kids encyclopedia robot

Columbus, Mississippi facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Columbus, Mississippi
City of Columbus
Montage of significant city locations
Montage of significant city locations
Possum Town
The Friendly City
Location of Columbus, Mississippi
Location of Columbus, Mississippi
Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
Country United States
State Mississippi
County Lowndes
Founded 1821
 • Total 25.88 sq mi (67.02 km2)
 • Land 25.05 sq mi (64.88 km2)
 • Water 0.83 sq mi (2.14 km2)
217 ft (66 m)
 • Total 23,640
 • Estimate 
 • Density 941.08/sq mi (363.35/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 662
FIPS code 28-15380
GNIS feature ID 0668721

Columbus is a city in and the county seat of Lowndes County, on the eastern border of Mississippi, United States, located primarily east, but also north and northeast of the Tombigbee River, which is also part of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. It is approximately 146 miles (235 km) northeast of Jackson, 92 miles (148 km) north of Meridian, 63 miles (101 km) south of Tupelo, 60 miles (97 km) northwest of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and 120 miles (193 km) west of Birmingham, Alabama.

The population was 25,944 at the 2000 census and 23,640 in 2010. The population in 2019 was estimated to be 23,573. Columbus is the principal city of the Columbus Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of the larger Columbus-West Point Combined Statistical Area. Columbus is also part of the area of Mississippi called The Golden Triangle, consisting of Columbus, West Point and Starkville, in the counties of Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha.


Postcard of Steamer "American" on Tombigbee River at Columbus, Mississippi
Postcard of steamer American on Tombigbee River at Columbus, c. 1890-1920

The first record of the site of Columbus in Western history is found in the annals of the explorer Hernando de Soto, who is reputed to have crossed the nearby Tombigbee River on his search for El Dorado. However, the site does not enter the main continuity of American history until December 1810, when John Pitchlynn, the U.S. interpreter for the Choctaw Nation, moved to Plymouth Bluff where he built a home, established a farm and transacted Choctaw Agency business.


Columbus was founded in 1821. Before its incorporation, the town site was referred to informally as Possum Town, a name which was given by the local Native Americans. The name Possum Town remains the town's nickname among locals. Columbus came into existence as a result of the failure of a flooded settlement across the river, Plymouth, which was established in 1817. Plymouth Bluff (above the ruined settlement) is today an environmental center for Mississippi University for Women. The survivors of the flood moved to a site occupied by Thomas Moore and Dr. Gideon Lincecum. Silas McBee suggested the name Columbus; in return, a small local creek bears McBee's name.

One of the first actions taken by the city's founders was to establish a public school; Franklin Academy remains in operation to the present day as Mississippi's first public school. However, its status as such awaited a correction to the territorial boundary of Mississippi and Alabama which, demarcated only a year earlier, had Franklin Academy in Alabama. In fact, during its early post-Mississippi-founding history, the city of Columbus itself was still referred to as Columbus, Alabama.

Civil War and aftermath

During the American Civil War, Columbus was a hospital town. However, Columbus also had an arsenal that made gunpowder, handguns and a few cannons. Because of this, the Union ordered the invasion of Columbus, but was stopped by General Nathan Bedford Forrest. This is substantiated in the book "The Battle of West Point: Confederate Triumph at Ellis Bridge" by John McBride. Many of the casualties from the Battle of Shiloh were brought there, and thousands were buried in the town's Friendship Cemetery. One of the hospitals was located at the still-operating Annunciation Catholic Church, built in 1863. The decision of a group of ladies to decorate the Union and Confederate graves with flowers together on April 25, 1866, is an early example of what became Memorial Day. A poet, Francis Miles Finch, happened to be in town that day and commemorated the occasion with the poem "The Blue and the Grey".

As a result of Nathan Bedford Forrest preventing the Union Army from reaching Columbus, the Antebellum homes of Columbus were spared from being burned or destroyed, making its collection second only to Natchez as the most extensive in Mississippi. This again is substantiated in the book "The Battle of West Point: Confederate Triumph at Ellis Bridge" by John McBride. These antebellum homes may be toured during the annual Pilgrimage in which the residences open their homes to tourists from around the country.

During the war, Columbus attorney Jacob H. Sharp served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. After the war, he owned the Columbus Independent newspaper and served four years representing the district in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

WPA mural

The mural Out of the Soil was completed in 1939 for the Columbus post office by WPA Section of Painting and Sculpture artist Bealah Betterworth. Murals were produced from 1934 to 1943 in the United States through "the Section" of the U.S. Treasury Department.

20th century

Columbus has hosted Columbus Air Force Base (CAFB) since World War II. CAFB was founded as a flight training school. After a stint in the 1950s and 1960s as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base (earning Columbus a spot in Soviet Union target lists), CAFB returned to its original role. Today, it is one of only four basic Air Force flight training bases in the United States, and prized as the only one where regular flight conditions may be experienced. Despite this, CAFB has repeatedly hung in the balance during Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) hearings.

