Kilgore, Texas

Coordinates: 32°23′8″N 94°52′7″W / 32.38556°N 94.86861°W / 32.38556; -94.86861
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Kilgore, Texas
World's Richest Acre Park in downtown Kilgore, where the greatest concentration of oil wells in the world once stood.
World's Richest Acre Park in downtown Kilgore, where the greatest concentration of oil wells in the world once stood.
"The City of Stars"
Location of Kilgore, Texas
Location of Kilgore, Texas
Coordinates: 32°23′8″N 94°52′7″W / 32.38556°N 94.86861°W / 32.38556; -94.86861
CountryUnited States United States
CountiesGregg, Rusk
 • TypeCouncil-Manager
 • City CouncilMayor R.E. Spradlin III
Merlyn Holmes
Missy Merritt
Victor A. Boyd
 • City ManagerJosh Selleck
 • Total18.65 sq mi (48.29 km2)
 • Land18.61 sq mi (48.20 km2)
 • Water0.04 sq mi (0.09 km2)
358 ft (109 m)
 • Total13,376
 • Density798.02/sq mi (308.12/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code903
FIPS code48-39124[2]
GNIS feature ID1339101[3]

Kilgore is a city in Gregg and Rusk counties in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Texas. Over three-fourths of the area within city limits are located in Gregg County, the remainder in Rusk County. The population was 12,975 at the 2010 census[4] and 13,376 at the 2020 census.[5]

From the age of six, Van Cliburn lived in Kilgore; he became an internationally known classical pianist. He is the namesake for Van Cliburn Auditorium on the Kilgore College campus.


Kilgore was founded in 1872 when the International–Great Northern Railroad completed the initial phase of rail line between Palestine and Longview. The rail company chose to bypass New Danville, a small community about 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Longview, in lieu of a new townsite platted on 174 acres (0.70 km2) sold to the railroad by Constantine Buckley Kilgore, the town's namesake. That way the railroad gained the profits from sale and development of these lands.

The new town received a post office in 1873 and, with a station and transportation for getting commodity crops to market, soon began to draw residents and businesses away from New Danville. By 1885, the population had reached 250, and the community had two cotton gins, a church, and a school (for white children only). The racially segregated Kilgore Independent School District was organized in 1910. By 1914 the town had two banks, several businesses, and a reported population of 700. The 1920s showed continued steady growth, and by 1929 Kilgore was home to an estimated 1,000 residents.

Prosperity came to a halt, however, when Kilgore was dealt severe blows by a steep decline in cotton prices (on which most of the town's economy was still based), and the effects of the Great Depression. Businesses began to close and, by the middle of 1930, the population had fallen to 500; the community appeared destined to become a ghost town. Many Blacks joined the Great Migration out of the South to northern, midwestern, and western cities for work.

Kilgore's fortunes changed dramatically on October 3, 1930, when wildcatter Columbus M. "Dad" Joiner struck oil near the neighboring town of Henderson. This well, known as the Daisy Bradford #3, marked the discovery of the vast East Texas Oil Field. Seemingly overnight Kilgore was transformed from a small farming town on the decline into a bustling boomtown. The Daisy Bradford #3 was subsequently followed by the Lou Della Crim No. 1 and many others.[6][7] By 1936, the population had increased to more than 12,000, and Kilgore's skyline was crowded with oil derricks.

Oil production continued at a breakneck pace throughout the early 1930s, with more than 1,100 producing oil wells within city limits at the height of the boom. The explosive growth left most civic services overwhelmed, and as a result Kilgore was forced to incorporate in 1931. With the city flooded with male workers and roustabouts, law enforcement struggled to keep order among the shanties, tents, and ramshackle honky-tonks that crowded Kilgore's main streets. On one occasion, they had to summon help from the Texas Rangers to keep the peace.

