Fort Bend County, Texas
Fort Bend County
Fort Bend County Courthouse, Richmond, November 2008
Location within the U.S. state of Texas
Texas's location within the U.S.
|Named for||A blockhouse positioned in a bend of the Brazos River|
|Largest city||Sugar Land|
|• Total||885 sq mi (2,290 km2)|
|• Land||861 sq mi (2,230 km2)|
|• Water||24 sq mi (60 km2) 2.7%%|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||697/sq mi (269/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (Central)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
|Congressional districts||9th, 22nd|
Fort Bend County is located in the U.S. state of Texas. According to 2019 census estimates, its population was 811,688 and Texas's 10th-most populous county. In 2015 Fort Bend County became Texas's wealthiest county, with a median household income of $95,389 and a median family income of $105,944, surpassing Collin and Rockwall Counties since the 2000 census. The county seat is Richmond, and its largest city is Sugar Land.
Fort Bend County is included in the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land Metropolitan Statistical Area. Forbes ranked it the fifth-fastest growing county in the United States. The 2018 Census Bureau estimate of Fort Bend County's population is 787,858.
After Mexico achieved independence from Spain, Anglo-Americans started entering from the east. In 1822, a group of Stephen F. Austin's colonists, headed by William Travis, built a fort at the present site of Richmond. The fort was called Fort Bend because it was built in the bend of the Brazos River. The city of Richmond was incorporated under the Republic of Texas along with 19 other towns in 1837. Fort Bend County was created from parts of Austin, Harris, and Brazoria Counties in 1838.
Fort Bend developed a plantation economy based on cotton as the commodity crop. Planters had numerous African-American slaves as laborers. By the 1850s, Fort Bend was one of six majority-black counties in Texas. In 1860 the slave population totaled 4,127, more than twice that of the 2,016 whites. Few free blacks lived there, as Texas refused them entry.
While the area began to attract white immigrants in the late 19th century, it continued as majority black during and after Reconstruction. Whites struggled to control freedmen and their descendants through violence and intimidation. Freedmen and their sympathizers supported the Republican Party because of emancipation, electing their candidates to office. The state legislature was still predominately white. By the 1880s, most white residents belonged to the Democratic Party. Factional tensions were fierce, as political elements split largely along racial lines. The Jaybirds, representing the majority of the whites, struggled to regain control from the Woodpeckers, who were made up of some whites consistently elected to office by the majority of African Americans; several had served as Republican officials during Reconstruction.
Fort Bend County was the site of the Jaybird–Woodpecker War in 1888-89. After a few murders were committed, the political feud culminated in a gun battle at the courthouse on August 16, 1889, when several more people were killed and the Woodpeckers were routed from the county seat.
Governor Lawrence Sullivan Ross sent in militia forces and declared martial law. With his support, the Jaybirds ordered a list of certain blacks and Woodpecker officials out of the county, overthrowing the local government. The Jaybirds took over county offices and established a "white-only pre-primary," disenfranchising African Americans from the only competitive contests in the county. This device lasted until 1950, when Willie Melton and Arizona Fleming won a lawsuit against the practice in United States District Court, though it was overturned on appeal. In 1953, they ultimately won their suit when the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Jaybird primary unconstitutional in Terry v. Adams, the last of the white primary cases.
20th century to present
In the middle 1950s, Fort Bend and neighboring Galveston County were plagued by organized crime, which was involved with brothels and illegal casinos. Editor Clymer Wright of the Fort Bend Reporter joined with state officials and the Texas Rangers to rid the area of such corruption. Wright defied death threats to report on the issues and clean up the community. He soon sold his paper, now known as the Fort Bend Herald and Texas Coaster.
In the 1960s, the first of several master-planned communities that came to define the county were developed, marking the beginning of its transformation from a largely rural county dominated by railroad and oil and gas interests to a major suburban county dominated by service and manufacturing industries. One of the earliest such developments was Quail Valley in Missouri City, whose golf course hosted the Houston Open during the 1973 and 1974 seasons of the PGA Tour. Another was First Colony in Sugar Land, a 9,700-acre development commenced in the 1970s by Houston developer Gerald D. Hines that eventually became the southwest Greater Houston area's main retail hub, anchored by First Colony Mall and Sugar Land Town Square.
Since the 1980s, new communities have continued to develop, with Greatwood, New Territory, and Sienna Plantation among the more recent notable developments. In addition to continued development in the eastern part of the county around Sugar Land and Missouri City, the Greater Katy area began to experience rapid growth and expansion into Fort Bend County in the 1990s, led by the development of Cinco Ranch. By 2010, the county's population exceeded 500,000, and it had become the second-largest county in the Greater Houston area (behind Harris County).
