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McNairy County, Tennessee facts for kids

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McNairy County
McNairy County Courthouse in Selmer
McNairy County Courthouse in Selmer
Map of Tennessee highlighting McNairy County
Location within the U.S. state of Tennessee
Map of the United States highlighting Tennessee
Tennessee's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Tennessee
Founded October 8, 1823
Named for John McNairy
Seat Selmer
Largest town Selmer
 • Total 564 sq mi (1,460 km2)
 • Land 563 sq mi (1,460 km2)
 • Water 0.8 sq mi (2 km2)  0.1%%
 • Total 26,075
 • Density 46/sq mi (18/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 7th

McNairy County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2010 census, the population was 26,075. Its county seat is Selmer. McNairy County is located along Tennessee's border with the state of Mississippi.

Sheriff Buford Pusser, whose story was told in the Walking Tall series of movies, was the sheriff of McNairy County from 1964 to 1970.

McNairy County is the location of the Coon Creek Science Center, a notable fossil site that preserves Late Cretaceous marine shells and vertebrate remains (such as mosasaurs).


Purdy TN cemetery
Purdy was the county seat of McNairy County until 1890. Graves in the Purdy cemetery date back to the early 1800s. (2007)

McNairy County was formed in 1823 from parts of Hardin County, and was named for Judge John McNairy.

County seat

Purdy was the county seat of McNairy County until 1890. Since then, Selmer has been the county seat.

Sheriff Buford Pusser

Buford Pusser served as the sheriff of McNairy County from 1964 to 1970. The courthouse and jail in Selmer were his base of operations. He gained prominence for his fight against illegal distilleries, bootleggers, gambling establishments, and corruption in the county. His story has been made famous in the Walking Tall series of movies starring Joe Don Baker, Bo Svenson and Brian Dennehy, and in numerous documentaries and books.


The oldest existing business in McNairy County is its newspaper, the Independent Appeal, which was founded in 1902. It is located in Selmer.

McNairy County News began publication in 2009. The MCN is located at 252 Mulberry Avenue in Selmer. The paper has an online presence at and a Facebook page, as well as a weekly printed publication each Thursday.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 564 square miles (1,460 km2), of which 563 square miles (1,460 km2) is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km2) (0.1%) is water.

The major highways U.S. Route 64 (east-west) and U.S. Route 45 (north-south) pass through McNairy County and intersect in Selmer. Between the late 1990s and mid 2010s, both highways were upgraded to four lane divided highways, giving the county quicker access to the surrounding areas. McNairy County's position on Route 64 places it on the historic Lee Highway, which stretches from New York to San Francisco.

State Highways 22 and 57 also pass through the county. SR 22 along the eastern portion intersecting with US 64 in Adamsville, and SR 57 through the southern portion intersecting with US 45 in Eastview.

Adjacent counties

State protected areas

  • Big Hill Pond State Park


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 5,697
1840 9,385 64.7%
1850 12,864 37.1%
1860 14,732 14.5%
1870 12,726 −13.6%
1880 17,271 35.7%
1890 15,510 −10.2%
1900 17,760 14.5%
1910 16,536 −6.9%
1920 18,350 11.0%
1930 19,901 8.5%
1940 20,424 2.6%
1950 20,390 −0.2%
1960 18,085 −11.3%
1970 18,369 1.6%
1980 22,525 22.6%
1990 22,422 −0.5%
2000 24,653 10.0%
2010 26,075 5.8%
Est. 2015 26,066 0.0%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2014
USA McNairy County, Tennessee.csv age pyramid
Age pyramid McNairy County

As of the census of 2000, there were 24,653 people, 9,980 households, and 7,135 families residing in the county. The population density was 44 people per square mile (17/km²). There were 11,219 housing units at an average density of 20 per square mile (8/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 92.22% White, 6.23% Black or African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.13% Asian, 0.24% from other races, and 0.98% from two or more races. 0.93% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 9,980 households out of which 29.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.00% were married couples living together, 9.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.50% were non-families. 25.90% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.50% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.60% under the age of 18, 8.10% from 18 to 24, 26.70% from 25 to 44, 25.60% from 45 to 64, and 15.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 94.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,154, and the median income for a family was $36,045. Males had a median income of $30,028 versus $21,450 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,385. About 11.80% of families and 15.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.00% of those under age 18 and 20.80% of those age 65 or over.

Parks and attractions

McNairy County is the site of 5,000-acre (20 km2) Big Hill Pond State Park, which is forested with timberland and hardwood bottomland. The county is also the location of the Coon Creek Science Center, a notable fossil site, located in Leapwood over the Coon Creek Formation, which preserves Late Cretaceous marine shells and vertebrate remains (such as mosasaurs) left there 70 million years ago.

McNairy County is home to one of the most successful rural arts organizations in the state, AiM (Arts in McNairy). AiM pushes for arts recognition in the county and surrounding area through theatre productions, exhibits of local artists, and the bi-annual Artisan Trail.


Purdy TN 1



Unincorporated communities

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