Decatur, Texas

Coordinates: 33°13′40″N 97°35′24″W / 33.22778°N 97.59000°W / 33.22778; -97.59000
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Decatur, Texas
Downtown Decatur
Downtown Decatur
Little D
Location of Decatur, Texas
Location of Decatur, Texas
Coordinates: 33°13′40″N 97°35′24″W / 33.22778°N 97.59000°W / 33.22778; -97.59000
CountryUnited States
 • Total8.78 sq mi (22.75 km2)
 • Land8.78 sq mi (22.75 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
1,102 ft (336 m)
 • Total6,538
 • Density740/sq mi (290/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code940
FIPS code48-19528[3]
GNIS feature ID1373362[4]

Decatur is the county seat of Wise County, Texas, United States.[5] Its population was 6,538 in 2020.[6]


Wise County was established in 1856, and Taylorsville (in honor of Zachary Taylor) was made the county seat.

Absalom Bishop, an early settler and member of the Texas Legislature, opposed naming the town after a Whig Party member, and in 1858, arranged to have the name changed to Decatur, in honor of naval hero Stephen Decatur.

In 1857, a post office was opened, and the first school was established in 1857. In the early 1860s, a courthouse was erected.[7]

Civil War[edit]

Early settlers to northern Texas came from a variety of eastern states, with about half coming from the "Deep South". Most of the rest came from the Upper South, and a number sympathized with the Unionist side at the outset of the Civil War. Cooke County and others voted against secession in this part of the state. Violence against Unionists by Confederate troops and militia was common, especially after the Confederate legislature passed an unpopular conscription law.

In October 1862, several Unionist sympathizers from Decatur were arrested by Confederate troops and taken to nearby Gainesville, the Cooke County seat, for trial on charges of treason and insurrection. About 150–200 suspects were arrested by Confederate troops. A "Citizens Court" was pulled together by local colonels, although it had no standing in state law. It quickly convicted seven men, who were executed by hanging. Mob pressure against the court arose, and it turned over 14 suspects, who were lynched - executed by hanging without any judicial process. Nineteen men who had been acquitted were returned to the court, and a new jury convicted them without any new evidence, sentencing them to death. They were also hanged. Another two men were shot trying to escape. In all, 42 men were killed in Gainesville in these actions.[8][9]

North Texas was in chaos, with dissenting citizens at risk from military forces. A few weeks later, more suspected Unionist supporters were hanged without trial in several North Texas communities. Five were lynched in Decatur, under the supervision of Confederate Capt. John Hale.[10] The Great Hanging at Gainesville is believed to have been the largest single incident of vigilante violence in U.S. history.[8][9]

After the Civil War[edit]

By the late 1860s, several stores and a hotel had been established. In 1882, the Fort Worth and Denver Railway reached the town,[7] and Decatur was added to the Butterfield Overland mail route.

In 1881, the Wise County Old Settlers Reunion held their first meeting. This has become an annual tradition in Decatur, and the reunion continues to take place during the last full week of July.

Decatur Baptist College (now Dallas Baptist University) was established in Decatur in 1898. It was the first two-year institution of higher education in Texas. In 1965, the college moved to Dallas to be in a larger population center. The former Administration Building then housed the Wise County Heritage Museum. The building was destroyed in a fire in 2023.[11] It is one of five sites in Decatur listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Wise County Courthouse was designed by James Riely Gordon, the master architect of Texas courthouses. Completed in 1896, the building is an example of Gordon's Signature Plan. He used corner entrances (making for short halls) to draw in the breeze, which was pulled up through a central atrium like a chimney, providing excellent air circulation. The exterior is Texas red granite (like the Capitol) with terra cotta ornamentation. The almost pyramidal mass refers to 1,000-year-old churches in the south of France. The building has been praised, with its "sister" courthouse in Waxahachie, as "the zenith of Gordon's Richardsonian Romanesque work".[12] It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1962, Eddie Wayne Hill, lead guitarist for Tommy & the Tom Toms, and drummer Joel Colbert, were killed when their convertible collided head-on with a gravel truck on State Highway 114 south of Decatur. Country singer Charley Pride was more fortunate, surviving a mid-air crash with another plane over Decatur in 1980, though two people died in the crash.[13]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.5 square miles (22 km2), all land.[14] The highest point of elevation in the county is the courthouse site. As with ancient hill towns in Europe, the frontier settlement was developed on high ground for defensive purposes, so European settlers could see and ward off attacks or raids, in this case by Native Americans.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen climate classification, Decatur has a humid subtropical climate, Cfa on climate maps.[15]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[16]
Decatur racial composition as of 2020[6]
(NH = Non-Hispanic)[a]
Race Number Percentage
White (NH) 4,200 64.24%
Black or African American (NH) 61 0.93%
Native American or Alaska Native (NH) 26 0.4%
Asian (NH) 79 1.21%
Some Other Race (NH) 14 0.21%
Mixed/Multi-Racial (NH) 206 3.15%
Hispanic or Latino 1,952 29.86%
Total 6,538

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 6,538 people, 2,507 households, and 1,753 families residing in the city.