Columbus boasted a number of industries during the mid-20th century, including the world's largest toilet seat manufacturer, Sanderson Plumbing Products, and major mattress, furniture and textile plants. Most of these had closed by 2000. A series of new plants at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, including the Severstal mill, the American Eurocopter factory, the Paccar engine plant and the Aurora Flight Sciences facility, are revitalizing the local economy.

Columbus is the birthplace of famous playwright Tennessee Williams, author of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire. His birthplace, formerly the rectory of nearby St. Paul's Episcopal Church, is now the welcome center for Columbus (300 Main St., Columbus). Columbus is also the birthplace of baseball announcer Red Barber; boxing's first three-time world heavyweight champion, Henry Armstrong; rock singer Andrew Wood; the parents of Grammy-award-winning bluegrass musician Alison Krauss; American Idol contestant Jasmine Murray; and bluegrass musician Ruby Jane Smith. Lenny Fant, award-winning basketball coach at the University of Louisiana at Monroe from 1957–1979, graduated from Lee High School in Columbus but was born in Hamilton, Alabama.

Recent history

Columbus has made the national news at least three times in recent decades. On June 12, 1990, a fireworks factory exploded, detonating a blast felt as far as 30 miles away from Columbus. Two workers were killed in the blast. On June 26, 2000, the television show 48 Hours did an investigative report of five murders of senior citizens occurring in an 18-month period between late 1997 and early 1999. On February 16, 2001, straightline winds measured at 74 miles per hour destroyed many homes and trees but fortunately resulted in no fatalities. The city was declared a federal disaster area the next day by President George W. Bush. In November 2002, a tornado hit Columbus and caused more damage to the city, including the Mississippi University for Women.

In 2010, Columbus won a Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust by Historic Preservation.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 22.3 square miles (57.8 square kilometers), of which 21.4 square miles (55.5 square kilometers) is land and 0.9 square miles (2.3 square kilometers) is water. Large lakes and rivers are nearby, such as the Buttahatchee River in northern Lowndes County that defines the border between Lowndes and Monroe counties; in the middle of the City of Columbus and Lowndes County lies the Luxapallila Creek, and the Tombigbee River with the John C. Stennis Lock and Dam impounding Columbus Lake. Columbus is a relatively flat place in the northern part of Lowndes County, as the land rises for a short period of time into hills and bluffs, in the southern/eastern part of the county, the land has rolling hills that quickly turn into flatland floodplains that dominate this county. This county lies in the Black Prairie Geographic Region, and the Northeastern Hills Region of the state/area. Prairies, forests and floodplain forests lie here. The soil quality is poor in the eastern part of the county, otherwise the soil is relatively fertile. Columbus and the surrounding areas are listed as an Arbor Day Hardiness Zone 8a (10 °F or −12.2 °C to 15 °F or −9.4 °C); note that temperatures in 2010 reached 11 °F (−12 °C), but the USDA Hardiness Zones list the area as zone 7b (5 °F or −15.0 °C to 10 °F or −12.2 °C).


Climate data for Columbus, Mississippi
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 81
Average high °F (°C) 54
Average low °F (°C) 33
Record low °F (°C) −1
Rainfall inches (mm) 5.70


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 2,611
1860 3,308 26.7%
1870 4,812 45.5%
1880 3,955 −17.8%
1890 4,559 15.3%
1900 6,484 42.2%
1910 8,988 38.6%
1920 10,501 16.8%
1930 10,743 2.3%
1940 13,645 27.0%
1950 17,172 25.8%
1960 24,771 44.3%
1970 25,795 4.1%
1980 27,503 6.6%
1990 23,799 −13.5%
2000 25,944 9.0%
2010 23,640 −8.9%
2019 (est.) 23,573 −0.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
Columbus MS from airplane
Aerial view of Columbus

2020 census

Columbus Racial Composition
Race Num. Perc.
White 7,460 30.97%
Black or African American 15,345 63.71%
Native American 37 0.15%
Asian 250 1.04%
Pacific Islander 4 0.02%
Other/Mixed 350 2.2%
Hispanic or Latino 458 1.9%

As of the 2020 United States Census, there were 24,084 people, 9,572 households, and 5,348 families residing in the city.

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 23,640 people living in the city. 60.0% were African American, 37.4% White, 0.2% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from some other race, and 1.1% of two or more races. 1.4% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.


Major Employers:

  • Columbus Air Force Base.
  • Baptist Memorial Hospital - Golden Triangle.
  • Mississippi University for Women.
  • Columbus Municipal School District.
  • Lowndes County School District.
  • International Paper Columbus Mill and Columbus Modified Fiber.
  • Steel Dynamics, Inc. (steel manufacturer).
  • Paccar (diesel engines).
  • American Eurocopter (military aircraft).
  • Baldor (electric motors).
  • AkzoNobel / Eka Chemicals (sodium chlorate).
  • Aurora Flight Sciences (unmanned defense systems).
  • Stark Aerospace (unmanned defense systems).
  • Columbus / Nammo-Talley (defense systems).
  • Valmet (paper machine rolls and roll covers).


