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McRae, Georgia
McRae-Helena City Hall
McRae-Helena City Hall
Location in Telfair County and the state of Georgia
Location in Telfair County and the state of Georgia
Country United States
State Georgia
County Telfair
 • Total 4.4 sq mi (11.4 km2)
 • Land 4.3 sq mi (11.2 km2)
 • Water 0.08 sq mi (0.2 km2)
246 ft (75 m)
 • Total 5,740
 • Density 1,322/sq mi (510.4/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 229
FIPS code 13-49084
GNIS feature ID 0317973

The city of McRae is the county seat of Telfair County, Georgia, United States. It was designated as the seat in 1871, after being established the previous year as a station on the Macon and Brunswick Railroad.

McRae was incorporated on March 3, 1874, and was named for a pioneering Scottish family. During the antebellum years and after the Civil War, the county had an economy largely based on cotton plantations, and McRae was a trading center.

As of the 2010 census, McRae had a population of 5,740, up from 2,682 at the 2000 census, due largely to expansion of the city limits to incorporate the area and prison population of the McRae Correctional Institution, a privately owned and operated prison under contract to the federal government.

The prison is a low-security facility holding adult males; it is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Numerous complaints have been filed against the contractor and the ACLU asked the federal Bureau of Prisons not to renew the company's contract for this prison.

On January 1, 2015, McRae and the adjacent town of Helena merged to form McRae-Helena.


Water works, McRae, GA, US
Old Water Works building

McRae was founded in 1870 as station number eleven on the Macon and Brunswick Railroad. In 1871, the seat of Telfair County was transferred to McRae from Jacksonville. McRae was incorporated as a town in 1874 and as a city in 1902.

McRae and Telfair County approved construction of a private prison in the early 21st century to hold federal prisoners, in the belief that it would provide jobs to local residents. McRae Correctional Facility, a low-security prison for adult males, has been owned and operated by CCA, the largest prison company in the United States in 2015, since it opened in 2003.

A Prison for McRae is a documentary film that explores McRae and Telfair County's decision to allow the prison, and the economic consequences of America's prison boom. It was produced for Arte France and has not been aired in the US. It was made before the prison opened. Numerous complaints have been filed with the ACLU against CCA for prisoner abuse.


McRae Georgia statue of liberty
Liberty Square

McRae is located in northern Telfair County at 32°3′52″N 82°53′54″W / 32.06444°N 82.89833°W / 32.06444; -82.89833 (32.064508, -82.898251). Helena is to the northwest.

Several U.S. highways pass through McRae. U.S. Routes 23 and 341 pass through the city as Oak Street, leading northwest 20 miles (32 km) to Eastman and southeast 24 miles (39 km) to Hazlehurst, while U.S. Routes 280, 319, and 441 pass through as Third Avenue, crossing US 23/341 in the center of town. US 280 leads northeast 33 miles (53 km) to Vidalia and west 55 miles (89 km) to Cordele, while US 319/441 leads south 19 miles (31 km) to the small town of Jacksonville and north 35 miles (56 km) to Dublin.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.4 square miles (11.4 km2), of which 4.3 square miles (11.2 km2) is land and 0.077 square miles (0.2 km2), or 1.77%, is water. The Little Ocmulgee River flows just northeast of the city limits.

Sites of interest

Located in downtown McRae is Liberty Square, home of a Statue of Liberty replica that is one-twelfth the size of the original. It has a replica of the Liberty Bell and a marble memorial to Telfair County residents who died in military service.

On the outskirts of McRae is the Talmadge Home. This historic home was occupied by two former Georgia governors, Eugene Talmadge and Herman Eugene Talmadge. McRae was also the birthplace of Marion B. Folsom (1893–1976), a longtime executive of the Eastman Kodak Company who served as the United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare during the Eisenhower administration.

Famous railfan photographer William B. Folsom is buried in McRae.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 1,020
1910 1,160 13.7%
1920 1,273 9.7%
1930 1,314 3.2%
1940 1,595 21.4%
1950 1,904 19.4%
1960 2,738 43.8%
1970 3,151 15.1%
1980 3,409 8.2%
1990 3,007 −11.8%
2000 2,682 −10.8%
2010 5,740 114.0%
Est. 2014 5,972 4.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 2,682 people, 1,057 households, and 714 families residing in the city. The population density was 796.7 people per square mile (307.3/km²). There were 1,310 housing units at an average density of 389.1 per square mile (150.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 55.48% White, 42.69% African American, 0.30% Asian, 1.12% from other races, and 0.41% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.57% of the population.

There were 1,057 households out of which 30.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 19.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.4% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the city, the population was spread out with 24.0% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 20.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 81.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,236, and the median income for a family was $37,250. Males had a median income of $29,055 versus $20,321 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,911. About 16.4% of families and 19.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.4% of those under age 18 and 25.2% of those age 65 or over.

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