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Johnson City
Downtown Johnson City
Downtown Johnson City
Flag of Johnson City
Official seal of Johnson City
Official logo of Johnson City
Location of Johnson City in Carter, Sullivan and Washington counties, Tennessee
Location of Johnson City in Carter, Sullivan and Washington counties, Tennessee
Johnson City is located in Tennessee
Johnson City
Johnson City
Location in Tennessee
Johnson City is located in the United States
Johnson City
Johnson City
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Tennessee
Counties Washington, Carter, Sullivan
Founded 1856
Incorporated 1869
Founded by Henry Johnson
 • Type Council-manager government
 • City 43.75 sq mi (113.32 km2)
 • Land 43.44 sq mi (112.52 km2)
 • Water 0.31 sq mi (0.80 km2)
1,634 ft (498 m)
 • City 71,046
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,635.38/sq mi (631.42/km2)
 • Urban
128,519 (US: 261st)
 • Metro
207,285 (US: 215th)
 • CSA
514,899 (US: 87th)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
37601-37604, 37614, 37615 & 37684
Area code(s) 423
FIPS code 47-38320
GNIS feature ID 1328579

Johnson City is a city in Washington, Carter, and Sullivan counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee, mostly in Washington County. As of the 2020 United States census, the population was 71,046, making it the eighth largest city in Tennessee. Johnson City is the principal city of the Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of Carter, Unicoi, and Washington counties and had a population of 207,285 as of 2020. The MSA is also a component of the Tri-Cities region. This CSA is the fifth-largest in Tennessee, with a population of 514,899 as of 2020.


William Bean, traditionally recognized as Tennessee's first white settler, built his cabin along Boone's Creek near Johnson City in 1769. In the 1780s, Colonel John Tipton (1730–1813) established a farm (now the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site) just outside what is now Johnson City. During the State of Franklin movement, Tipton was a leader of the loyalist faction, residents of the region who wanted to remain part of North Carolina rather than form a separate state. In February 1788, an armed engagement took place at Tipton's farm between Tipton and his men and the forces led by John Sevier, the leader of the Franklin faction.

Founded in 1856 by Henry Johnson as a railroad station called "Johnson's Depot", Johnson City became a major rail hub for the Southeast, as three railway lines crossed in the downtown area.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Johnson City served as headquarters for the narrow gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (the ET&WNC, nicknamed "Tweetsie") and the standard gauge Clinchfield Railroad. Both rail systems featured excursion trips through scenic portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains and were engineering marvels of railway construction. The Southern Railway (now Norfolk Southern) also passes through the city.

During the American Civil War, before it was formally incorporated in 1869, the name of the town was briefly changed to "Haynesville" in honor of Confederate Senator Landon Carter Haynes.

Henry Johnson's name was quickly restored following the war, with Johnson elected as the city's first mayor on January 3, 1870. The town grew rapidly from 1870 until 1890 as railroad and mining interests flourished. However, the national depression of 1893, which caused many railway failures (including the Charleston, Cincinnati and Chicago Railroad or "3-Cs", a predecessor of the Clinchfield) and resulting financial panic, halted Johnson City's boom town momentum.

In 1901, the Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (now the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and National Cemetery), Mountain Home, Tennessee was created by an act of Congress introduced by Walter P. Brownlow. Johnson City began growing rapidly and became the fifth-largest city in Tennessee by 1930.

Together with neighboring Bristol, Johnson City was a hotbed for old-time music. It hosted noteworthy Columbia Records recording sessions in 1928 known as the Johnson City Sessions. Native son "Fiddlin' Charlie" Bowman became a national recording star via these sessions. The Fountain Square area in downtown featured a host of local and traveling street entertainers including Blind Lemon Jefferson.

During the 1920s and the Prohibition era, Johnson City's ties to the bootlegging activity of the Appalachian Mountains earned the city the nickname of "Little Chicago".

For many years, the city had a municipal "privilege tax" on carnival shows, in an attempt to dissuade traveling circuses and other transient entertainment businesses from doing business in town. The use of drums by merchants to draw attention to their goods is prohibited. Title Six, Section 106 of the city's municipal code, the so-called "Barney Fife" ordinance, empowers the city's police force to draft into involuntary service as many of the town's citizens as necessary to aid police in making arrests and in preventing or quelling any riot, unlawful assembly or breach of peace.


