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Abilene, Texas
Downtown Abilene
Downtown Abilene
Flag of Abilene, Texas
  • "The Key City"
  • "The Friendly Frontier"
Location in the state of Texas
Location in the state of Texas
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Country  United States
State  Texas
Counties Taylor, Jones
Settled 1881
Incorporated (town) 1881
County seat 1883
Named for Abilene, Kansas
County seat Taylor County
 • Type Council-Manager
 • City 112.09 sq mi (290.32 km2)
 • Land 106.67 sq mi (276.27 km2)
 • Water 5.42 sq mi (14.05 km2)
1,719 ft (527 m)
 • City 117,063
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,157.04/sq mi (446.74/km2)
 • Metro
 • Demonym
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
79601-08 79697-99
Area code 325
FIPS code 48-01000
GNIS feature ID 1329173
Interstates I-20.svg
U.S. Routes US 83.svg US 84.svg US 277.svg

Abilene ( ab-I-leen) is a city in Taylor and Jones Counties in Texas, United States. Its population was 125,182 at the 2020 census, making it the 27th-most populous city in the state of Texas. It is the principal city of the Abilene metropolitan statistical area, which had an estimated population of 169,893, as of 2016. It is the county seat of Taylor County. Dyess Air Force Base is located on the west side of the city.

Abilene is located off Interstate 20, between exits 279 on its western edge and 292 on the east. It is 150 miles (240 km) west of Fort Worth. The city is looped by I-20 to the north, US 83/84 on the west, and Loop 322 to the east. A railroad divides the city down the center into north and south. The historic downtown area is on the north side of the railroad.


Old map-Abilene-1883
An 1883 map of Abilene
Texas & Pacific Depot, Abilene, TX IMG 6262
The restored Texas & Pacific Railway depot in Abilene serves as the tourist information center.
Bank of America building, Abilene, TX IMG 6320
The 20-story Bank of America Enterprise Tower is the tallest building in west-central Texas and one of the five highest in the western two-thirds of the state.

Established by cattlemen as a stock shipping point on the Texas and Pacific Railway in 1881, the city was named after Abilene, Kansas, the original endpoint for the Chisholm Trail. The T&P had bypassed the town of Buffalo Gap, the county seat at the time. Eventually, a landowner north of Buffalo Gap, Clabe Merchant, known as the father of Abilene, chose the name for the new town. According to a Dallas newspaper, about 800 people had already begun camping at the townsite, before the lots were sold. The town was laid out by Colonel J. Stoddard Johnson, and the auction of lots began early on March 15, 1881. By the end of the first day, 139 lots were sold for a total of $23,810, and another 178 lots were sold the next day for $27,550.

Abilene was incorporated soon after being founded in 1881, and Abilenians began to set their sights on bringing the county seat to Abilene, and in a three-to-one vote, won the election. In 1888, the Progressive Committee was formed to attract businesses to the area, which later became the Board of Trade in 1890. By 1900, 3,411 people lived in Abilene, and in that decade, the Board of Trade changed its name to the 25,000 Club in the hope of reaching 25,000 people by the next census. However, this committee failed when the population only hit 9,204 in 1910. Replacing it was the Young Men's Booster Club, which became the Abilene Chamber of Commerce in 1914.

The cornerstone was laid for the first of three future universities in Abilene, called Simmons College, in 1891, which later became Hardin-Simmons University. Childers Classical Institute followed in 1906, currently Abilene Christian University, the largest of the three. In 1923, McMurry College was founded and later became McMurry University. Much more recently, Abilene succeeded in bringing Cisco Junior College and Texas State Technical College branches to Abilene, with the Cisco Junior College headquarters being located in Abilene.

In 1940, Abilene raised the money to purchase land for a U.S. Army base, southwest of town, named Camp Barkeley, which was at the time, twice the size of Abilene with 60,000 men. When the base closed, many worried that Abilene could become a ghost town, but in the post-World War II boom, many servicemen returned to start businesses in Abilene. In the early-1950s, residents raised $893,261 to purchase 3,400 acres (14 km2) of land for an air force base. Today, Dyess Air Force Base is the city's largest employer, with 6,076 employees. By 1960, Abilene's population nearly doubled in 10 years from 45,570 in 1950 to 90,638. In the same year, a second high school was added, Cooper High School. In 1966, the Abilene Zoo was created near Abilene Regional Airport. The following year, one of the most important bond elections in the city's history passed for the funding of the construction of the Abilene Civic Center and the Taylor County Coliseum, as well as major improvements to Abilene Regional Airport. In 1969, the Woodson elementary and high school for black students closed as the schools are integrated.

