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Columbia, Tennessee

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Columbia, Tennessee
Columbia, Tennessee courthouse square
Columbia, Tennessee courthouse square
Official seal of Columbia, Tennessee

Mule Town
Old South Charm, New South Progress Something good around every corner.
Location of Columbia in Maury County, Tennessee.
Location of Columbia in Maury County, Tennessee.
Coordinates: 35°36′54″N 87°2′40″W / 35.61500°N 87.04444°W / 35.61500; -87.04444
CountryUnited States
 • MayorChaz Molder
 • Total29.6 sq mi (76.7 km2)
 • Land29.6 sq mi (76.7 km2)
 • Water0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
643 ft (196 m)
 • Total34,681
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,116.8/sq mi (431.2/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)931
FIPS code47-16540[2]
GNIS feature ID1269483[3]
WebsiteCity of Columbia

Columbia is a city in and the county seat[4] of Maury County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 34,681 at the 2010 census[5] and in 2013 the population was 35,558.

The "Mule capital of the world," Columbia annually celebrates the city-designated Mule Day each April. Columbia and Maury County are acknowledged as the "Antebellum Homes Capital of Tennessee", with more pre-Civil War homes than any other county in the state. The city is home to one of the last two surviving residences of the 11th President of the United States, James Knox Polk, the other being the White House.

Historically, Columbia was the site of significant racial violence against African Americans: three black men were lynched in the early 20th century, and a race riot was conducted against blacks in 1946 that resulted in two deaths and destroyed their business district. Twenty-five black men were charged with attempted murder of four police who were wounded, and were defended by civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP. He gained acquittals for most of the men, even with all-white juries.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    35 153
    13 149
  • ✪ Tennessee Crossroads | Columbia Photos
  • ✪ 1946 Columbia Race Riot
  • ✪ Cabin with Acreage For Sale in Columbia Tennessee - 1320 Redbud Ln
  • ✪ 4-H Junior Camp Columbia, TN
  • ✪ 1861 Girls School at the Athanaeum Rectory in Columbia, Tennessee