Columbus is home to a state university, the Mississippi University for Women. The MUW campus is also home to the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, a state-funded public boarding school for academically gifted high school juniors and seniors.

The city's public high school (under the Columbus Municipal School District) is Columbus High School, located in the eastern part of town. It is the largest high school in the city and fifth largest in the state, enrolling approximately 1370 students. Columbus High School was formed by the merger of the city's two previous high schools, Stephen D. Lee High School and Caldwell High School; the schools were merged in 1992 and the campuses in 1997. Columbus is also home to the oldest public elementary school in Mississippi, Franklin Academy Elementary, founded in 1821.

Desegregated in 1970, Lee High School received a state award for the high school with the best race relations. Prior to desegregation, the school formed a race relations committee consisting of black and white students who could discuss issues and determine how to handle certain situations. For instance, the students decided to have both white and black homecoming courts so as to prevent sides being taken along racial lines. However, black students were allowed to vote for the white homecoming court and vice versa. The school went undefeated in football in 1970, which helped unite the student body. Students were ranked based on achievement score tests and divided into three groups, in order to allow each group to learn at their own pace. This practice was in place prior to integration. It was continued after integration for a period, but such tracking was later ruled to be unconstitutional by a Federal court, because it was based on biased testing. It did not take into account differences in preparation in earlier grades.

The Lowndes County School District operates three high schools—Caledonia, New Hope, and West Lowndes—fed by similarly named elementary and middle schools.

Columbus has several private schools, including:

  • Columbus Christian Academy, formerly Immanuel Christian School (K-3 through 12)
  • Heritage Academy (Christian, K-12)
  • Annunciation Catholic School (Catholic, K-8)
  • Victory Christian Academy (Christian, K-12)
  • Palmer Home for Children (orphanage)



Columbus lies on U.S. Highways 82 and 45. It is also served by state routes 12, 50, 69, and 182. Columbus is the eastern terminus of the Columbus and Greenville Railway; it is also served by the BNSF Railway (on the original right-of-way of the St. Louis - San Francisco Railway), the Norfolk Southern, and the Alabama Southern Railroad (using the original right-of-way of the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad). The local airport is Golden Triangle Regional Airport. The airport currently has three flights a day to Atlanta. The city is located on the east bank of the Tombigbee River and the associated Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Columbus Lake, formed by the John C. Stennis Lock and Dam, is approximately two miles north of downtown. The Luxapalila Creek runs through the town, separating East Columbus from Columbus proper (both are within city limits). The Lux, as it is locally known, joins the Tombigbee about three miles south of downtown.

Notable people

  • Mike Adams (columnist)
  • Henry Armstrong, world boxing champion
  • Roy Ayres, pedal steel guitar player
  • Red Barber, sports commentator
  • William T. S. Barry, congressman from Mississippi
  • Homer "Billy" Brewer, professional football player
  • Terry W. Brown, president pro tempore of the Mississippi Senate
  • Tyson Brummett, professional baseball player
  • James E. Darnell, biologist
  • Jacob M. Dickinson, U.S. Secretary of War from 1909 to 1911
  • Doughboy, record producer
  • Elbert Drungo, professional football player
  • Ean Evans, bass player for Lynyrd Skynyrd; moved to Columbus
  • Leslie Frazier, professional football player and coach
  • Charles Fredericks, actor
  • Luther Hackman, professional baseball player
  • Arthur Cyprian Harper, 26th mayor of Los Angeles
  • Robert Ivy, Chief Executive Officer of the American Institute of Architects
  • Sam Jethroe, first black baseball player on the Boston Braves roster
  • Edward J. C. Kewen, member of California State Legislature and first attorney general of California
  • Stephen D. Lee, Confederate general, first president of Mississippi State University
  • Jasmine Murray, singer, Miss Mississippi 2014
  • Bobby Richards, professional football player
  • Andre Rush, celebrity chef and veteran
  • Jacob H. Sharp, lawyer, newspaperman, politician, and Confederate general; moved to Columbus
  • Jeff Smith, member of Mississippi House of Representatives
  • William N. Still Jr., maritime historian
  • Jim Thomas, professional football player
  • Sedric Toney, professional basketball player
  • Guy M. Townsend, U.S. Air Force brigadier general, test pilot, and combat veteran
  • Robert L. Turner, member of Wisconsin State Assembly
  • James R. Williams, lawyer, politician and jurist
  • Tennessee Williams, playwright
  • Andrew Wood, musician
Women's History Month on Kiddle
Women Scientists of Antiquity
Mary the Jewess
kids search engine
Columbus, Mississippi Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.