In 1982, Abilene became the first city in Texas to create a downtown reinvestment zone. Texas State Technical College opened an Abilene branch three years later. The 2,250-bed French Robertson Prison Unit was built in 1989. A half-cent sales tax earmarked for economic development was created after the decline in the petroleum business in the 1980s. The Grace Museum and Paramount Theatre revitalizations, along with Artwalk in 1992, sparked a decade of downtown restoration. In 2004, Frontier Texas!, a multimedia museum highlighting the history of the area from 1780 to 1880 was constructed, and a new $8 million, 38-acre (150,000 m2) Cisco Junior College campus was built at Loop 322 and Industrial Boulevard. Simultaneously, subdivisions and businesses started locating along the freeway, on the same side as the CJC campus, showing a slow but progressive trend for Abilene growth on the Loop. Abilene has become the commercial, retail, medical, and transportation hub of a 19-county area more commonly known as "The Big Country", but also known as the "Texas Midwest", and is part of the Central Great Plains ecology region. By the end of 2005, commercial and residential development had reached record levels in and around the city.


Abilene is located 150 miles (241 km) west by south of Fort Worth.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 110.6 square miles (286.5 km²), of which 105.1 square miles (272.3 km²) are land and 5.5 square miles (14.2 km²) are covered by water (4.95%).


According to the Köppen climate classification, Abilene lies at the edge of a humid subtropical climate, with areas to the west being semiarid.

Climate data for Abilene, Texas (1981−2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 90
Average high °F (°C) 56.8
Average low °F (°C) 33.0
Record low °F (°C) −9
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.02
Snowfall inches (cm) 1.8
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 4.7 5.4 6.0 5.0 7.7 7.0 5.1 5.9 5.8 6.6 4.6 5.1 68.9
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 0.9 0.7 0.3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.3 0.6 2.8
Sunshine hours 204.6 203.4 263.5 282.0 306.9 330.0 347.2 316.2 258.0 248.0 198.0 192.2 3,150
Source: National Weather Service, San Angelo Hong Kong Observatory (sun only, 1961–1990)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 3,194
1900 3,411 6.8%
1910 9,204 169.8%
1920 10,274 11.6%
1930 23,175 125.6%
1940 26,612 14.8%
1950 45,570 71.2%
1960 90,368 98.3%
1970 89,653 −0.8%
1980 98,315 9.7%
1990 106,707 8.5%
2000 115,930 8.6%
2010 117,063 1.0%
2020 125,182 6.9%
U.S. Census Bureau

As of the census of 2000, 115,930 people, 41,570 households, and 28,101 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,102.7 people per square mile (425.8/km2). The 45,618 housing units averaged 433.9 per square mile (167.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.07% White, 8.81% African American, 0.55% Native American, 1.33% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 8.73% from other races, and 2.44% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 19.45% of the population.

Of the 41,570 households, 34.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.0% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.4% were not families. About 26.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.07.

In the city, the population was distributed as 25.6% under the age of 18, 15.3% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 102.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,007, and for a family was $40,028. Males had a median income of $28,078 versus $20,918 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,577. About 10.9% of families and 15.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.6% of those under age 18 and 9.2% of those age 65 or over.

As of the 2010 census, Abilene had a population of 117,063. The racial and ethnic makeup of the population was 62.4% non-Hispanic White, 9.6% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 1.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.1% non-Hispanic reporting some other race, 3.3% of two or more races, and 24.5% Hispanic or Latino.

