Columbus, Georgia

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Columbus, Georgia
Consolidated city-county
Columbus Consolidated Government
Downtown Columbus skyline on the banks of the Chattahoochee River
Downtown Columbus skyline on the banks of the Chattahoochee River
Official seal of Columbus, Georgia
Nickname(s): The Fountain City or The Lowell of the South
Motto: What Progress Has Preserved
Location in Muscogee County and the state of Georgia
Location in Muscogee County and the state of Georgia
Columbus, Georgia is located in USA
Columbus, Georgia
Columbus, Georgia
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 32°29′32″N 84°56′25″W / 32.49222°N 84.94028°W / 32.49222; -84.94028Coordinates: 32°29′32″N 84°56′25″W / 32.49222°N 84.94028°W / 32.49222; -84.94028
Country United States
State Georgia
County Muscogee
Founded 1828
Named for Christopher Columbus
 • Mayor Teresa Tomlinson
 • Total 220.8 sq mi (572 km2)
 • Land 216.1 sq mi (592.1 km2)
 • Water 4.7 sq mi (12.3 km2)
Elevation 243 ft (74 m)
Population (2010)[1]
 • Total 189,885
 • Estimate (2014)[2] 200,887
 • Rank US: 111th
 • Density 861.4/sq mi (332.6/km2)
 • MSA 316,554 (US: 154th)
 • CSA 501,649 (89th)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 31820, 31829, 31900-09, 31914, 31917, 31993-94, 31997-99
Area code(s) 706, 762
FIPS code 13-19007
GNIS feature ID 0331158[3]
Airport Columbus Airport-
Website City of Columbus

Columbus is a city in the U.S. state of Georgia and is the county seat of Muscogee County,[4] with which it is consolidated. According to the 2013 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Columbus has a population of 202,824 residents in the city and 316,554 in the Columbus-Phenix City metropolitan area. The metro area joins the nearby Alabama cities of Auburn and Opelika to form the Columbus-Auburn-Opelika Combined Statistical Area, which has an estimated population of 501,649. Situated at the heart of the Chattahoochee Valley, Columbus is Georgia's second-largest city and fourth-largest metropolitan area.

Columbus lies 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Atlanta. Fort Benning, home of the United States Army Infantry School and a major employer, is located south of the city in Chattahoochee County. Columbus is home to museums and tourism sites, including the National Infantry Museum, dedicated to the United States Army's Infantry Branch, as well as the longest urban whitewater rafting course in the world.



Downtown in 1880

Founded in 1828 by an act of the Georgia Legislature, Columbus was situated at the beginning of the navigable portion of the Chattahoochee River and on the last stretch of the Federal Road before entering Alabama. The city was named for Christopher Columbus, its founders likely influenced by the writings of Washington Irving. The plan for the city was drawn up by Dr. Edwin L. DeGraffenried, who placed the town on a bluff overlooking the river. Across the river, where Phenix City, Alabama is now located, Creek Indians lived until their removal in 1836.

The river served as Columbus's connection to the world, particularly connecting plantations with the international cotton market via New Orleans and ultimately Liverpool, England. The city's commercial importance increased in the 1850s with the arrival of the railroad. In addition, textile mills began springing up along the river, bringing industry to an area reliant upon agriculture. By 1860, the city was one of the more important industrial centers of the South, earning it the nickname "the Lowell of the South" in deference to the industrial textile mill town in Massachusetts which is also along a river.

Civil War and Reconstruction[edit]

Redd House, Columbus, Historic American Buildings Survey

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the industries of Columbus expanded their production and Columbus became one of the most important centers of industry in the Confederacy. During the war, Columbus ranked second to Richmond in the manufacture of supplies for the Confederate army.[5] In addition to textiles, the city had an ironworks, a sword factory, and a shipyard for the Confederate Navy.

Unaware of Lee's surrender to Grant and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Union and Confederates clashed in the Battle of Columbus, Georgia, on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1865, when a Union detachment under General James H. Wilson attacked the city and burned many of the industrial buildings. The inventor of Coca-Cola, Dr. John Stith Pemberton, was wounded in this battle. The owner of America's last slave ship, Col. Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar, was also killed here. A historic marker has been erected in Columbus marking the battle by Wilson's troops as the "Last Land Battle in the War from 1861 to 1865."

