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Kingsport, Tennessee
City of Kingsport
Broad Street in downtown Kingsport
Broad Street in downtown Kingsport
The Model City
Location of Kingsport in Sullivan and Hawkins counties, Tennessee
Location of Kingsport in Sullivan and Hawkins counties, Tennessee
Kingsport, Tennessee is located in Tennessee
Kingsport, Tennessee
Kingsport, Tennessee
Location in Tennessee
Kingsport, Tennessee is located in the United States
Kingsport, Tennessee
Kingsport, Tennessee
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Tennessee
Counties Sullivan, Hawkins
Settled 1771
Chartered/Rechartered 1822, 1917
 • Type Council-Manager
 • City 53.57 sq mi (138.74 km2)
 • Land 52.64 sq mi (136.35 km2)
 • Water 0.92 sq mi (2.39 km2)
1,211 ft (369 m)
 • City 55,442
 • Rank US: 694th
 • Density 1,028.17/sq mi (396.98/km2)
 • Urban
106,571 (US: 291st)
 • Metro
309,283 (US: 161st)
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
37660, 37662, 37663, 37664, 37665 & 37669
Area code(s) 423
FIPS code 47-39560
GNIS feature ID 1303478

Kingsport is a city in Sullivan and Hawkins counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee; most of the city is in Sullivan County and the city is the largest in both counties, but isn't the county seat of either. As of the 2020 census its population was 55,442.

Kingsport is the largest city in the Kingsport–BristolBristol, TN–VA, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which had a population of 309,544 as of 2010. The MSA is a component of the Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol, TN–VA, Combined Statistical Area—commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region. Census data from 2006–2008 for the Tri-Cities Combined Statistical Area estimates a population of 496,454.

Kingsport is commonly included in what is known as the Mountain Empire, which spans a portion of southwest Virginia and the mountainous counties in northeastern Tennessee. The name "Kingsport" is a simplification of "King's Port", originally referring to the area on the Holston River known as King's Boat Yard, the head of navigation for the Tennessee Valley. It is the only city in the United States that has this name.


Kingsport was developed by European Americans, after the American Revolutionary War, at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Holston River. In 1787 it was known as "Salt Lick," for an ancient lick. It was first settled along the banks of the South Fork, about a mile from the confluence. The Long Island of the Holston River is near the confluence, which is mostly within present-day corporate boundaries of Kingsport. The island was an important site for the Cherokee, colonial pioneers and early settlers, and specifically mentioned in the 1770 Treaty of Lochaber.

Early settlements at the site were used as a staging ground for other pioneers who were traveling overland on the Wilderness Road leading to Kentucky through Cumberland Gap. First chartered in 1822, Kingsport also became an important shipping port on the Holston River, a main transportation carrier. Goods originating for many miles around from the surrounding countryside were loaded onto barges for the journey downriver to the Tennessee River at Knoxville.

Kingsport in 1937

In the Battle of Kingsport (December 13, 1864) during the American Civil War, a force of 300 Confederates under Colonel Richard Morgan (1836–1918) stopped a larger Union force for nearly two days. An army of over 5,500 troops under command of Major General George Stoneman (1822–1894) had left Knoxville, Tennessee, to raid Confederate targets in Virginia: the salt works at Saltville, the lead works at Wytheville, and the iron works in Marion. While Col. Morgan's small band held off a main Union force under Major General Cullem Gillem on the opposite side the Holston River, Union Col. Samuel Patton took a force of cavalry to a ford in the river 2.5 miles (4.0 km) north and came down behind the Confederates. Out-numbered, out-flanked, and demoralised by the bitter winter weather, Col. Morgan surrendered. The Confederates suffered 18 dead, and 84 prisoners of war were sent to a Union prison in Knoxville. The city lost its charter after a downturn in its fortunes precipitated by the Civil War.

On September 12, 1916, Kingsport residents demanded the death of circus elephant Mary (an Asian elephant that performed in the Sparks World Famous Shows Circus). She had killed city hotel worker Walter Eldridge, who was hired by the circus the day before as an assistant elephant trainer. Eldridge was attacked and killed by the elephant while he was leading her to a pond. The elephant was impounded by the local sheriff. Leaders of several nearby towns threatened to prevent the circus from performing if it included the elephant. The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the situation was to hold a public execution. On the following day, she was transported by rail to Erwin, Tennessee, where a crowd of over 2,500 people assembled in the Clinchfield Railroad yard to watch her hang from a railroad crane.