Notable people

  • Raleigh Brown, member of the Texas House of Representatives and a state-court judge
  • Doyle Brunson, two-time World Series of Poker champion, attended and played basketball at Hardin–Simmons College before injuring his knee.
  • Randall "Tex" Cobb, heavyweight boxer and actor
  • Charles Coody, Masters-winning professional golfer (from Stamford and Abilene) — graduate of ACU
  • Carole Cook, actress born January 14, 1924 in Abilene, TX as Mildred Frances Cook. Close friend of Lucille Ball.
  • Roy Crane, nationally syndicated cartoonist (Wash Tubbs, Captain Easy, Buz Sawyer)
  • Dorian, hip-hop recording artist, born in Abilene
  • Bob Estes, professional golfer
  • W. C. Friley, first president of Hardin–Simmons University, 1892–1894
  • Billy Gillispie, former Texas Tech University Red Raiders, Kentucky, and Texas A&M men's basketball coach
  • Ryan Guzman, actor
  • Homer Hailey (1903–2000), Church of Christ clergyman and professor at Abilene Christian University
  • David W. Harper (born 1961), actor, played James Robert Walton on CBS television series The Waltons, 1972–1981
  • Kristy Hawkins (born 1980), IFBB professional bodybuilder
  • Jerry Herron (born 1949), dean of Wayne State University Honors College
  • Katie Hill, former United States Congresswomen from CA-25.
  • Micah P. Hinson, indie rock singer
  • Gregory Hoblit, film director
  • Robert Dean Hunter, member of Texas House of Representatives from Abilene, 1986–2007; vice president emeritus of Abilene Christian University
  • Bill Jones, former NFL player for the Kansas City Chiefs
  • Morgan Jones, railroad builder
  • Ashley Kavanaugh, public official and former political aide; wife of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh
  • Case Keenum, quarterback for the Cleveland Browns
  • Johnny Knox, former wide receiver for the Chicago Bears
  • John Lackey, starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs
  • Billy Maxwell, golfer, winner of seven PGA Tour events
  • Mildred Paxton Moody, wife of Governor Dan Moody
  • Bobby Morrow, three-time gold medal winner at 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, named Sportsman of the Year in 1956 by Sports Illustrated
  • Scott Nagy, head coach of the Wright State University men's basketball team, and former head coach for South Dakota State University men's basketball
  • Billy Olson, pole vaulter (1988 Summer Olympics, for the U.S. team that boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics); held several world records, including first 19-foot (5.8 m) indoor pole vault — vaulted for AHS and ACU
  • Ty O'Neal, rodeo cowboy and film actor
  • Terry Orr, tight end for the Washington Redskins — played for CHS
  • Fess Parker (1924–2010), actor, hotel and winery owner, attended Hardin–Simmons University, played football at HSU before transferring to University of Texas, starred in TV as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone
  • Lee Roy Parnell, country musician
  • Vinnie Paul (1964–2018), born in Abilene; musician, co-founder, and drummer of heavy metal band Pantera and Damageplan, drummer of Hellyeah
  • Charles Perry, member of Texas Senate from Lubbock, was born in Abilene in 1962
  • Dominic Rhodes, born in Waco Texas, but lived in Abilene. Was a football player for Cooper High School, NFL football player for Indianapolis Colts.
  • Lou Halsell Rodenberger, author and biographer of Jane Gilmore Rushing, professor at McMurry University
  • Rick Roderick, philosopher
  • Bill Sharman, Hall-of-Fame NBA basketball player and coach, born in Abilene
  • Jessica Simpson, singer and actress, born in Abilene
  • Jorge A. Solis (born 1951), United States Federal Judge, 5th Circuit
  • Rawson Stovall, video game producer/designer, author, and first nationally syndicated reviewer of video games
  • Steven Stucky, Pulitzer Prize-Winning American Composer.
  • Sarah Weddington, lawyer, represented "Jane Roe" in case of Roe v. Wade.
  • Ann Wedgeworth, actress
  • Mason Williams, musician, best known for his guitar instrumental "Classical Gas"


The cultural aspects of Abilene center around a mix of the local college and university campuses, the agriculture community of the surrounding area, and the numerous evangelical churches present. The Abilene Arts Alliance captured the essence of the city with "Frontiering", a brand name for the city introduced in November 2008 to connect its pioneer spirit with its modern efforts to push the boundaries of education, technology, transportation, energy, the arts, and health care. Abilene is also home to the restored Paramount Theatre, The Abilene Philharmonic, The Grace Museum, the Center for Contemporary Arts, the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, The Abilene Zoo, Frontier Texas!, the 12th Armored Division Museum, Taylor County Coliseum, six libraries (three private, three public), 26 public parks, six television stations, and several radio stations, including one NPR station (89.5 KACU).