Midtown Johnson City

Johnson City is in northeastern Washington County,

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 43.3 square miles (112.1 km2), of which 42.9 square miles (111.2 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km2), or 0.75 percent, is water.

Buffalo Mountain, a ridge over 2,700 feet (820 m) high, is a city park on the south side of town. The Watauga River arm of Boone Lake, a Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir, is partly within the city limits.


Johnson City has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with warm summers and cool winters. Temperatures in Johnson City are moderated somewhat by its elevation and proximity to the Appalachian Mountains. Precipitation is abundant, with an average of 45.22 in (1,149 mm). Summer is typically the wettest part of the year, while early autumn is considerably drier. Snowfall is moderate and sporadic, with an average of 15.6 in (40 cm).

Climate data for Johnson City, Tennessee
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
Average high °F (°C) 45
Average low °F (°C) 25
Record low °F (°C) −21
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.42
Average snowfall inches (cm) 5.2
Average relative humidity (%) 59.0 71.5 69.0 67.0 69.5 73.0 75.0 76.5 76.5 74.0 68.5 69.5 74.0


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 685
1890 4,161 507.4%
1900 4,645 11.6%
1910 8,502 83.0%
1920 12,442 46.3%
1930 25,080 101.6%
1940 25,332 1.0%
1950 27,864 10.0%
1960 31,187 11.9%
1970 33,770 8.3%
1980 39,753 17.7%
1990 49,381 24.2%
2000 55,469 12.3%
2010 63,152 13.9%
2020 71,046 12.5%

2020 census

Johnson City racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 55,950 78.75%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 4,809 6.77%
Native American 164 0.23%
Asian 1,710 2.41%
Pacific Islander 37 0.05%
Other/mixed 3,878 5.46%
Hispanic or Latino 4,498 6.33%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 71,046 people, 30,724 households, and 15,904 families residing in the city.

Arts and culture

JunaluskaSculptureOblique 20160313
Monument of Chief Junaluska in Metro-Kiwanis Park, Johnson City

Public art

Public art includes 12 to 15 sculptures that change every two years. Also, 24 bronze statuettes of animals indigenous to the Appalachian Highlands, cast by faculty and students at ETSU, are installed in various downtown locations; staff at the Johnson City Public Library created a list of clues to aid in the search for all the animals. Other public art includes banners and art on light poles and traffic boxes, and quote stones along sidewalks and paths. Two annual art events take place in the city.


As a regional hub for a four-state area, Johnson City is home to a large variety of retail businesses, from well-known national chains to local boutiques and galleries.

The Mall at Johnson City is the city's only enclosed shopping mall. Much of the new retail development is in North Johnson City, along State of Franklin Road. Johnson City Crossings is the largest of these developments.

Points of interest

  • Buffalo Mountain Park
  • East Tennessee State University Arboretum
  • ETSU/Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center
  • Founders Park
  • Freedom Hall Civic Center
  • Johnson City STOLport
  • Thomas Stadium, baseball venue
  • Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site
  • Tweetsie Trail
  • Watauga River
  • William B. Greene Jr. Stadium
The Pavilion at Founder's Park hosts the local farmer's market.


Several Minor League Baseball teams have been based in Johnson City. Professional baseball was first played in the city by the Johnson City Soldiers in the Southeastern League in 1910. The city's longest-running team was the Johnson City Cardinals, who played in the Appalachian League as the Rookie affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1975 to 2020. In conjunction with a contraction of Minor League Baseball beginning with the 2021 season, the Appalachian League was reorganized as a collegiate summer baseball league, and the Cardinals were replaced by the Johnson City Doughboys, a new franchise in the revamped league designed for rising college freshman and sophomores.


Colleges and universities

East Tennessee State University has around 16,000 students in addition to a K-12 University School, a laboratory school of about 540 students. University School was the first laboratory school in the nation to adopt a year-round academic schedule.

Milligan University is just outside the city limits in Carter County, and has about 1,200 students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

Northeast State Community College has renovated a building in downtown Johnson City for use as a new satellite teaching site.