Reconstruction began almost immediately and prosperity followed. Factories such as the Eagle and Phenix Mills were revived and the industrialization of the town led to rapid growth; the city outgrew its original plan. The Springer Opera House was built on 10th Street, attracting such notables as Oscar Wilde. The Springer is now the official State Theater of Georgia.

By the time of the Spanish American War, the city saw much modernization, including the addition of trolleys extending to outlying neighborhoods such as Rose Hill and Lakebottom, and a new water works. Mayor Lucius Chappell also brought a training camp for soldiers to the area. This training camp named Camp Benning would grow into present-day Fort Benning, named for General Henry L. Benning, a native of the city.

Downtown Columbus in the early 1950s

Confederate Memorial Day[edit]

In the spring of 1866 the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus passed a resolution to set aside one day annually to memorialize the Confederate dead. The secretary of the association, Mrs. Charles J. (Mary Ann) Williams was directed to author a letter inviting the ladies of every Southern state to join them in the observance.[6] The letter was written in March 1866 and was sent to all of the principal cities in the South, including Atlanta, Macon, Montgomery, Memphis, Richmond, St. Louis, Alexandria, Columbia, and New Orleans.

The date for the holiday was selected by Elizabeth "Lizzie" Rutherford Ellis.[7] She chose April 26, the first anniversary of Confederate General Johnston's final surrender to Union General Sherman at Bennett Place, North Carolina. For many in the South, that act marked the official end of the Civil War.[6]

In 1868, General John A. Logan, commander in chief of the Union Civil War Veterans Fraternity called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), launched the Memorial Day holiday that is currently observed in the entire United States. According to General Logan's wife, he emulated the practices of Confederate Memorial Day. She wrote that Logan "said it was not too late for the Union men of the nation to follow the example of the people of the South in perpetuating the memory of their friends who had died for the cause they thought just and right."[8]

20th Century[edit]

With the expansion of the city, the need for a university saw the establishment of Columbus College, a two-year institution which would later grow into Columbus State University, now a comprehensive center of higher learning.

The city became consolidated in 1971 and became the first of its kind in Georgia (and one of only 16 in the U.S. at the time).

As the city has turned from its initial industry of textiles, it has provided a home for other prominent industries including the headquarters for Aflac, Synovus, TSYS and Carmike Cinemas.

The Muscogee County Courthouse in 1941, which was demolished in 1970.

During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, urban blight, white flight, and prostitution were serious problems in much of downtown Columbus and adjacent neighborhoods. Early efforts to halt the gradual deterioration of downtown began with the saving and restoration of the Springer Opera House in 1965. With the revitalization of the Springer and its subsequent designation as the State Theatre of Georgia, a historic preservation movement was sparked and various historic districts were established in and around downtown. Through the late 1960s and early 1970s, large neighborhoods were built to accompany the soldiers coming back from the Vietnam War and for over from Ft. Benning. These range from Wesley woods to Leesburg to Brittney and Willowbrook and the high end Sears woods and Windsor park. Large tracts of blighted areas were cleaned up and a modern Columbus Consolidated Government Center was constructed in the city center. A significant period of urban renewal and revitalization followed in the mid to late 1990s.

With these improvements, residents and businesses began moving back to formerly blighted areas. Examples of these municipal projects including the construction of a softball complex which hosted the 1996 Olympic softball competition, construction of the Chattahoochee RiverWalk along the Chattahoochee River, construction of the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus, construction of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, the expansion of the Columbus Museum, and road improvements to include a new downtown bridge crossing the Chattahoochee River to Phenix City. During the late 1990s, commercial activity expanded north of downtown along the I-185 corridor.

21st century[edit]

Alternate seal

During the 2000s, expansion and historic preservation continued throughout the city. An example of this is the revitalization of South Commons, an area which combines the 1996 Olympic softball competition complex, A. J. McClung Memorial Stadium, Golden Park, the Columbus Civic Center, and the recently added Jonathan Hatcher Skateboard Park into a single complex area. Another addition to the city is the National Infantry Museum in South Columbus, located just outside the Fort Benning main gate.

