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Monroe, North Carolina
Union County Courthouse and Confederate Monument in Monroe
Union County Courthouse and Confederate Monument in Monroe
"Where Heartland Meets High Tech"
Location of Monroe, North Carolina
Location of Monroe, North Carolina
Country United States
State North Carolina
County Union
Named for James Monroe
 • Type Council–manager
 • Total 30.94 sq mi (80.15 km2)
 • Land 30.33 sq mi (78.55 km2)
 • Water 0.61 sq mi (1.59 km2)
591 ft (180 m)
 • Total 32,297
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,171.82/sq mi (452.44/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 704
FIPS code 37-43920
GNIS feature ID 0990144

Monroe is a city in and the county seat of Union County, North Carolina, United States. The population increased from 26,228 in 2000 to 32,797 in 2010. It is within the rapidly growing Charlotte metropolitan area. Monroe has a council-manager form of government.


In 1843, the first Board of County Commissioners, appointed by the General Assembly, selected an area in the center of the county as the county seat and Monroe was incorporated that year. It was named for James Monroe, the country’s fifth president. It became a trading center for the agricultural areas of the upland region, which cultivated tobacco.

Since the early 20th century, Ludwig drums and timpani have been manufactured in Monroe. The Ludwig brothers developed a hydraulic action timpani. In 1916 they invented a spring mechanism—the basis for the current Balanced Action Pedal Timpani.

Monroe had the typical segregation of the state following World War II, and local blacks, including Marine veteran Robert F. Williams, began to work to gain civil rights. At this time, the city had a population estimated at about 12,000; the press reported an estimated 7500 members of the Ku Klux Klan in the city. Williams became president of the local NAACP chapter and began to work to integrate public facilities, starting with the library and the city's swimming pool. These had been built with federal funds during the Great Depression of the 1930s and were operated from revenues derived from taxes on blacks as well as whites.

In 1958 Williams hired Conrad Lynn, a civil rights attorney from New York City, to aid in defending two African-American boys, aged nine and seven. They had been convicted of "molestation" and sentenced until age 21 to a reformatory for kissing a white girl their age on the cheek. This became known as the Kissing Case. The former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, talked to the governor to urge restraint, and the case became internationally embarrassing for the United States. After three months, the governor pardoned the boys.

There was rising Ku Klux Klan white violence against the minority black community of Monroe during the civil rights years, and Williams began to advocate black armed defense. The NAACP and black community in Monroe provided a base for some of the Freedom Riders in 1961, who were trying to integrate interstate bus travel, which was protected by the federal constitution's provisions regulating interstate commerce. Mobs attacked pickets marching for the Freedom Riders at the county courthouse. That year, Williams was accused of kidnapping an elderly white couple, when he sheltered them in his house during an explosive situation of high racial tensions.

Williams and his wife fled the United States to avoid prosecution for kidnapping. They went into exile for years in Cuba and in the People's Republic of China before returning to the United States in 1969. After Williams returned in 1969 and his trial was scheduled in 1975, North Carolina re-evaluated its case and dropped the charges.

The Jesse Helms family was prominent among the white community iduring these years. Jesse Helms Sr. served as Police and Fire Chief of Monroe for many years. Jesse Helms, Jr. was born and grew up in the town, where whites were Democrats in his youth. He became a politician and was elected five terms (1973–2003) as the U.S. Senator from North Carolina, switching to the Republican Party as it attracted conservative whites. He mustered support in the South for and played a key role in helping Ronald Reagan to be elected as President of the United States. Through that period, he was also a prominent (and often controversial) national leader of the Religious Right wing of the Republican Party. The Jesse Helms Center is in neighboring Wingate, North Carolina.

Monroe was home to the Starlite Speedway in the 1960s to 1970s. On May 13, 1966 the 1/2 mile dirt track hosted NASCAR's 'Independent 250.' Darel Dieringer won the race.

As part of the developing Charlotte metropolitan area, in the 21st century, Monroe has attracted new Hispanic residents. North Carolina has encouraged immigration to increase its labor pool.