By the mid-1930s the oil boom had begun to subside, and most of the small oil companies and wildcatters had sold out to major corporations. The boom was essentially over by 1940. But oil production has remained central to the city's economy. The population, which fluctuated wildly throughout the 1930s, stabilized at around 10,000 in the 1950s. A 2015 estimate placed it at just under 15,000 residents.


Main Street promotional sign in Kilgore

Kilgore is located in southern Gregg County at 32°23′8″N 94°52′7″W / 32.38556°N 94.86861°W / 32.38556; -94.86861 (32.385534, –94.868502),[8] and extends south into Rusk County. U.S. Route 259 passes through the east side of the city as a limited-access bypass, leading northeast 11 miles (18 km) to Longview and south 17 miles (27 km) to Henderson. Kilgore's city limits extend 3 miles (5 km) north from the city center as far as Interstate 20, with access from Exits 583, 587, and 589. I-20 leads east 69 miles (111 km) to Shreveport, Louisiana, and west 119 miles (192 km) to Dallas.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Kilgore has a total area of 15.7 square miles (40.7 km2), of which 15.7 square miles (40.6 km2) are land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2), or 0.22%, are covered by water.[4]

Major highways[edit]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[9]
Kilgore racial composition as of 2020[10]
(NH = Non-Hispanic)[a]
Race Number Percentage
White (NH) 7,762 58.03%
Black or African American (NH) 1,857 13.88%
Native American or Alaska Native (NH) 34 0.25%
Asian (NH) 111 0.83%
Pacific Islander (NH) 5 0.04%
Some Other Race (NH) 32 0.24%
Mixed/Multi-Racial (NH) 577 4.31%
Hispanic or Latino 2,998 22.41%
Total 13,376

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 13,376 people, 5,060 households, and 3,476 families residing in the city.

As of the census[2] of 2000, 11,301 people, 4,403 households, and 2,963 families resided in the city. The population density was 734.3 inhabitants per square mile (283.5/km2). The 4,766 housing units averaged 309.7 per square mile (119.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.22% White, 12.34% African American, 0.41% Native American, 0.68% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 6.95% from other races, and 1.38% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 11.11% of the population.

Of the 4,403 households, 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.5% were married couples living together, 12.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.7% were not families. About 27.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the city, the population was distributed as 24.6% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $43,129, and for a family was $61,765. Males had a median income of $45,995 versus $30,124 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,297. About 9.7% of families and 15.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.1% of those under age 18 and 13.9% of those age 65 or over.[13]

Arts and culture[edit]

Kilgore Public Library

Kilgore is the home of the Mount Tabor Indian Community, a cultural heritage organization and nonprofit organization.[14]

Texas Shakespeare Festival[edit]

Kilgore is home to the Texas Shakespeare Festival, an annual summer repertory company. Founded in 1986, the Texas Shakespeare Festival presents four shows in rotating repertory every summer at the Van Cliburn Auditorium on the campus of Kilgore College.

Kilgore Public Library[edit]

Based on the style of Normandy cottages, construction of the Kilgore Public Library began in 1933 and was completed in 1939. The New Deal agencies, the Public Works Administration and Works Progress Administration of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, participated in the construction.

East Texas Pipe Organ Festival[edit]

Every November, Kilgore hosts the East Texas Pipe Organ Festival, which honors the work of pipe organ voicer Roy Perry (1906–1978). Perry, a longtime resident of Kilgore, worked for the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company, and he oversaw the construction of highly regarded pipe organs at St. Mark's Cathedral (Shreveport, Louisiana) and Washington National Cathedral.

Kilgore Film Festival[edit]

The Kilgore Film Festival began in 1998 under the sponsorship of KTPB, the former public radio station of Kilgore College.[15] Each year a festival is held in the Spring and Fall offering moviegoers a chance to see unique and award-winning selections. The festival is held at Kilgore's 4 Star Cinema.


Kilgore City Hall sign evokes the importance of oil to the city's history.

