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Columbiana, Alabama
Columbiana, Alabama
Columbiana, Alabama
"Embracing The Future, While Preserving The Past”
Location of Columbiana in Shelby County, Alabama.
Location of Columbiana in Shelby County, Alabama.
Country United States
State Alabama
County Shelby
 • Total 17.40 sq mi (45.07 km2)
 • Land 17.30 sq mi (44.81 km2)
 • Water 0.10 sq mi (0.26 km2)
525 ft (160 m)
 • Total 4,462
 • Density 257.89/sq mi (99.57/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 205, 659
FIPS code 01-16768
GNIS feature ID 0157923

Columbiana is a city and the county seat of Shelby County, Alabama, United States. At the 2020 census, the population was 4,462.


Columbiana, originally called Columbia, was selected as the county seat of Shelby County in 1826 over rivals Calera and Montevallo. After the selection as the county seat, Columbiana celebrated by drilling holes in a large pine tree and packing it with gunpowder. The tree was blown up and the sound could be heard for miles. Later in 1826, the courthouse was moved to an old school building in Columbiana.

An act of the Alabama Legislature officially changed the name of Shelby County’s county seat to Columbiana on January 13, 1832. Columbiana was incorporated on December 5, 1837 with corporate limits one-quarter of a mile in each direction from the public square.

In 1854, the decision was made to build a larger courthouse at the south end of “Silk Stocking Road”, now Main Street. From 1854 to 1908 several additions and changes were made to the courthouse. During the American Civil War, Columbiana was connected to the nearby town of Shelby by the Shelby Iron Company Railroad, which connected the Shelby Iron Works to the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad. The Iron Works supplied iron to the C.B. Churchill and Company foundry, which moved to Columbiana in 1862 after the fall of Corinth, Mississippi. The Churchill foundry made eight and ten pound shot, eight and ten pound shells, and shells for Blakely rifles. The C.B. Churchill and Company foundry, Shelby Iron Works and the railroad were destroyed by Union forces on March 31, 1865, as part of Wilson's Raid.

Moving the courthouse to Columbiana was not necessarily popular in 1826 and there have been numerous attempts to relocate the county seat over the years. In 1901, the Alabama Constitutional Convention addressed the issue by including Section 41 in the new state constitution. Section 41 prohibited a move of the Shelby County seat from Columbiana unless a vote of the people was held, the only county in Alabama with such a designation.

To further solidify Columbiana’s claim to the county seat, in 1905 construction began two blocks north of the existing courthouse on a new marble courthouse at a cost of $300,000. The new courthouse was completed in 1908 and has been renovated and enlarged on a number of occasions. The new courthouse has served Shelby County for over 100 years.

The “Old Courthouse” is now home to the Shelby County Museum and Archives.

Today, Columbiana is home to the Shelby County Board of Education, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, the Shelby County Jail, and Harrison Regional Library, which is the main office for the Shelby County Library System. Columbiana holds the annual Liberty Day celebration on the last weekend in June, which was first held in 1986 to honor the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. The current mayor is Dr. Stancil Handley.


Columbiana is located at 33°11′1″N 86°36′34″W / 33.18361°N 86.60944°W / 33.18361; -86.60944 (33.183545, -86.609365).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.2 square miles (39.4 km2), of which 15.2 square miles (39.3 km2) is land and 0.04 square mile (0.1 km2) (0.26%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 496
1890 654 31.9%
1900 1,075 64.4%
1910 1,079 0.4%
1920 1,073 −0.6%
1930 1,180 10.0%
1940 1,197 1.4%
1950 1,761 47.1%
1960 2,264 28.6%
1970 2,248 −0.7%
1980 2,655 18.1%
1990 2,968 11.8%
2000 3,316 11.7%
2010 4,197 26.6%
2020 4,462 6.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

At the 2010 census there were 4,197 people in 1,303 households, including 874 families, in the city. The population density was 218.2 people per square mile (84.2/km2). There were 1,445 housing units at an average density of 95.1 per square mile (36.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 71.3% White, 25.1% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.6% from other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. 3.0% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. Of the 1,303 households 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.5% were married couples living together, 14.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were non-families. 29.7% of households were one person and 15.6% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.12.

The age distribution was 19.7% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 24.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% 65 or older. The median age was 37.8 years. For every 100 females, there were 121.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 148.9 males.

The median household income was $31,108 and the median family income was $56,411. Males had a median income of $43,304 versus $34,583 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,003. About 11.0% of families and 16.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.1% of those under age 18 and 9.2% of those age 65 or over.

2020 census

Columbiana racial composition
Race Num. Perc.
White (non-Hispanic) 3,139 70.35%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 1,003 22.48%
Native American 3 0.07%
Asian 7 0.16%
Other/Mixed 175 3.92%
Hispanic or Latino 135 3.03%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 4,462 people, 1,641 households, and 851 families residing in the city.

1932 Tornado outbreak

In March 1932, Columbiana had a population of 1,180. It was a trading center for the surrounding agricultural areas of Central Alabama. People were optimistic that 1932 would be better than 1931. They didn’t think that 1932 could be any worse than the previous year. The newspapers said that there were definite signs that the economy would be out of the woods by December.

There were no television weather broadcasts, or NOAA weather radio stations in 1932. But people knew the weather was going to be bad that warm, windy and cloudy March 21. As a powerful thunderstorm approached Columbiana during the afternoon, a tornado formed southwest of town about 5:10 p.m. As it reached the western part of the town its path was 200 yards wide.

In the aftermath of the tornado, bits of clothing were left in the trees in the path of destruction. The electrical plant was knocked off line, plunging the city and much of the county into darkness. Darkness and heavy rain hampered rescue efforts. The Columbiana tornado was one of fourteen devastating tornadoes that killed over 300 people across Alabama that day. Fourteen people died in Columbiana in this tornado, which would have likely been rated an EF4 using today's scale.



Shelby County Schools operates public schools.

  • Elvin Hill Elementary School – kindergarten through fifth grade
  • Columbiana Middle School – sixth grade through eighth grade
  • Shelby County High School – ninth grade through twelfth grade. The Shelby County Wildcats school colors are maroon and white. The colors were changed from its original school colors of red and white, which were also used by rival Thompson High. Its sports teams are part of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 5A.
  • Shelby County School of Technology – career technical center
  • Cornerstone Christian School – private school serving Pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade

Notable people

  • Robert J. Bentley (born February 3, 1943), Governor of Alabama (2011–2017).
  • Leven H. Ellis (April 6, 1881 – January 4, 1968), Lt. Governor of Alabama 1943 to 1947.
  • J. Frank Norris (1877–1952), Leader of Baptist Fundamentalism, lived in Columbiana during his youth
  • E. B. Teague (1820–1902), prominent Baptist preacher
  • Mary Ware, poet and prose writer
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