Columbus has also established itself as a center for the fine and performing arts. RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2002, houses Columbus State University's music department. In 2002 Columbus State's art and drama departments moved to downtown locations. Such initiatives have provided Columbus with a cultural niche and with vibrant and modern architecture mixed among older brick facades.

The "Ready to Raft 2012" campaign is a project that created an estimated 700 new jobs and is projected to bring in $42 million annually to the Columbus area. The project resulted in the longest urban whitewater rafting venue in the world.[9] This, in addition to other outdoor and non-outdoor tourist attractions, led to around 1.8 million visitors coming to Columbus during the fiscal year 2015, according to the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.[10]

In upcoming years, it is predicted that there will be an additional 30,000 soldiers trained at Fort Benning each year due to base realignment and closure.[11] As a result of this, Columbus is expected to see a major population increase.


Downtown panorama (1840)

Columbus is one of Georgia's three Fall Line Cities, along with Augusta and Macon. The fall line is where the hilly lands of the Piedmont plateau meet the flat terrain of the coastal plain. As such, Columbus has a varied landscape of rolling hills on the north side and flat plains on the south. The fall line causes rivers in the area to decline rapidly towards sea level, making it a good location for textile mills in the past. The Chattahoochee is the major river that runs through Columbus.

Interstate 185 runs east of the city and is the major thoroughfare through the city, with access from exits 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, and 14 to the city. Interstate 185 runs north 96 mi (154 km) to Atlanta. U.S. Route 27, U.S. Route 280, and Georgia State Route 520 (known as South Georgia Parkway) all meet in the interior of the city. U.S. Route 80 runs north of the city, locally known as J.R. Allen Parkway; Alternate U.S. Route 27 and Georgia State Route 85 run northeast from the city, locally known as Bill Heard Expressway.

The city is located at 32°29′23″N 84°56′26″W / 32.489608°N 84.940422°W / 32.489608; -84.940422.[12]

According to the US Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 221.0 square miles (572 km2), of which, 216.3 square miles (560 km2) of it is land and 4.7 square miles (12 km2) of it (2.14%) is water.


Columbus has a humid subtropical climate according to the Köppen climate classification system. Daytime summer temperatures often reaches a high in the mid 90s, and low temperatures in the winter average in the upper 30s. Columbus is often considered a dividing line or "natural snowline" of the southeastern United States with areas north of the city receiving snowfall annually, with areas to the south typically not receiving snowfall every year or at all. Columbus is within USDA hardiness zone 8b in the city center and zone 8a in the suburbs.


One of Columbus' nicknames: "The Fountain City."

Columbus is divided into five geographic areas:

Fireworks in Downtown on July 4, 2009
  • MidTown is a residential and commercial area consisting of multiple historic districts, as well as the corporate headquarters of Aflac.
  • North Columbus is a diverse suburban area, home to established neighborhoods and subdivisions, such as upscale Green Island Hills. It also consists of multiple shopping and lifestyle areas.
  • South Columbus is situated just below the MidTown region, and directly above Fort Benning. While home to the National Infantry Museum, a museum that honors the history of infantry forces in the U.S. Army, it also features the highest crime and poverty rates of any other Columbus geographic area.

Surrounding cities and towns[edit]

The Columbus Metropolitan Area includes four counties in Georgia, and one in Alabama. The Columbus-Auburn-Opelika, GA-AL Combined Statistical Area includes two additional counties in Alabama. CSA A 2013 Census estimate showed 316,554 in the metro area, with 501,649 in the combined statistical area.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 1,152
1840 3,114 170.3%
1850 5,942 90.8%
1860 9,621 61.9%
1870 7,401 −23.1%
1880 10,123 36.8%
1890 17,303 70.9%
1900 17,614 1.8%
1910 20,554 16.7%
1920 31,125 51.4%
1930 43,131 38.6%
1940 53,280 23.5%
1950 79,611 49.4%
1960 116,779 46.7%
1970 155,028 32.8%
1980 169,441 9.3%
1990 178,681 5.5%
2000 186,291 4.3%
2010 189,885 1.9%
Est. 2014 200,887 [15] 5.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[16]
2013 Estimate[17]
Satellite image of Columbus

