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Columbia, Tennessee
Columbia, Tennessee courthouse square
Columbia, Tennessee courthouse square
Official seal of Columbia, Tennessee
Nickname(s): Mule Town
Motto: Old South Charm, New South Progress
Location of Columbia, Tennessee
Location of Columbia, Tennessee
Country United States
State Tennessee
County Maury
 • Total 29.6 sq mi (76.7 km2)
 • Land 29.6 sq mi (76.7 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 643 ft (196 m)
Population (2015)Estimated
 • Total 40,000
 • Density 1,116.8/sq mi (431.2/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 38401-38402
Area code(s) 931
FIPS code 47-16540
GNIS feature ID 1269483
Website City of Columbia

Columbia is a city in and the county seat of Maury County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 34,681 at the 2010 census 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. Columbia is also the home of the national headquarters for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Columbia 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.,_Columbia_TN.jpg


The James K. Polk Ancestral 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 in the state, based on its agricultural wealth in plantations, which cultivated commodity crops of tobacco and hemp, and 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 Reconstruction, in the late 19th century, the state legislature passed laws to disenfranchise African Americans, a political exclusion that continued deep into the 20th century. This adversely affected racial relations for decades in Columbia and Maury County.

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, of whom more than 3,000 were African American. 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. 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 Ancestral 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 arrived to dedicate the new campus on March 15, 1967.

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.


Columbia is located at 35°36′54″N 87°2′40″W / 35.615°N 87.04444°W / 35.615; -87.04444 (35.615022, −87.044464). 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.
1850 2,977
1860 4,069 36.7%
1870 2,550 −37.3%
1880 3,400 33.3%
1890 5,370 57.9%
1900 6,052 12.7%
1910 5,754 −4.9%
1920 5,526 −4.0%
1930 7,882 42.6%
1940 10,579 34.2%
1950 10,911 3.1%
1960 17,624 61.5%
1970 21,471 21.8%
1980 26,571 23.8%
1990 28,583 7.6%
2000 33,055 15.6%
2010 34,681 4.9%
Est. 2015 36,800 6.1%

As of the census 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 269 67% Ward 1
2011 Debbie Matthews UO Ward 2
2011 Christa Martin 242 88% Ward 3
2011 Mike Greene UO Ward 4
2011 Mark King 304 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.

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.
  • In 2009, scenes for Bailey [1] (2010), a Mario Van Peebles film, were shot in downtown Columbia on the square and in other locations.
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