In August 2008, Entegris acquired Poco Graphite, Inc. of Decatur, a supplier of specialized graphite and silicon carbide products for use in semiconductor, EDM, glass-bottling, biomedical, aerospace, and alternative-energy applications.

Arts and culture[edit]

Decatur has a full-service library. Currently, it is being renovated and a temporary library is set up at Decatur City Hall. The library is scheduled to reopen in April-May 2024.

The Service Broadcasting Tower Decatur,[19][20] a guyed TV-mast, belongs to world's tallest constructions.[citation needed]

The city also hosts “Cruise Nights on the Square” where people can volunteer to bring cars out on the square for others to look at.</ref>[1]</ref>

Parks and recreation[edit]

  • Kenny Renshaw Park, located off FM 51 in south Decatur, features soccer fields, softball fields, a playground, and a walking trail.
  • The Lyndon B. Johnson National Grassland, home to several lakes and many miles of hiking and equine trails, is located just north of Decatur.
  • The Sid Richardson Scout Ranch is a Boy Scout camp on Lake Bridgeport, near Decatur.
  • Wildwood Naturist's Resort is a family-oriented nudist club in Decatur.
  • Eagle's Canyon Raceway, an auto racing park in Decatur, was included on the 2011 LATAM Challenge Series.


The City of Decatur is served by the Decatur Independent School District (DISD), the largest district in Wise County. Decatur ISD is centered in Decatur and has six campuses: Decatur High School, McCarroll Middle School, Carson Elementary School, Rann Elementary School, and Young Elementary. During the 2010–2011 school year, Decatur ISD had 3,011 students enrolled.[21]

Weatherford College has a branch campus in Decatur.




  • Decatur Municipal Airport is a city-owned public-use airport located 2 miles north of the central business district.
  • Bishop Airport is a privately owned public-use airport located 6 miles east of the central business district of Decatur.

Emergency services[edit]

Lifeteam 68, of the Air Evac Lifeteam air ambulance company, is based at Wise Regional Hospital in Decatur.[22]

Notable people[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • "Eighter from Decatur" is a slang phrase used by craps shooters who want to roll an eight, as well as the title of a song (minus the "e" in eighter) by Western Swing legend Bob Wills. In 1949, Decatur mayor Syl Hardwick added the phrase to two signs welcoming tourists to the town.[23]


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  2. ^ "Table 4: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Texas, Listed Alphabetically: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008". United States Census Bureau, Population Division. July 1, 2009. Archived from the original (CSV) on July 7, 2009. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  3. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  4. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Explore Census Data". Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Barton, Jim Tom. "Decatur, TX". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association.
  8. ^ a b "Under the Rebel Flag: Life in Texas During the Civil War". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. 2011.
  9. ^ a b McCaslin, Richard B. Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas 1862, Louisiana State University Press, 1994
  10. ^ McCaslin, Richard B. "Great Hanging of Texas". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  11. ^ Jackson, Austin (March 18, 2023). "Wise County Heritage Museum lost to blaze". Wise County Messenger -. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  12. ^ Meister, Chris (2011). James Riely Gordon: His Courthouses and Other Public Architecture. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 978-0-89672-691-8.
  13. ^ "Charlie Pride Survives Midair Crash; 2 Die". Milwaulkee Sentinel. August 7, 1980.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "US Gazetteer Files 2016-Places-Texas". US Census. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  15. ^ "Decatur, Texas Koppen Climate Classification (Weatherbase)". Weatherbase. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  16. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  17. ^ "". Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  18. ^ "About the Hispanic Population and its Origin". Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  19. ^ Service Broadcasting Tower retrieved May 19, 2007
  20. ^ Antenna Structure Registration #1040339 retrieved May 19, 2007
  21. ^ "Decatur Isd". U.S. Department of Education.
  22. ^ "Air Evac Lifeteam". December 12, 1998. Archived from the original on February 12, 2015. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  23. ^ "Mayor Makes his Point: 'Eighter from Decatur' Signs to Greet Tourists". Miami News. July 19, 1949.[permanent dead link]
  1. ^ Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.[17][18]

External links[edit]