Re-chartered in 1917, Kingsport was an early example of a "garden city." Part of it was designed by city planner and landscape architect John Nolen of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was nicknamed as the Model City from this plan, which organized the town into areas for commerce, churches, housing and industry. Most of the land on the river was devoted to industry. Most of The Long Island is now occupied by Eastman Chemical Company, which is headquartered in Kingsport. As part of this plan, Kingsport built some of the earliest traffic circles (roundabouts) in the United States.

Kingsport was among the first municipalities to adopt a city manager form of government, to professionalize operations of city departments. It developed its school system based on a model promoted by Columbia University.

Pal's Sudden Service, a regional fast-food restaurant chain, opened its first location in Kingsport in 1956.


Kingsport is located at 36°32′N 82°33′W / 36.533°N 82.550°W / 36.533; -82.550 (36.5369, −82.5421), at the intersection of U.S. Routes 11 and 23. Kingsport is the northwest terminus of Interstate 26.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.0 square miles (116.6 km²) of which 44.1 square miles (114.1 km²) is land and 0.9 square miles (2.4 km²) (2.07%) is water.



Historical population
Census Pop.
1920 5,692
1930 11,914 109.3%
1940 14,404 20.9%
1950 19,571 35.9%
1960 26,314 34.5%
1970 31,938 21.4%
1980 32,027 0.3%
1990 36,365 13.5%
2000 44,905 23.5%
2010 48,205 7.3%
2019 (est.) 54,127 12.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
2018 Estimate

2020 census

Kingsport racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 48,212 86.96%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 2,024 3.65%
Native American 144 0.26%
Asian 754 1.36%
Pacific Islander 15 0.03%
Other/Mixed 2,574 4.64%
Hispanic or Latino 1,719 3.1%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 55,442 people, 23,640 households, and 14,273 families residing in the city.


Kingsport is the location of two hospitals:

  • Holston Valley Medical Center – A regional Level I trauma center
  • Indian Path Medical Center


  • The vessel SS Kingsport Victory, which later became USNS Kingsport, was named in honor of the city.


The Kingsport Parks and Recreation manages several parks within the city.

  • Bays Mountain Park
  • Borden Park
  • Dogwood Park
  • Kingsport Greenbelt Walking/Cycling Trail
  • Riverview Splash Pad
  • Scott Adams Skate Park

Kingsport Police Department

Kingsport Police Department
Abbreviation KPD
Agency overview
Formed 1917
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdiction Kingsport, Tennessee, United States
General nature
Operational structure
Sworn members 99
Unsworn members 57
Agency executive
  • David Quillin, Chief

Kingsport Police Department is the municipal law enforcement agency for Kingsport, Tennessee. The current chief is David Quillin.

In 2006, the KPD consisted of 104 sworn officers, 44 full-time non-sworn officers, and 17 part-time non sworn officers. The budget for 2005 was $8,602,800. The KPD has twelve SWAT members that train regularly. KPD SWAT responded to thirteen emergency calls during 2005.


Eastman Chemical Company has its world headquarters in Kingsport. Domtar operates a paper mill in Kingsport. Domtar has temporarily shut this plant down from uncoated freesheet paper manufacturing and plans to convert the plant by 2023 to be able to create containerboard. Holston Army Ammunition Plant operated by BAE Systems' Ordnance Systems, Inc. manufactures a wide range of secondary detonating explosives for the Department of Defense.

In 2019, Kingsport's gross metropolitan product was reported to be US$14.1 billion.


1921 Kingsport Indians
The 1921 Kingsport Indians were the first professional baseball team from Kingsport.

The city is home to the Kingsport Axmen, a collegiate summer baseball team of the Appalachian League. The nickname is in reference to frontiersman Daniel Boone, who began the Wilderness Road in Kingsport. The Axmen play their home games at Hunter Wright Stadium, which is named after former mayor Hunter Wright.

Professional baseball was first played in Kingsport, by the Kingsport Indians in the Appalachian League from 1921 to 1925. The team went dormant for 12 years before it returned to the circuit as the Kingsport Cherokees from 1938 to 1955—with the exception of the 1942 season as the Kingsport Dodgers and as members of the Mountain States League in 1953 and 1954. The club was later known as the Kingsport Orioles (1957), Kingsport Pirates (1960–1963), Kingsport Royals (1969–1973), and Kingsport Braves (1974–1979). The Kingsport Mets were members of the Appy League from 1980 to 2020, except for the 1983 season when the New York Mets temporarily relocated the team to Sarasota, Florida, as the Gulf Coast League Mets, while their home ballpark was being renovated. 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 Mets were replaced by the Axmen, a new franchise in the revamped league designed for rising college freshman and sophomores.