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused significant flooding in Fort Bend County, leading to the evacuation of 200,000 residents and over 10,000 rescues. The unprecedented flooding, the result of record rainfall and overflow from the Brazos River and Barker Reservoir, resulted in damage to or destruction of over 6,800 homes in the county.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 885 square miles (2,290 km2), of which 861 square miles (2,230 km2) are land and 24 square miles (62 km2) (2.7%) are covered by water.
- Waller County (north)
- Harris County (northeast)
- Austin County (northwest)
- Brazoria County (southeast)
- Wharton County (southwest)
From 1930 to 1950, the county showed a decline in the rate of expansion and even a decrease in population. This was a period when many African Americans migrated in the second wave of the Great Migration from Texas and other parts of the South to the West Coast, where a buildup in the defense industry provided more job opportunities. Other minorities settled in the county during its residential development, and African Americans are now a minority.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
|Total population||585,375 – 100.0%|
|Not Hispanic or Latino||446,408 – 76.3%|
|White alone||211,680 – 36.2%|
|Black or African American alone||123,267 – 21.1%|
|Asian alone||98,762 – 16.9%|
|American Indian and Alaska Native alone||1,159 – 0.2%|
|Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone||174 – 0.0%|
|Some other race alone||1,341 – 0.2%|
|Two or more races alone||10,025 – 1.7%|
|Hispanic or Latino (of any race)||138,967 – 23.7%|
As of the census of 2000, 354,452 people, 110,915 households, and 93,057 families resided in the county. The population density was 405 people per square mile (156/km²). The 115,991 housing units averaged 133 per square mile (51/km²). The racial or ethnic makeup of the county was 56.96% White (46.21% White non-Hispanic), 19.85% Black or African American, 0.30% Native American, 11.20% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 9.10% from other races, and 2.56% from two or more races. About 21.12% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race. Other self-identifications were 8.8% of German ancestry, 6.3% American, and 5.8% English ancestry according to the 2000 United States Census.
In 2006, Fort Bend county had a population of 493,187. This represented a growth of 39.1% since 2000. The county's racial or ethnic makeup was 53.96% White (39.63% White non-Hispanic), 20.88% African American, 14.77% Asian, 0.51% Native American, 7.73% other races, and 2.14% from two or more races. About 22.88% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race; 23.82% of the population was foreign born; of this, 50.24% came from Asia, 37.17% came from Latin America, 5.74% from Africa, 5.28% from Europe, and 1.57% from other parts of the world.
In 2000, of the 110,915 households, 49.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 68.80% were married couples living together, 11.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 16.10% were not families. About 13.50% of all households were made up of individuals, and 3.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.14 and the average family size was 3.46.
In the county, the age distribution of the population was 32.00% under the age of 18, 7.60% from 18 to 24, 32.30% from 25 to 44, 22.40% from 45 to 64, and 5.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.30 males.
As of 2002, the largest two cities in Fort Bend County were Missouri City and Sugar Land, with portions of Houston combining to make up the county's third-largest "city". In that year, 38,000 residents of the City of Houston lived in Fort Bend County.
According to the 2008 American Community Survey, the median income for a household in the county was $81,456, and for a family was $90,171. Males had a median income of $54,139 versus $41,353 for females. The per capita income for the county was $30,862. About 5.50% of families and 7.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.50% of those under age 18 and 9.40% of those age 65 or over.
As of 2006, Fort Bend County is the wealthiest county in Texas, with a median household income of $95,389 and a median family income of $105,944, having surpassed Collin and Rockwall Counties since the 2000 census. However, the Council for Community and Economic Research ranked Fort Bend County America's third-wealthiest county when the local cost of living was factored in.
This estimate does not include property taxes and local taxes, as effective tax rates and home insurance were not measured. Along with other Texas counties, Fort Bend County has one of the nation's highest property tax rates. In 2007, it was ranked fifth in the nation for property taxes as a percentage of the homes' value on owner-occupied housing. The list includes only counties with a population over 65,000. Fort Bend County also ranked in the top 100 in property taxes paid and percentage of taxes of income. Part of this is due to Texas's complex Robin Hood plan school financing law.
Since the 1970s, Fort Bend County has been attracting people from all ethnic backgrounds. According to a 2001 Claritas study, it was the fifth-most diverse U.S. county, among counties with a population of 100,000 or more.
