singer for digital-hardcore band Atari Teenage Riot
- Paul Eggers, Republican nominee for Governor of Texas in 1968 and 1970
- "Cowboy" Morgan Evans, rodeo champion
- Sally Gary, speaker and author
- Mia Hamm, NCAA, World Cup and Olympic champion soccer player, attended Notre Dame Catholic School in Wichita Falls
- Eddie Hill, drag racer
- Frank N. Ikard, U.S. representative from Texas' 13th congressional district from 1951 to 1961; oil industry lobbyist
- Robert Jeffress, Baptist clergyman
- Neel Kearby, World War II US Army Air Forces flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient
- John Little, detective who played a central role in capture of serial killer Faryion Wardrip; joined police late in life after career as a bricklayer
- Khari Long, professional football player
- Markelle Martin, professional football player
- Bill McDonald, legendary Texas Ranger
- Ed Neal, professional football player
- David Nelson, professional football player
- Don Owen, Louisiana news anchor and politician from Shreveport, Louisiana, got his start at KFDX-TV in Wichita Falls in 1953.
- Graham B. Purcell, Jr., Democrat, U.S. representative 1962-1973; post office on Lamar Street in downtown Wichita Falls is named in his honor
- Frances Reid, soap opera actress
- Mark Rippetoe, physical trainer and author, competitive powerlifter, gym owner
- Lloyd Ruby, race car driver
- Bernard Scott, professional football player
- Frank Lee Sprague, composer and musician
- Keith Stegall, country music artist and record producer
- Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO
- John Tower, U.S. Senator from 1961 to 1984
- Tommy Tune, actor, singer, dancer, producer
- Nathan Vasher, professional football player
- Dave Willis, voice actor, screenwriter, and television producer
- The previous record was 79 in 1980; there was a 52-day stretch, June 22 to August 12, of uninterrupted 100 °F highs, and 100-day stretch, May 27 to September 3, of interrupted 90 °F highs. In addition, the all-time warm daily minimum of 88 °F (31 °C) was set on July 26, and June, July, and August of that year were all the hottest on record.
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- Bill Whitaker (August 20, 1998). "Cowboys Mosey On, But Littlest Skyscraper Remains". Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene, Texas: E. W. Scripps Company). ISSN 0199-3267. Retrieved 2010-10-09. "But when the building was done, investors discovered the skyscraper was only 30 feet tall, 18 feet deep and 10 feet wide. And of the reportedly $200,000 sunk into the skyscraper's construction – well, that was plainly gone with the wind."
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|Find more about Wichita Falls, Texas at Wikipedia's sister projects|
|Media from Commons|
|Travel guide from Wikivoyage|
|Database entry Q128349 on Wikidata|
- City of Wichita Falls official website
- Wichita Falls Metropolitan Planning Organization
- United Regional Health Care System – Wichita Falls County Hospital
- The April 10, 1979 Severe Weather Outbreak by Don Burgess
- Wichita Falls Times Record News – Local Paper