Recreation and entertainment

Park system

The Abilene park system includes 29 parks, occupying a total of 1,247.56 acres (5.0487 km2). In addition, three athletic complexes located throughout the city are under the jurisdiction of the parks department.

The new Abilene Zoo entrance sign

The Abilene Zoo is a popular attraction in Abilene, boasting several hundred animals of various species. It hosts educational and summer programs, as well as special events throughout the year.


The West Texas Fair and Rodeo, held annually for 10 days in mid-September, features exhibits and amusements reflecting early days of Abilene, plus modern attractions of West Texas.

The Western Heritage Classic in early May features ranch rodeo, campfire cook-off, sheepdog trials, farrier competition, cowboy poets, a Western art show, and many other activities.

On every second Thursday evening of the month, Artwalk is held in downtown Abilene. During Artwalk, all the local museums are free, local musicians and performers busk, and several crafters and artists set up booths and sell their wares.

Several special-interest conventions, festivals, and shows are scattered throughout the year, including the Abilene Gem and Mineral Show, the West Texas Book and Music Festival, the Abilene Gun and Knife Show, and the Friends of the Abilene Public Library book sale.

Also of note is the annual Abilene High vs. Cooper High football game, the Crosstown Showdown, usually held near Halloween. Two of these games, in 2001 and 2002, were for the district championship and were called the "Showdown at Shotwell" as games were played at Shotwell Stadium.

Photo gallery


Major highways

A section of Business Loop 20 (formerly US 80) in Abilene
  • I-20 (TX).svg Interstate 20
  • Business Loop 20.svg Business Loop 20
  • US 80.svg US 80 (former)
  • US 83.svg US 83
  • US 84.svg US 84
  • US 277.svg US 277
  • Texas 36.svg SH 36
  • Texas Loop 322.svg Loop 322
  • Texas 351.svg SH 351
  • Texas FM 89.svg FM 89 (Buffalo Gap Road)
  • Texas FM 600.svg FM 600
  • Texas FM 707.svg FM 707 (Beltway South)
  • Texas FM 18.svg UR 18
  • Texas FM 3438.svg UR 3438


The city of Abilene is served by Abilene Regional Airport.

Sister cities

  • Argentina Río Cuarto, Argentina
  • Russia Chita, Russia

In popular culture

  • The movie Friday Night Lights features games with two AISD football teams, Abilene High and Cooper High. Some scenes were filmed at Shotwell Stadium, the location of both teams' home games.


The economy in Abilene was originally based on the livestock and agricultural sectors, but is now based strongly on government, education, healthcare, and manufacturing. The petroleum industry is prevalent in the surrounding area, also. The city has established incentives to bring new businesses to the area, including job training grants, relocation grants, and more.

Top employers

The top 15 employers in Abilene, as of December 2019, are:

Rank Employer Employees Industry
1 Dyess Air Force Base 8400 Military
2 Hendrick Health System 3200 Healthcare
3 Abilene ISD 2450 Education
4 Abilene Christian University 1900 Education
5 City of Abilene 1300 Government
6 Abilene State Supported Living Center 1225 Mental Health
7 Texas Department of Criminal Justice 1190 Law Enforcement
8 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas Claims Center 1090 Call Center
9 Abilene Regional Medical Center 830 Healthcare
10 AbiMar Foods 680 Manufacturing
11 First Financial Bank (Texas) 540 Banking
12 Taylor County 560 Government
13 Wylie ISD 510 Education
14 Eagle Aviation Services 470 Aviation
15 Hardin-Simmons University 425 Education


Primary Education

Abilene June 2019 87 (Abilene High School)
Abilene High School

Abilene has two school districts within the city limits: Abilene Independent School District (AISD) and Wylie Independent School District (WISD). High schools include Abilene High School and Cooper High School of AISD, and Wylie High School of WISD.

Colleges and universities

Abilene is home to six colleges, three of which are religiously affiliated. Hardin–Simmons University is the oldest, founded in 1891. Abilene Christian University is the largest with 2012 undergraduate enrollment at 4,371.

Name Affiliation Founded Enrollment
Abilene Christian University Churches of Christ 1906 5,210
Cisco College 1972 3,806
Hardin–Simmons University Baptist 1891 2,392
McMurry University Methodist 1923 1,372
Texas State Technical College West Texas 1985 1,049
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Abilene Campus 2006 332

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