It is one of a growing number of U.S. counties with an ethnic plurality, with no single ethnic group forming a majority of the population. Fort Bend County also has the highest percentage of Asian Americans in the Southern United States; the largest groups are of Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, and Filipino ancestry. By 2011, Fort Bend was ranked the fourth-most racially diverse county in the United States by USA Today. The newspaper based the ranking on calculating the probability that two persons selected at random would be of different ethnic groups or races. According to the USA Today methodology, the chance of people of being two different ethnic groups/races being selected was 75%. Karl Eschbach, a former demographer with the State of Texas, has said that many people from Houston neighborhoods and communities with clear racial identities, such as the East End, Sunnyside, and the Third Ward, moved to suburban areas that were too new to have established racial identities. Eschbach explained, "[a]s a large minority middle class started to emerge, Fort Bend was virgin territory that all groups could move to."
Government and politics
County politics in Fort Bend County, as in all Texas counties, center around a commissioners' court. It is composed of four popularly elected county commissioners, one representing each precinct drawn decennially on the basis of population, and a county judge elected to represent the entire county. Other county officials include a sheriff, district attorney, tax assessor-collector, county clerk, district clerk, county treasurer, and county attorney. The current sheriff is Troy Nehls.
For decades Fort Bend County was a stronghold for the Democratic Party, having achieved disenfranchisement of blacks at the county level in 1889 in the aftermath of the Jaybird–Woodpecker War. The state effectively disfranchised blacks with a poll tax and white primaries; the latter device was declared unconstitutional in 1944. By 1960, so few Republicans resided in Fort Bend County that the county's Republican chair once received a letter addressed simply to "Mr. Republican".
However, as the 1960s progressed, rapid suburban-style development in west and southwest Houston began to overflow into Fort Bend County, where the development of numerous master-planned communities attracted many upper-middle class families to developments in the eastern portion of the county. This development, along with the shift of conservative white Democrats towards the Republican Party in the wake of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, led to increased support for the GOP in the following years. Richard Nixon narrowly carried the county in 1968, making it the only county in Greater Houston outside of Harris County to go Republican that year, and carried it again in 1972. In 1976, conservative physician Ron Paul of Brazoria County, noted for his opposition to most government programs, which earned him the nickname "Dr. No", captured the 22nd district in the United States House of Representatives in a special election, before narrowly losing reelection in the November election in which Gerald Ford also won Fort Bend, despite losing Texas to Jimmy Carter.
Beginning in 1978, Republicans began to win several offices within the county, with William P. Clements carrying the county in his successful run for governor. That same year, Paul was returned to Congress, while businessman Tom DeLay captured the county's seat in the Texas House of Representatives. In 1984 DeLay succeeded Paul in Congress after the latter ran an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign, and became House majority leader by 2002. Beginning in 1982, Republicans won a number of county-level offices and judicial benches, and Fort Bend County's new reputation as a Republican stronghold culminated in the 1994 election of a Republican county judge to the commissioners' court for the first time since Reconstruction. As of 2019 five of Fort Bend County's eight countywide offices, including two precinct-level positions, are held by Republicans. The remaining three are held by Democrats.
With growing populations of minorities and more socially moderate suburban voters who often break Republican on fiscal and economic issues, Fort Bend County has recently become more competitive. In 2008 Democrat Barack Obama came very close to winning the county, with 48.6% of the vote to Republican John McCain's 50.9%. In 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first Democrat to carry the county since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, largely due to the unpopularity of Republican nominee Donald Trump, with many voters splitting their tickets between Clinton and Republicans for other offices; Republicans won every elected countywide office by a margin similar to Clinton's, while also defeating an incumbent Democrat on the Fort Bend County Commissioners' Court. In 2018 significant enthusiasm for U.S. Senate candidate Beto O' Rourke and strong Democratic infrastructure resulted in Democratic control of the Commissioners' Court (including County Judge) and a number of countywide administrative and judicial posts, with Fort Bend Independent School District board trustee KP George becoming Texas's first Asian-American County Judge.
Fort Bend County is often considered a swing county, with election results usually tilting more Democratic than statewide results, which almost always favor Republicans nowadays. Elections within the county are often decided by margins in more Republican-leaning areas in Sugar Land, Rosenberg, and southern Missouri City, with Republicans dominating in the Katy, Fulshear, and rural southern areas of the county and Democrats in the county's northeast corner around northern Missouri City and Fresno, as well as heavily Hispanic Mission Bend.
Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the federal government has enforced it by regularly reviewing voting patterns and local practices, and plaintiffs have sometimes sued state or local governments over discriminatory practices. In April 2009, as part of a settlement with the United States Department of Justice, officials of Fort Bend County agreed to increase assistance to Spanish-speaking Latino voters in elections held in the county.
|Commissioners||Name||Party||First Elected||Communities Represented|
|Precinct 1||Vincent Morales ||Republican||2016||Arcola, Beasley, Fairchilds, Fresno, Greatwood, Needville, Orchard, Richmond, Rosenberg, Sienna Plantation|
|Precinct 2||Grady Prestage||Democratic||1990||eastern Stafford, most of Missouri City east of FM 1092, Meadows Place, Mission Bend|
|Precinct 3||Andy Meyers||Republican||1996||Cinco Ranch, Fulshear, Lakemont, Pecan Grove, Simonton, small portions of Sugar Land|
|Precinct 4||Ken DeMerchant||Democratic||2018||Most of Sugar Land, Missouri City west of FM 1092, New Territory, Riverstone|
|County Attorney||Roy L. Cordes, Jr.||Republican|
|County Clerk||Laura Richard||Republican|
|District Attorney||Brian Middleton||Democratic|
|District Clerk||Beverley McGrew Walker||Democratic|
|Tax Assessor-Collector||Carrie Surratt||Democratic|
United States Congress
|Senate Class 1||Ted Cruz||Republican||2012||Junior Senator|
|Senate Class 2||John Cornyn||Republican||2002||Senior Senator|
|Representatives||Name||Party||First Elected||Area(s) of Fort Bend County Represented|
|District 9||Al Green||Democratic||2004||Mission Bend, eastern portion of Stafford, northern and eastern portions of Missouri City, county's entire share of Houston|
|District 22||Pete Olson||Republican||2008||Majority of Sugar Land, Rosenberg and Greater Katy areas, plus Fulshear, western and southern Missouri City and Stafford|
|District||Name||Party||First Elected||Area(s) of Fort Bend County Represented|
|13||Borris Miles||Democratic||2016||Northern portions of Missouri City, Stafford, county's share of Houston|
|17||Joan Huffman||Republican||2008||most of Sugar Land, Mission Bend and southern Missouri City|
|18||Lois Kolkhorst||Republican||2015 (special)||Richmond, Rosenberg, Katy, Fulshear, Needville and western portions of Sugar Land|
Texas House of Representatives
|District||Name||Party||First Elected||Area(s) of Fort Bend County Represented|
|26||Rick Miller||Republican||2012||Most of Sugar Land, plus Richmond, Pecan Grove and Greatwood|
|27||Ron Reynolds||Democratic||2010||Missouri City, Sienna Plantation, Fresno and county's share of Houston|
|28||John M. Zerwas||Republican||2006||Northern areas of county including Cinco Ranch, Fulshear and Richmond|
|85||Phil Stephenson||Republican||2012||Southern areas including Rosenberg, Needville and Riverstone; district also includes all of Wharton and Jackson counties|
Prisons for men:
- Jester III Unit (unincorporated area) (co-located with the Jester units)
- Carol Vance Unit (unincorporated area) (co-located with the Jester units)
- Jester I Unit – Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility (unincorporated area) (co-located with the Jester units)
- Jester IV Unit – Psychiatric Facility (unincorporated area) (co-located with the Jester units)
The TDCJ announced that the Central Unit in Sugar Land was closing in 2011. The City of Sugar Land is exploring the property for future economic development, including light industrial uses, as well as a potential expansion of Sugar Land Regional Airport.
In contrast to Greater Houston in general, Fort Bend County's economy is more diverse, with numerous service-sector jobs in healthcare, energy, education, hospitality and other areas. Major companies with a presence in the county include Schlumberger, Minute Maid, Fluor and Sunoco's logistics operations in Sugar Land. The Houston Business Journal reported in 2010 that the diversity of industries promoted decades of rapid population growth. After Memorial Hermann Hospital and St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital opened facilities in Fort Bend County, already home to local facilities for Houston Methodist Hospital in Sugar Land, as well as locally based OakBend Medical Center in Richmond, many doctors moved their offices to the county. Compared to Montgomery County, which has experienced rapid growth in corporate employment following ExxonMobil's decision to move its Greater Houston operations to an area directly south of The Woodlands, Fort Bend County has yet to experience significant corporate growth, even though Schlumberger recently announced plans to move its North American headquarters to Sugar Land.
