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Cleveland County, North Carolina facts for kids

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Cleveland County
The west side of the old Cleveland County Courthouse, Shelby
The west side of the old Cleveland County Courthouse, Shelby
Official seal of Cleveland County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Cleveland County
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  North Carolina
Founded 1841
Named for Colonel Benjamin Cleveland
Seat Shelby
Largest city Shelby
 • Total 468 sq mi (1,210 km2)
 • Land 464 sq mi (1,200 km2)
 • Water 4.0 sq mi (10 km2)  0.9%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 216.3/sq mi (83.5/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 10th

Cleveland County is a county located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the western Piedmont, and on the southern border of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 census, the population was 99,519. Its county seat is Shelby.

Cleveland County comprises the Shelby, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area. This is included in the Charlotte-Concord, NC-SC Combined Statistical Area. In the late 19th and early 20th century, this was an area of textile mills.


The county was formed in 1841 from parts of Lincoln and Rutherford counties. It was named for Benjamin Cleveland, a colonel in the American Revolutionary War, who took part in the Battle of King's Mountain. From 1841 to 1887 "Cleaveland" was the spelling used; the present spelling was adopted in 1887.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 468 square miles (1,210 km2), of which 464 square miles (1,200 km2) is land and 4.0 square miles (10 km2) (0.9%) is water.

Adjacent counties

Major highways

  • I-85
  • US 29
  • US 74
  • NC 10
  • NC 18
  • NC 27
  • NC 150
  • NC 161
  • NC 180
  • NC 182
  • NC 198
  • NC 216
  • NC 226


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 10,396
1860 12,348 18.8%
1870 12,696 2.8%
1880 16,571 30.5%
1890 20,394 23.1%
1900 25,078 23.0%
1910 29,494 17.6%
1920 34,272 16.2%
1930 51,914 51.5%
1940 58,055 11.8%
1950 64,357 10.9%
1960 66,048 2.6%
1970 72,556 9.9%
1980 83,435 15.0%
1990 84,714 1.5%
2000 96,287 13.7%
2010 98,078 1.9%
2020 99,519 1.5%
2021 (est.) 100,359 2.3%

2020 census

Cleveland County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 70,163 70.5%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 20,034 20.13%
Native American 222 0.22%
Asian 854 0.86%
Pacific Islander 23 0.02%
Other/Mixed 4,184 4.2%
Hispanic or Latino 4,039 4.06%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 99,519 people, 30,599 households, and 21,410 families residing in the county.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 98,078 people, 37,046 households, and 27,006 families residing in the county. The population density was 207 people per square mile (80/km2). There were 40,317 housing units at an average density of 87 per square mile (34/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 74% White, 21% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.69% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.68% from other races, and 0.72% from two or more races. Of any race, 3% of the population were Hispanic or Latino.

There were 37,046 households, out of which 32.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.00% were married couples living together, 13.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.10% were non-families. 23.60% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.60% 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 2.98.

In the county, the age distribution of the population shows 25.20% under the age of 18, 8.80% from 18 to 24, 28.80% from 25 to 44, 23.70% from 45 to 64, and 13.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 92.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.60 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $35,283, and the median income for a family was $41,733. Males had a median income of $30,882 versus $21,995 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,395. About 10.10% of families and 13.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.90% of those under age 18 and 14.00% of those age 65 or over.


Map of Cleveland County North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels
Map of Cleveland County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels



Census-designated place

Unincorporated community

In popular culture

The 2000 disappearance of Asha Degree, a Shelby girl, was discussed on television shows including America’s Most Wanted, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, and The Montel Williams Show.

Parts of the 2012 movie The Hunger Games were filmed in Cleveland County.


Cleveland County Schools

Cleveland County Schools has 29 schools ranging from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade, comprising five high schools, two alternative schools, four middle schools, two intermediate schools (grades 5 and 6), and sixteen elementary schools. It was formed from the 2004 merger of Kings Mountain City Schools, Shelby City Schools and the former Cleveland County Schools.


Notable people

  • Tamara P. Barringer, former state legislator and Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court
  • Bobby Bell, NFL Hall of Fame inductee
  • Alicia Bridges, disco singer
  • W. J. Cash, author of The Mind of the South
  • Bill Champion, MLB player.
  • Morris Davis, Colonel in US Air Force
  • Thomas Dixon Jr., minister, author
  • Manny Fernandez, "The Raging Bull", professional wrestler
  • David Flair, professional wrestler
  • Alvin Gentry, NBA Coach
  • Don Gibson, Country Music Hall of Fame inductee
  • Pleasant Daniel Gold, American publisher and Baptist minister
  • Kay Hagan, Senator from North Carolina.
  • Robert Harrill, The Fort Fisher Hermit
  • Keith E. Haynes, Maryland statesman, lawyer
  • Norris Hopper, MLB player
  • Hatcher Hughes, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Charlie Justice, NFL player, two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up
  • Doug Limerick, ABC radio newscaster
  • Patty Loveless, country music singer
  • Leroy McAfee – Confederate soldier, Ku Klux Klan organizer, and member of the North Carolina House of Representatives (1870–73).
  • Manteo Mitchell, Olympic Silver Medalist, World Champion, US Champion, International Icon in Track & Field
  • Scottie Montgomery, NFL wide receiver, Oakland Raiders, Arena Football League player
  • Tim Moore (North Carolina politician), member of the General Assembly since 2003 and elected Speaker of the North Carolina State House in 2015, has lived in the county since 1997 and has his law practice there.
  • Travis Padgett, Olympic athlete in track and field
  • Floyd Patterson, heavyweight boxing champion, Boxing Hall Of Fame inductee
  • Rodney Allen Rippy, former child actor
  • Earl Scruggs, banjo player and composer, included on Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Isaac Shelby, soldier, governor
  • Charlotte Smith, WNBA basketball player
  • Brandon Spikes, professional football linebacker
  • Billy Standridge, NASCAR driver
  • Tim Steele, 3-time ARCA champion, NASCAR driver
  • David Thompson, Hall of Fame college and professional basketball player
  • Cliff Washburn, NFL offensive tackle, Houston Texans
  • Tim Wilkison, tennis player
  • Tom Wright, MLB player.
  • Jonathan Bullard, NFL DE, Chicago Bears. Former Crest High School and the University of Florida football great.
  • A.G.Riddle, New York Times Best selling author of, “The Atlantis Gene.”
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