- Taking pictures is a breeze these days as long as you have one of these guys. There was a time, however, when taking pictures took time, money, and patience. Well, imagine then, finding over a million photographic negatives, some dating back to the 1870s. Rob Wiles went down to Columbia to witness some of this collection and discover how it's being preserved for the future. (relaxed music) - [Rob] West Seventh Company in Columbia didn't start out to be a photo gallery. That phase of its life began, appropriately enough, with a conversation about a camera. Joel Fridell and his wife Kim Hayes were buying the building from David White. This building had long housed a photography studio, but the huge camera would have to go. That just didn't sit well with Joel. - [Joel] He and I both talked about it being sold out of the county, and we just thought that that was a terrible thing. His wife wouldn't let him take it home 'cause it was too big. I said, "Well, one day, there'll be a museum here. "So I'll buy the camera "and it'll stay here at your camera shop." - [Rob] Then, David mentioned the negatives stored in the building. The collection of W.A. Orman started more than half a century ago. (relaxed music) - We have really just scratched the surface. When you deal with this many photos and there are more than a million. - [Rob] More than a million? - More than a million. - [Rob] An honest million, not an exaggeration million? - Not an exaggeration million. We have boxes and boxes that we have yet to even open. Each one of these has envelopes, and the envelopes are stuffed in, and inside the envelopes are negatives. Very thin, so you just don't know how many negatives are in there. - [Rob] Of course, just looking at and cataloging all those negatives, could be a life's work for David, Joel, and Kim. But not work, really, a treasure hunt. - So here, when you get to this truck that has the insignia on it, see that's where. - Right there. - Bitty will have to ask. - My wife laughs at me. I'll go out and open up a box and I'll come back and say, "You wouldn't believe what I found." - [Joel] Look at the way the clouds are that day. - [Rob] Some can be saved. Some may be lost for good, like these taken of a fire in Spring Hill which virtually destroyed the whole town back in 1938. - [David] The whole town basically burned down, but look, see. - [Kim] So you'll have to soak them. - [David] Well, you can't soak these because if you do, the emulsion, the rest of it, will just come completely off. So the only thing you can do is scan them. - [Joel] Uh-huh and just start piecing it back together. - [David] And just start piecing it back together. - [Rob] Still, many survive. Each giving us a look at how things were in Columbia, Tennessee. (upbeat music) - [David] The workers have posed, because in those days, you'd have to do a really long exposure. They're all over the building, including, there's a guy standing on the very tip top on the clock tower. That one is a pretty amazing photo. - [Rob] Also amazing, a photo of an even older courthouse. - We found the previous courthouse. That was something that was very unexpected. They tore it down in 1903 and the photo appears to be the preparation for tearing it down. It's a wonderful full-on photo and it's just amazing that we have a photo of the previous courthouse. - [Rob] Then there are the photos of the kinds of tragedies every town endures, a fire at Gordons Department Store. (sorrowful music) - [Joel] And it's such a cold day, that while they're spraying water on the building, it's freezing. So as soon as they take this picture, you've got icicles where a fire just was and in the lower window are mannequins that are just still smiling and happy. - [Bitty] I was here then. I remember that, we were called at home, that Gordons was on fire. - [Rob] I bet that was a traumatic-- - Oh, it was. - [Rob] Event at the time. (peaceful music) - [Rob] So you're helping out, telling the people here what's in these photographs. - Any of these that I know. - [Rob] Bitty Crozier knows about many of these photos because she knows the people in them. - Colonel Waverley Hayes Jackson is who that is. - [Rob] She's lived in Columbia all her life. Now in her 90s, she came into the gallery and found family. - [Bitty] When I came in the first time, that's when I saw my husband. (peaceful music) His name is Houston Crozier, called Hoos. Hoos is all anybody ever called him. I didn't know him when he looked like that. - [Rob] Well, he looks like he's kinda got a little attitude there leaning on the gas pumps like that. - And then I looked across on the wall over here and there was my daddy in front of a Western Union. He was the manager of the Western Union. (peaceful music) There was nothing by it, no name at all. They had no idea. - We didn't know anything about it. - Who it was. - [Rob] Bitty and other people in town have become sort of detectives to help find out about the people and the places in the photographs. - We ran into his daughter. - This guy? - And it's not who we were told it was. We're exposing people to photos that they haven't seen in decades, but we're also having people that are coming in that are 60, 70, 90 years old and they're telling us stories about family businesses finding family members. There's sort of a race against time here to be able to get the information that you couldn't get any other way. - That is Bowser Frakes, and he was married to my mother's sister. (upbeat music) - [Rob] So, with close to a million more negatives to look through, nobody knows what photos are ahead, but David White definitely knows what they've found. - [David] This is in front of the Bethel Coffee Shop and that's 1938. When you look at the, the way these photographers, the equipment that they had to use, the film that they had to use. To get great shots they had to be a master of photography. If people just realized how much work it was to get a photograph back then. Good was a big ordeal. - [Rob] Looking at the photos, however, well, that's a delight. - That one's awesome. - [Rob] And with many more negatives to explore and restore, Joel knows he may not get to them all before he retires. - [Joel] We realize that we won't, that this is such an enormous process. There's so much research that has to be done and just the physical nature of going through the photos when you have this many. This is something that we're gonna have to set up a nonprofit in the future to be able to make sure that this collection continues, it is accessible, and that the research continues. - [Rob] And the results, on view at the West Seventh Company Gallery in Columbia. (peaceful music)



The James K. Polk Home in Columbia is the only one of President Polk's private homes that is still standing
The James K. Polk Home in Columbia is the only one of President Polk's private homes that is still standing

A year after the organization of Maury County in 1807 by European Americans, Columbia was laid out in 1808 and lots were sold. The original town, on the south bank of the Duck River, consisted of four blocks. The town was incorporated in 1817.