Public school districts
- Brazos Independent School District
- Fort Bend Independent School District
- Katy Independent School District
- Lamar Consolidated Independent School District
- Needville Independent School District
- Stafford Municipal School District
Kendleton Independent School District closed in 2010.
- University of Houston Sugar Land campus
- Houston Community College System
- Wharton County Junior College
Fort Bend County Libraries operates many libraries in the county.
Houston Public Library operates one branch in the county.
Local newspapers in the county include three weeklies: the Fort Bend Star, headquartered in Stafford; the Fort Bend Independent; and the Fort Bend Sun, headquartered in Sugar Land. The daily Fort Bend Herald and Texas Coaster focuses on news coverage in the Richmond-Rosenberg area. Fort Bend County is also a major service area for the Houston Chronicle, which provides separate local coverage for the Sugar Land and Katy areas.
Major Farm to Market Roads
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Privately owned airports for public use include:
- Houston Fort Bend Airport in an unincorporated area east of Beasley
- Houston Southwest Airport in Arcola
- Westheimer Air Park in an unincorporated area between Fulshear and Houston
Privately owned airports for private use include:
The following general aviation heliports (all privately owned, for private use) exist in unincorporated areas:
- Dewberry Heliport in an unincorporated area between Fulshear and Katy
The closest airport with regularly scheduled commercial service is Houston's William P. Hobby Airport in Harris County. Fort Bend County is within the primary service area of George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
Fort Bend County officially created a department of Public Transportation in 2005 that provides commuter buses to Uptown, Greenway Plaza, and Texas Medical Center. It also provides Demand and Response Buses to senior citizens and the general public that travel only in Fort Bend County. Parts of the county, such as Katy and Missouri City, participate in the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County and are served by several Park and Ride routes.
Cities (multiple counties)
- Houston (mostly in Harris County and a small part in Montgomery County)
- Katy (partly in Harris, Waller and Fort Bend Counties)
- Missouri City (small part in Harris County)
- Pearland (mostly in Brazoria County and a small part in Harris County)
- Stafford (small part in Harris County)
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2019)
- List of museums in the Texas Gulf Coast
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Fort Bend County, Texas
- Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks in Fort Bend County
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- Quinn, Kevin (2016-11-10). "Political shift in Ft. Bend leans toward Clinton". ABC13 Houston. Archived from the original on 2016-11-10. Retrieved 2016-11-10.
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- Gray, Lisa (January 2, 2019). "Indian-American K.P. George takes historic place as Fort Bend County judge". Houston Chronicle.
- Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Archived from the original on 23 March 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- "Commissioner's defeat leaves 1 Dem on Fort Bend County board". timesunion.com. Archived from the original on 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- "Detention." Fort Bend County. October 3, 2006.
- "JESTER III (J3) Archived 2008-08-21 at the Wayback Machine." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
- "VANCE (J2) Archived 2008-08-21 at the Wayback Machine." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
- "JESTER I (J3) Archived 2008-08-21 at the Wayback Machine." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
- "JESTER IV (J4) Archived 2008-08-21 at the Wayback Machine." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
- Ward, Mike. "Texas closing prison as part of cutbacks Archived April 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine." Austin American-Statesman at KDH News. Wednesday August 3, 2011. Retrieved on September 23, 2011.
- "Fort Bend County tops Forbes growth list." Houston Business Journal. Tuesday February 2, 2010. Retrieved on February 8, 2010.
- Latson, Jennifer. "Businesses finding the suburbs superb Archived 2010-09-12 at the Wayback Machine." Houston Chronicle. May 18, 2010. Retrieved on May 24, 2010.
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- http://www.FBCTransit.org Fort Bend County Transit
- TxDoT, TTC Section C & S, Detailed Maps 2 & 3, 2007-12-17[permanent dead link]
- "Map of Stafford" (PDF). City of Stafford. Retrieved 2019-11-07. - Linked from this page on the Stafford website - Based on the location, BAPS is in the extraterritorial jurisdiction but not the city limits
- "Home". BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston, TX, USA. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir 1150 Brand Lane Stafford, TX 77477 USA- Despite the "Stafford, TX" city name, it is outside of the Stafford city limits
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fort Bend County, Texas.|
- Fort Bend Panthers Lacrosse website
- Fort Bend Rangers Lacrosse website
- Fort Bend County official website
- Historic Images from the Fort Bend Museum hosted by the Portal to Texas History
- Fort Bend Museum Web site
- Fort Bend County, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Fort Bend County profile from The County Information Project