Colleges and universities

While no college or university has its main campus within the city, these institutions have branch campuses in Kingsport:

King, Lincoln Memorial, Milligan and Northeast State are all located in the Kingsport Academic Village complex in downtown Kingsport. East Tennessee State offers general education courses in the Hawkins County (westernmost) portion of the city, with more advanced courses at the Academic Village.

Kingsport City Schools

Residents of Kingsport are served by the Kingsport City Schools public school system. It operates eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school. In addition, Kingsport has eight private academies, most with religious affiliation.

List of Kingsport city schools
  • John Adams Elementary School
  • Andrew Jackson Elementary School
  • Andrew Johnson Elementary School
  • John F. Kennedy Elementary School
  • Abraham Lincoln Elementary School
  • Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School
  • Thomas Jefferson Elementary School
  • George Washington Elementary School
  • Ross N. Robinson Middle School
  • John Sevier Middle School
  • Dobyns-Bennett High School
  • Cora Cox Academy (formerly New Horizons Alternative School)
  • Dobyns-Bennett Excel

Former school for African-Americans

Douglass High School in Kingsport was one of the largest African-American high schools in the region when it closed for desegregation in 1966. The school's former building on East Walnut Avenue (now East Sevier Avenue) was a historic Rosenwald School, built in 1929–30 with a combination of funds from the city, private citizens and the Rosenwald Fund. Although during the years of segregation the Douglass Tigers football team was not allowed to play white teams, the Tigers won a Tennessee state football championship a state basketball championship in 1946, and a state basketball championship in 1948. The present building, built in 1951 at 301 Louis Street, is now the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex, named for Douglass' former principal.

Notable people

  • Lisa Alther, author, born and grew up in Kingsport
  • Edward L. Ayers, Bancroft Prize-winning historian and ninth president of the University of Richmond, raised in Kingsport
  • Barry Bales, Grammy Award-winning musician with Alison Krauss and Union Station
  • James F. Barker, president of Clemson University (1999–2013)
  • Nick Castle, actor who played Michael Myers in the original Halloween, was born in Kingsport and makes appearances at the local haunted houses.
  • Jeff Chapman-Crane, Appalachian artist
  • Harry Coover, inventor of Super Glue
  • Denny Crawford, professional football player
  • Amy Dalley, country music artist
  • Bobby Dodd, College Football Hall of Fame inductee as both a football player (University of Tennessee) and coach (Georgia Institute of Technology)
  • Bobby Eaton, professional wrestler
  • Elle and Blair Fowler, online beauty retailers who spent part of their childhoods in Kingsport
  • Daniel Kilgore, professional football player, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Cliff Kresge, Nationwide Tour golfer who splits his time between homes in Kingsport and Florida
  • Hal Lawton, President & CEO of Tractor Supply, graduate of Sullivan South High School
  • Blake Leeper, Paralympic silver medallist
  • Cripple Clarence Lofton, noted boogie-woogie pianist and singer, born in Kingsport
  • Matt Mahaffey, musician, frontman of pop/rock band Self
  • Brownie and Stick McGhee, brothers and blues musicians, grew up in Kingsport and other East Tennessee towns
  • Ken Mellons, country music artist
  • John Palmer, former NBC News correspondent, born in Kingsport and a graduate of Dobyns-Bennett High School
  • Jimmy Quillen, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee's 1st congressional district (1963–1997)
  • John Shelton Reed, sociologist and essayist, author or editor of eighteen books, most of them dealing with the contemporary American South
  • Selwa Showker "Lucky" Roosevelt, Chief of Protocol of the United States from 1982-1989 and former journalist for the Washington Post, married Archibald B. Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt
  • Coty Sensabaugh, cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Gerald Sensabaugh, retired NFL cornerback, played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Dallas Cowboys
  • LeRoy Sprankle, high school multi-sport coach, author, and general manager of the Canton Independents
  • Adam Steffey, bluegrass artist
  • Bill Streever, biologist and author
  • Cyrus Thomas, entomologist and ethnologist
  • Steven Williams, actor who starred in 21 Jump Street and The Blues Brothers
  • Charles Wright, poet who spent part of his childhood and adult life in Kingsport

See also

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