For decades during the antebellum years, it was the county seat when Maury County was the richest county in the state, based on its agricultural wealth. Plantations used slave labor to cultivate and process commodity crops of tobacco and hemp, as well as raising high-quality livestock. There were many farms for breeding thoroughbred race horses. To support these industries, the county slaveholders held a significant proportion of slave workers. Although Tennessee had competitive voting during the Reconstruction era, in the late 19th century, the white-dominated state legislature passed laws to disenfranchise African Americans by raising barriers to voter registration. This political exclusion largely continued deep into the 20th century. This adversely affected racial relations for decades in Columbia and Maury County.

The county had 5 documented lynchings in the period from 1877 to 1950; most occurred in the 20th century.[6] In 1924 a black man was shot and killed in the courthouse by his alleged victim's brother after his sentence was set aside. In 1927 and 1933, young black men were lynched in Maury County for alleged assaults against white women; the first was being held as a suspect when he was lynched.[7] In 1933 Cordie Cheek, a 19-year-old black man, was falsely accused of raping a white girl. After a grand jury declined to indict him, he was abducted from Nashville by white men including law officials, and taken back to Columbia, where he was castrated and lynched by a white mob.[7][8]

During World War II there was an expansion in Columbia of phosphate mining and the chemical industry to support the war effort. By the 1940 census, the total city population was 10,579,[9] of whom more than 3,000 were African American.[7] Chemical plants were a site of labor unrest between white and black workers after the war, as veterans sought to re-enter the economy. Black veterans did not want second-class status after having fought in the war.[7] This period led to a more active campaign for civil rights during the 1950s and 1960s throughout the state.

Today, the county is a heritage tourist destination, because of its numerous historic sites. Attractions include the James K. Polk Home, the Columbia Athenaeum, Mule Day, and nearby plantation homes.

Columbia is the location of Tennessee's first two-year college, Columbia State Community College, established in 1966. President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird Johnson dedicated the new campus on March 15, 1967.

Clifton Place

Historic American Buildings Survey, W. Jeter Eason, Deputy District Officer, Photographer June 6, 1936 DETAIL OF WEST ELEVATION. - Clifton Place, State Highway 6, Columbia, HABS TENN,60-COLUM.V,1-1

Clifton Place is a historic plantation mansion located southwest of the city on the Mt. Pleasant Pike (Columbia highway).[10] Master builder Nathan Vaught started construction in 1838, and the mansion and other buildings were completed in 1839, for Gideon Johnson Pillow (1806-1877) on land inherited from Gideon Pillow.

Columbia race riot of 1946

On February 25, 1946, a civil disturbance dubbed "the Columbia Race Riot" broke out in the county seat. It was covered by the national press as the first "major racial confrontation" following World War II.[11] The black community well remembered Cheek's lynching in 1933 and were determined to defend themselves when threatened.

In a fight instigated by William "Billy" Fleming, a white repair apprentice[12], black Navy veteran James Stephenson fought back and wounded him; Stephenson had been on the boxing team and refused to accept being hit. Stephenson had accompanied his mother to the repair store, which had mistakenly sold a radio which she had left for repair[7] to John Calhoun Fleming, father[12] to the aforementioned Billy. A white mob gathered and the apprentice's father convinced the sheriff to charge both Stephensons with attempted murder.[13]

Rumors were rife that the Stephensons would be lynched. As whites gathered in the square talking about the incident, blacks armed themselves and planned to defend their business district known as "the Bottom" by the black community[14], starting about one block south of the square. Later that evening whites drove around the area, shooting randomly into it; they called this neighborhood "Mink Slide." Armed black men turned out the street lights and shot out others, patrolling the area for defense. Four policemen who entered the area were wounded and retreated, increasing white rage.