Local government[edit]

According to the city's most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Fund Financial Statements, the city's various funds had $17.4 million in revenues, $19.4 million in expenditures, $19.5 million in total assets, $0.8 million in total liabilities, and $17.5 million in investments.[16]

The structure of the management and coordination of city services is:[16]

Department Director
City Manager Joshua C. Selleck
City Attorney
Blake Armstrong
City Clerk Rachel Rowe
Municipal Court Judge Glenn D. Phillips
Police Chief Todd Hunter
General Services Director B. J. Owen
Public Works Director Clay Evers
Finance Director Landon Ward
Fire Chief Mark Henderson
Library Director Stacey Cole
Planning Director Carol Windham

State government[edit]

Kilgore is represented in the Texas Senate by Republican Bryan Hughes, District 1, and in the Texas House of Representatives by Republican David Simpson, District 7 and Travis Clardy, District 11.

Federal government[edit]

At the federal level, the two U.S. senators from Texas are Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Kilgore is part of Texas's 1st congressional district, which is currently represented by Republican Nathaniel Moran.


The East Texas Oil Museum is located on the campus of Kilgore College.

Public schools[edit]

The city is served by the Kilgore Independent School District. A small portion of the town is also served by the Sabine ISD.

Colleges and universities[edit]

Kilgore College is home to the Rangers and the Kilgore College Rangerettes.


The Kilgore News Herald is a twice-weekly newspaper published in the city.[17]

Notable events[edit]

On September 23, 1983, five men and women were abducted from a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Kilgore and found slain, execution-style, in an oilfield outside of town. The crime went unsolved until November 2005, when two men, already in prison for other crimes, were charged, tried and convicted for this crime.[18]

In 2001, the Kilgore College Ranger football team had a perfect season, winning the Southwest Junior College Football Conference. The 2001 squad finished #2 in the nation, losing the NJCAA national championship when the coaches poll gave the championship to Georgia Military College.

On December 18, 2004, the Kilgore High School "Ragin' Red" Bulldog football team completed a perfect season (16–0) after winning the Class 4A Division II state championship game, 33–27, in a double-overtime thriller against the Dallas Lincoln Tigers at Baylor University's Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco. Nick Sanders blocked a potential go-ahead field goal attempt by Lincoln and returned it for the winning touchdown.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

Notable people[edit]



  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Kilgore city, Texas". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved March 23, 2017.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Kilgore, Texas Population 2021 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs)".
  6. ^ "Joinerville in East Texas".
  7. ^ Olien, Diana; Olien, Roger (2002). Oil in Texas, The Gusher Age, 1895-1945. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 170–171. ISBN 0292760566.
  8. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  9. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  10. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved May 25, 2022.
  11. ^[not specific enough to verify]
  12. ^ "About the Hispanic Population and its Origin". Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  13. ^ "American Community Survey results for Kilgore, TX 2007-2011". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  14. ^ Brewer, Graham Lee; Ahtone, Tristan (December 27, 2021). "In Texas, a group claiming to be Cherokee faces questions about authenticity". NBC News. Retrieved May 28, 2022.
  15. ^ "Kilgore Film Festival celebrates ten years of unique movies". Kilgore News Herald. September 21, 2008. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011.
  16. ^ a b City of Kilgore 2009 CAFR Archived 2014-07-01 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 2010-11-11
  17. ^ "Kilgore News Herald". Kilgore News Herald. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  18. ^ Kentucky Fried Chicken murders
  19. ^ "Kilgore outlasts Dallas Lincoln in 2OT for 4A title". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  20. ^ ""East Texas Red" ~ Woody Guthrie". Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  21. ^ Matt Damon on Letterman impersonates McConaughey. CBS. December 11, 2016. Event occurs at 0:59. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  22. ^ Meyers, Bill. "Money: the Charles Hurwitz story". Coast Magazine. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  23. ^ Harrris, David (1996). The Last Stand: The War Between Wall Street and Main Street over California's Ancient Redwoods. Sierra Club Books. p. 27. ISBN 9780871569448.
  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.[11][12]

External links[edit]