The Malcolm K. Lee House, Monroe City Hall, Monroe Downtown Historic District, Monroe Residential Historic District, Piedmont Buggy Factory, John C. Sikes House, Union County Courthouse, United States Post Office, and Waxhaw-Weddington Roads Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Charlotte–Monroe Executive Airport (EQY) is located 5 mi (8.0 km) northwest of Monroe.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 24.9 square miles (64 km2), of which, 24.6 square miles (64 km2) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) of it (1.13%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 204
1860 239 17.2%
1870 1,144 378.7%
1880 1,564 36.7%
1890 1,866 19.3%
1900 2,427 30.1%
1910 4,082 68.2%
1920 4,084 0.0%
1930 6,100 49.4%
1940 6,475 6.1%
1950 10,140 56.6%
1960 10,882 7.3%
1970 11,282 3.7%
1980 12,639 12.0%
1990 16,127 27.6%
2000 26,228 62.6%
2010 32,797 25.0%
Est. 2019 35,540 8.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Monroe racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 14,118 40.85%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 7,787 22.53%
Native American 97 0.28%
Asian 390 1.13%
Pacific Islander 15 0.04%
Other/Mixed 1,216 3.52%
Hispanic or Latino 10,939 31.65%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 34,562 people, 11,482 households, and 8,657 families residing in the city.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 32,797 people, 9,029 households, and 6,392 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,067.5 people per square mile (412.2/km2). There were 9,621 housing units at an average density of 391.6 per square mile (151.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 60.12% White, 27.78% African American, 0.44% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 9.37% from other races, and 1.60% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 21.39% of the population.

There were 9,029 households, out of which 33.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.0% were married couples living together, 15.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.2% were non-families. 23.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.83 and the average family size was 3.27.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 26.9% under the age of 18, 11.6% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 18.0% from 45 to 64, and 10.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 102.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $40,457, and the median income for a family was $44,953. Males had a median income of $30,265 versus $22,889 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,970. About 11.7% of families and 17.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.7% of those under age 18 and 12.8% of those age 65 or over.


Two minor league baseball teams in the Western Carolinas League were based in Monroe. The Monroe Indians played in the city in 1969, while the Monroe Pirates played there in 1971.

Notable people

  • Terry Baucom, banjoist
  • Thomas Walter Bickett, 54th Governor of North Carolina (1917–1921)
  • Skipper Bowles, politician
  • Walter P. Carter, civil rights activist
  • Gil Coan, Major League Baseball player
  • David L. Cook, seven-time Emmy Award-winning recording artist
  • Grover Covington, Canadian Football Hall of Famer
  • Jamison Crowder, NFL wide receiver for New York Jets
  • Carlo Curley, classical organist
  • Christine Darden, aeronautical engineer at NASA; first African-American woman at agency promoted to Senior Executive Service, top rank of federal civil service
  • Theodore L. Futch, Brigadier general in the United States Army during World War II
  • JoJo Hailey, R&B and soul singer-songwriter
  • K-ci Hailey, R&B and soul singer-songwriter
  • Jesse Helms, U.S. Senator
  • Richard Huntley, former NFL running back
  • Carroll McCray, NCAA head football coach of Gardner-Webb University
  • Jeff McNeely, Major League Baseball player
  • James W. Nance, U.S. Navy officer, 10th Deputy National Security Advisor (1981–1982)
  • John J. Parker, U.S. judge who served on tribunal of Nuremberg Trials
  • Samuel I. Parker, recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War I
  • Aaron W. Plyler, politician and businessman
  • Mike Pope, former NFL tight end coach
  • Calvin Richardson, R&B and soul singer-songwriter
  • Speedy Thompson, former NASCAR driver
  • Andy Tomberlin, Major League Baseball player
  • John Tsitouris, Major League Baseball pitcher
  • Paul Waggoner, guitarist for Between the Buried and Me
  • Robert F. Williams, civil rights activist
  • Terry Witherspoon, former NFL fullback

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