Worried that the small police force could not control the mob, the mayor called in the State Guard and the sheriff called in the state Highway Patrol that night. The Guard resisted Patrol requests to arm the white mob. In an uncoordinated effort, the Highway Patrol entered the district early the next morning before a planned time; they provoked more violence and destroyed numerous businesses.[7] Eventually through the next day, they and the State Guard rounded up more than 100 black suspects in the police shootings. No whites were charged at that point. Two black men were killed and a third wounded in what the police said was an escape attempt while the Highway Patrol was trying to take them from the jail to the sheriff's office.[7][15] The State Guard was withdrawn on March 3.

Twenty-five black men were eventually charged with attempted murder of the four policemen. Another six were charged with lesser crimes, as were four white men.[7] The main attorney defending Stephenson and other men in the case was Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP, together with Z. Alexander Looby, who was based in Nashville but associated with the national legal team, and Maurice Weaver, a white civil rights lawyer from Chattanooga, Tennessee.[13]

Marshall asked for a change of venue, hoping to get the trial moved to Nashville or another major city, but the judge surprisingly agreed to move the trial to nearby Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Local residents there were not happy to be involved in the controversial case. Marshall and his team achieved acquittal from an all-white jury for all but two men. The prosecution dropped their charges against these men, as they believed the convictions would be overturned on appeal. The Stephensons were never tried, nor were four whites charged with murder, nor several blacks. Of two black men tried for murder, only Loyd Kennedy was convicted in his trial of 1947.[15]

The NAACP continued their publicity campaign about the events, which were covered by national media.[7] The case gained much attention on the issue of civil rights for African Americans in the United States, and the NAACP and other organizations put pressure on President Harry S. Truman to take action to improve the situation. He appointed a President's Committee on Civil Rights, which issued its report in October 1947.[7] Marshall was later appointed as the first black United States Supreme Court justice. [13]


The Old Columbia Dam is a concrete gravity dam constructed during the 1930s, before TVA.
The Old Columbia Dam is a concrete gravity dam constructed during the 1930s, before TVA.

Columbia is located at 35°36′54″N 87°2′40″W / 35.61500°N 87.04444°W / 35.61500; -87.04444 (35.615022, −87.044464).[16] It is nestled along the banks of the Duck River at the southern edge of the Nashville Basin with the higher elevated ridges of the Highland Rim located to the south and west of the city. The Duck River is the longest river located entirely within the state of Tennessee. Free flowing for most of its length, the Duck River is home to over 50 species of freshwater mussels and 151 species of fish, making it the most biologically diverse river in North America. It enters the city of Manchester and meets its confluence with a major tributary, The Little Duck River, at Old Stone Fort State Park, named after an ancient Native American structure between the two rivers believed to be nearly 2,000 years old. The Duck River is sacred to most of the founding Native American tribes east of the Mississippi River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.6 square miles (77 km2), of which 29.6 square miles (77 km2) is land and 0.03% is water. Incorporated in 1817, the city is at an elevation of 637 feet (194 m).


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201637,540[1]8.2%

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 33,055 people, 13,059 households, and 8,801 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,116.8 people per square mile (431.2/km²). There were 14,322 housing units at an average density of 483.9 per square mile (186.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 64.63% White, 30.13% African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.41% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.06% from other races, and 1.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.70% of the population.

There were 13,059 households out of which 32.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.8% were married couples living together, 16.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.6% were non-families. 27.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.8% 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 2.98.

In the city, the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,879, and the median income for a family was $42,822. Males had a median income of $34,898 versus $22,093 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,004. About 10.9% of families and 13.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.7% of those under age 18 and 13.2% of those age 65 or over.