Tusculum College has a center on the north side of Johnson City in the Boones Creek area.

Johnson City School System

Elementary schools

  • Cherokee Elementary
  • Fairmont Elementary
  • Lake Ridge Elementary
  • Mt. View Elementary
  • North Side Elementary
  • South Side Elementary
  • Towne Acres Elementary
  • Woodland Elementary

Middle schools

  • Indian Trail Middle School
  • Liberty Bell Middle School

High schools

  • Science Hill High School

Private schools

  • Ashley Academy (PreK-8)
  • St. Mary's (K-8)
  • Providence Academy (K-12)
  • Tri-Cities Christian Schools (PreK-12)
  • University School (K-12)

Notable people

  • Bill Bain, management consultant, one of the founders of the management consultancy Bain & Company
  • Sam Bettens, lead singer of rock band K's Choice; Johnson City firefighter for a year
  • Jerry Blevins, Major League Baseball pitcher (New York Mets)
  • Ernie Bowman, Major League Baseball (San Francisco Giants, 1961–63)
  • Joe Bowman, bootmaker and marksman; guardian of western culture
  • Mike Brown, American Motorcyclist Association rider
  • Jo Carson, playwright and author
  • George Lafayette Carter, entrepreneur
  • David Cash, professional wrestler
  • David Cole, founding member of C+C Music Factory
  • Patrick J. Cronin, television and film actor, a professor in English and Theater at ETSU
  • Matt Czuchry, actor (Gilmore Girls), attended Science Hill High School
  • David Davis, Tennessee state senator; U.S. congressman 2007-2009
  • Lindsay Ellis, film critic, YouTuber, cinematographer, and author
  • Ray Flynn, miler with 89 sub-four-minute miles; graduated ETSU, president/CEO of Flynn Sports Management
  • Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tackle, San Francisco 49ers
  • Wyck Godfrey, film producer and studio executive
  • Jake Grove, born in Johnson City; played center for Virginia Tech, won the Rimington Trophy, played for the Miami Dolphins
  • Del Harris, NBA coach, attended Milligan College
  • Holly Herndon, electronic musician
  • Mark Herring, Attorney General of Virginia
  • Herman Hickman, College Football Hall of Fame player for the Tennessee Vols and NFL player.
  • Jim Hickman, professional baseball player, played outfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers
  • Steven James, novelist, attended ETSU
  • Drew Johnson, political commentator and columnist, and founder of the Beacon Center of Tennessee
  • Amythyst Kiah, Americana singer/songwriter
  • Brownie King, NASCAR driver
  • Catherine Marshall, author, born in Johnson City, later worked on her novel Christy while staying with relatives in town
  • John Alan Maxwell, artist and illustrator, raised in Johnson City, illustrated for Pearl S. Buck, John Steinbeck, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, spent his last 18 years in Johnson City; permanent collection housed at Carroll Reece Museum at ETSU
  • Johnny Miller, NASCAR driver
  • Daniel Norris, Major League Baseball, debuted with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014
  • Eureka O'Hara, drag queen and television personality
  • Mike Potter, NASCAR driver
  • David Phil Roe, mayor of Johnson City, and representative for Tennessee's 1st congressional district 2009–2021
  • Bryan Lewis Saunders, artist and writer, ETSU alumnus
  • Connie Saylor, NASCAR driver and Johnson City business owner
  • Constance Shulman, actress, singer, producer
  • Steve Spurrier, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and College Football Hall of Fame coach, spent most of his childhood in Johnson City and attended Science Hill High School; namesake of the school's football field
  • Robert Love Taylor and Alfred A. Taylor, brothers who were both governor of Tennessee; each owned and resided in Robins' Roost, historic house on South Roan Street
  • Brad Teague, NASCAR driver
  • Phyllis Tickle, prominent author on religion and spirituality
  • Ed Whitson, MLB pitcher known for a brief but colorful stint with the Yankees in the 1980s
  • Samuel Cole Williams, historian, jurist, first dean of the Emory University School of Law
  • Van Williams, NFL running back and kick returner for Buffalo Bills, All-American at Carson-Newman, attended Science Hill High School

Sister cities

Johnson City's sister cities are:

Images for kids

See also

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