As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Columbus had a total population of 189,885, up from 186,291 in the 2000 Census. The 2010 Census reported 189,885 people, 72,124 households, and 47,686 families residing in the city. The population density was 861.4 people per square mile (332.6/km2). There were 82,690 housing units at an average density of 352.3 per square mile (136.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 46.3% White, 45.5% African American, 2.2% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 0.14% Pacific Islander, and 1.90% from other races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.4% of the population.

There were 69,819 households out of which 34.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.7% were married couples living together, 19.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.7% were non-families. 26.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.6% under the age of 18, 11.9% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 94.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $41,331, and the 2000 median income for a family was 41,244. Males had a median income of $30,238 versus $24,336 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,514. About 12.8% of families and 15.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.0% of those under age 18 and 12.1% of those age 65 or over.


Columbus contains approximately 200 Christian churches, with the Southern Baptist Convention being the largest denomination by number of churches.[18] Columbus is also home to three Kingdom Halls for Jehovah's Witnesses, along with three mosques, two synagogues, and a Hindu temple.


Companies headquartered in Columbus include Aflac, Carmike Cinemas, TSYS, Realtree, Synovus, and the W. C. Bradley Co.

Top employers[edit]

According to Columbus's 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[19] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Fort Benning 41,462
2 Muscogee County School District 6,200
3 TSYS 4,300
4 Aflac 4,100
5 Columbus-Muscogee County Consolidated Government 2,933
6 Columbus Regional Healthcare System 2,700
7 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia 1,540
8 Pezold Management 1,500
9 St. Francis Hospital 1,470
10 Synovus 1,021

Arts and culture[edit]

Points of interest[edit]



Columbus is served by one major indoor shopping mall, Peachtree Mall, which is anchored by major department stores Dillard's, Macy's, and J.C. Penney. The total retail floor area is 821,000 square feet (76,300 m2). Major strip malls include Columbus Park Crossing, which opened in 2003, and The Landings, which opened in 2005. Columbus is also served by The Shoppes at Bradley Park, a lifestyle center.

MidTown contains two of the city's early suburban shopping centers (the Village on 13th and St. Elmo), both recently renovated and offering local shops, restaurants, and services.

Major venues[edit]

Golden Park, Columbus' oldest baseball park

Below is the list of major venues in the city of Columbus:

Historic districts[edit]

Columbus is home to 8 historic districts, all listed in the NRHP. They are as follows:


Club Sport League Venue
Columbus Cottonmouths Ice hockey Southern Professional Hockey League Columbus Civic Center
Columbus Lions Indoor football American Indoor Football Columbus Civic Center

Parks and recreation[edit]

Hunter Katich [2]

Columbus is home to upwards of fifty parks, four recreation centers, four senior centers and parks, and Standing Boy Creek State Park.

Walking trails[edit]

  • The Chattahoochee RiverWalk is a 15-mile (24 km) walking/bike trail that connects users from Downtown to South Columbus and the northern section of Fort Benning.
  • The Columbus Fall Line Trace is a fitness trail that runs from Downtown to the northeastern section of the city.[22]
  • The Black Heritage Trail is a National Recreation Trail of historic and cultural significance.[23]

Whitewater kayaking, rafting and zip-line[edit]

The Chattahoochee River white water opened in 2012. After the Eagle & Phenix Dam was breached, river flow was restored to natural conditions allowing the course to be created. The 2.5-mile (4.0 km) course is the longest urban whitewater rafting & kayaking in the world, and has been ranked the world's best manmade whitewater course by USA Today.[24] It also features the Blue Heron Adventure, a zip-line connecting users from the Georgia side of the river to the Alabama side.[25]

Law and Government[edit]

Columbus Consolidated Government Center

Elected Officials[edit]


City Council[edit]