City council elections

Year Elected Votes % Seat
2011 Carl McCullen[18] 269 67% Ward 1
2011 Debbie Matthews[18] UO Ward 2
2011 Christa Martin[18] 242[18] 88% Ward 3
2011 Mike Greene UO[18] Ward 4
2011 Mark King 304[18] 57% Ward 5



The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Columbia has a humid subtropical climate. [19]




Popular culture

  • In 1986, a brief scene from the film At Close Range was filmed east of Columbia at a water-filled rock quarry.
  • In 1999, parts of the film The Green Mile were filmed in Williamsport, near Columbia.
  • In 2002, Stuey was filmed in Columbia and Nashville.
  • The film Daltry Calhoun, starring Johnny Knoxville, was filmed in Columbia and Spring Hill in 2004.
  • In 2009, Hannah Montana: The Movie was filmed at spots in downtown Columbia, at Maury County Airport, and a local dairy farm. Other local area film locations included Franklin High School in nearby Franklin and Nashville.[20]
  • In 2009, scenes for Bailey [2] (2010), a Mario Van Peebles film, were shot in downtown Columbia on the square and in other locations.[21]

Notable people


  1. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  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. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  5. ^ Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Certified Population of Tennessee Incorporated Municipalities and Counties Archived June 30, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, State of Tennessee official website, 14 July 2011. Retrieved: 6 December 2013.
  6. ^ Lynching in America, 2nd edition, Supplement by County, p. 6
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dorothy Beeler, "Race Riot in Columbia, Tennessee/ February 25-27, 1946", Tennessee Historical Quarterly Vol. 39, No. 1 (Spring 1980), pp. 49-61, accessed 6 March 2015
  8. ^ O'Brien, Gail Williams (1999). The Color of the Law: Race, Violence, and Justice in the Post-War II South. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 78–88.
  9. ^ a b "Census of Population and Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  10. ^ West, Carol Van (1995). Tennessee's Historic Landscapes: A Traveler's Guide. The University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville). pp. 367–368. ISBN 9780870498817. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  11. ^ King, Gilbert (2013). Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America. p. 8.
  12. ^ a b Cobb, Jr., Charles E. (2016). This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How guns made the Civil Rights Movement Possible. Durham and London: Duke University Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-8223-6123-7.
  13. ^ a b c Carroll Van West. "Columbia race riot, 1946". Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved 2008-07-04.
  14. ^ Cobb 2016, p. 55.
  15. ^ a b Gilbert King, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, HarperCollins, 2012, pp. 8 and 14
  16. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  17. ^ "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Resident Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 17, 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Richard Conn (November 2, 2011). "Newcomer nets council seat". Columbia, Tennessee: Mark Palmer. p. 2C. Retrieved November 2, 2011. Only 1,437, or 8 percent of 19,043 registered voters turned out at the polls.
  19. ^ Climate Summary for Columbia, Tennessee
  20. ^ Chris Graham (May 22, 2008). "Sweet niblets!". Columbia Daily Herald. Retrieved 2008-05-23.[dead link]
  21. ^ [1], Columbia Daily Herald, 4 September 2009
  22. ^ "Eradication of Hog Cholera", Agricultural Research Service Quote: "Marion Dorset of USDA's Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) demonstrated [in 1903] that hog cholera is caused by an ultramicroscopic virus, and hogs recovered from the disease are immune for life."
  23. ^ Sterling, Marlin. "Driver". Daytona 500 website. Archived from the original on December 28, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2011.

Further reading

  • Cobb, Jr., Charles E. (2016). This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How guns made the Civil Rights Movement Possible. Durham and London: Duke University Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-8223-6123-7.
  • Robert W. Ikard, No More Social Lynchings, Hillsboro Press, 1997
  • Janis Johnson. "A Tense Time in Tennessee", Humanities, March/ April 2004. Volume 2, Number 2. February 20, 2012.
  • Gilbert King, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, New York: HarperCollins, 2012
  • Gail W. O'Brien, The Color of the Law: Race, Violence, and Justice in the Post-World War II South, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
  • Sandra Seaton, The Bridge Party, East End Press, 2016.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 March 2019, at 20:40
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