  • Jerry Barnes (District 1)
  • Glenn Davis (District 2)
  • Bruce Huff (District 3)
  • Evelyn Turner-Pugh (District 4)
  • Mike Baker (District 5)
  • R. Gary Allen (District 6)
  • Evelyn Woodson (District 7)
  • C. E. McDaniel (District 8)
  • Judy Thomas (District 9)
  • Berry "Skip" Henderson (District 10)[26]

District Attorney[edit]


  • John Darr (2008)[28]

Tax Commissioner[edit]

Clerk of Court[edit]


Crime rates (2013)
Crime type Rate*
Homicide: 22
Robbery: 481
Aggravated assault: 483
Total violent crime: 1,022
Burglary: 3,355
Larceny-theft: 8,012
Motor vehicle theft: 1,108
Arson: 37
Total property crime: 12,475
* Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.
2013 population: 201,165
Source: 2013 FBI UCR Data

For 2012, Columbus had an overall crime rate of 441.9 per 100,000 residents;[31] this exceeds the national average of 301.1 crimes per 100,000 people by over 75%.

The rate for violent crimes was 620.8 per 100,000, compared to the national average of 301.1 per 100,000; murders and robberies exceeded the national average, while rapes and aggravated assaults were below the national average. Property-crime rates, such as burglaries, larceny and motor vehicle thefts, significantly exceeded the national average (7,229.8 in Columbus, compared to the national average of 3,906.1).


Primary and secondary education[edit]

The Muscogee County School District holds pre-school to grade twelve, and consists of thirty-five elementary schools, twelve middle schools, and nine high schools.[32][33] The district has 2,068 full-time teachers and over 32,944 students.[34]


Columbus Public Library

Columbus is served by four branches of the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries:

  • Columbus Public Library
  • Mildred L. Terry Public Library
  • North Columbus Public Library
  • South Columbus Public Library

Higher education[edit]


Private, for profit[edit]

Media and communications[edit]




The Columbus Metropolitan Airport (IATA: CSGICAO: KCSGFAA LID: CSG) is the metro area's primary airport and the fourth busiest airport in Georgia. It is located just off of I-185 exit 8. It is served by ExpressJet Airlines' Delta Connection service, offering several daily flights to Atlanta.[35]


I-185 exit 1B in South Columbus

U.S. Routes[edit]

Georgia state routes[edit]

Public transit[edit]

METRA bus in MidTown

Notable people[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Columbus has four official sister cities:[38]

See also[edit]

Further Reading


  1. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  2. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-09-23. 
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  5. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica. vol. VI. New York. 1911. p. 746. 
  6. ^ a b History of Confederate Memorial Day
  7. ^ New Georgia Encyclopedia, Rutherford, originator of Confederate Memorial Day
  8. ^ Mrs. John A. Logan, Reminiscences of a Soldier's Wife, p. 246.
  9. ^ [1]. Retrieved 2011-22-11.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Base Realignment And Closure. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  13. ^ "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  14. ^ Average weather for Columbus Weather Channel Retrieved 2012-08-21
  15. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  16. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013". Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  18. ^ Churches in Columbus Retrieved August 29, 2009
  19. ^ City of Columbus CAFR
  20. ^ Description
  21. ^ Georgia Secretary of State - State Theatre,; retrieved February 2007 (from Springer Opera House).
  22. ^ Trail map. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  23. ^ The Black Heritage Trail
  24. ^ "Built to thrill: 12 crazy man-made adventures". USA Today. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  25. ^ Blue Heron Adventure
  26. ^ Columbus City Council. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  27. ^ Office of the District Attorney for Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  28. ^ Muscogee County Sheriff's Office. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  29. ^ Columbus Consolidated Government City Phone Directory. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  30. ^ Office of the Clerk of Superior, State and Juvenile Courts of Muscogee County. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  31. ^ "Crime rate in Columbus, Georgia (GA):". City-Data. June 3, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  32. ^ List of schools in Columbus, Retrieved Sept. 2009.
  33. ^ Georgia Board of Education, Retrieved June 24, 2010.
  34. ^ School Stats, Retrieved June 24, 2010.
  35. ^ Official website
  36. ^ METRA History
  37. ^ Columbus Greyhound station
  38. ^ Sister City Relationships


External links[edit]