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Russellville, Arkansas
City of Russellville
Russellville Downtown Historic District, 2009
Russellville Downtown Historic District, 2009
Location of Russellville in Pope County, Arkansas.
Location of Russellville in Pope County, Arkansas.
Russellville, Arkansas is located in the United States
Russellville, Arkansas
Russellville, Arkansas
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  Arkansas
County Pope
Townships Dover, Galla, Illinois
Incorporated June 7, 1870; 152 years ago (1870-06-07)
Named for Dr. Thomas Russell
 • City 28.37 sq mi (73.47 km2)
 • Land 28.30 sq mi (73.30 km2)
 • Water 0.06 sq mi (0.17 km2)
346 ft (106 m)
 • City 28,940
 • Density 1,022.54/sq mi (394.80/km2)
 • Metro
86,666 [1]
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
72801, 72802, 72837, 72858
Area code(s) 479
FIPS code 05-61670
GNIS feature ID 0079154
Major airport LIT

Russellville is the county seat and largest city in Pope County, Arkansas, United States, with a 2021 estimated population of 30,971. It is home to Arkansas Tech University. Arkansas Nuclear One, Arkansas' only nuclear power plant is nearby. Russellville borders Lake Dardanelle and the Arkansas River.

It is the principal city of the Russellville Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Pope and Yell counties.



Before the town was named Russellville, it was known as Chactas Prairie, The Prairie, or Cactus Flats. In the early 19th century, Osage from Missouri hunted frequently in the valley where Russellville is located. Between 1818 and 1828, the area was within a Cherokee reservation, but after 1828 the Cherokee were removed to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), and the land became available for white settlement. The first settler in the area was P.C. Holledger in 1834.

One year later, Dr. Thomas Russell bought Holledger's house. The first business to be established in the town was owned by Mr. Shinn, who later built a masonry structure to replace his wooden store in 1875. This building still exists today, and is known as the Shinn Building. It was built at the intersection of an east-west road from Little Rock to Fort Smith and a north-south buffalo trail to a ford on the Arkansas River. Early travelers used these established trails to pass through the valley. When the town's residents decided to name the town, it came down to two choices: Shinnville or Russellville, and Russellville won.

American Civil War

As with the war with Mexico in the 1840s, many men of Russellville served in the state’s military forces during the American Civil War. Local men served in the state forces early in the war, with many transferring to Confederate regiments by 1862. Several local men were also formed into at least two pro-Union companies. No great battles occurred in or near Russellville, though actions did take place late in the war at nearby Dardanelle (Yell County). While the war came to an official end in 1865, peace did not immediately return to the area. Many areas of Pope County were disrupted in the early 1870s by the bloody and violent events of the Pope County Military War.

Reconstruction era

The town grew slowly, but during the early 1870s the railroad was built and the town exploded commercially and experienced a boom in population. It connected Russellville to other towns in the area, and ran eventually from Ft. Smith to Little Rock, connecting other river valley towns such as Morrilton, Conway, Atkins, London, and facilitating trade among them. Russellville’s first newspaper, the Herald was founded in 1870. By 1876, the town boasted a population of approximately 800 serviced by fifteen stores, two cotton gins, and six doctors.

Incorporation as a city

On June 7, 1870, Russellville became an incorporated city. Incorporation prompted a debate on moving the county seat, located in Dover since 1841, to one of the growing business centers adjacent to the new tracks. On March 19, 1887, an election was held in which Russellville beat out all competing towns, though Atkins finished a close second on the ballot.

While formal education came to the Russellville area early with the founding of nearby Dwight Mission in 1820, most early schools were either private or by subscription. The Russellville Public School District was formed in 1870, the year the city was incorporated. By 1876, it had evolved into a nine-month school. By 1890, approximately 400 students attended in ten grades, and in 1893, the first class to attend through twelve grades graduated.

Most 19th century residents of the area farmed for a living or, with the coming of the railroad, harvested timber. By the end of the century, Russellville and the surrounding area had become a prosperous coal-mining area, with the Quita Coal Company being the first established. Other coal companies followed with deep mine shafts sunk north and south of town, which, by the 1950s, had given way to strip mining. Cotton became a profitable crop near Russellville; in the early 20th century, bales were sold from wagons in the middle of Main Street. Today, no coal is mined, and the cotton gins are gone.

20th century

Russellville AR Central Presby PHS902
Central Presbyterian Church, 1925

In 1906 the town suffered a massive fire in its central business district. The fire consumed nearly half of the buildings but they were quickly rebuilt, most within six months after the fire. Many were built cheaply, using poor mortar. Today many of these historic buildings are in very bad condition due to the mortar that was used. In 1909 Arkansas Tech University was founded as an agricultural school, Arkansas Polytechnic College, and now has a student population of over 12,000 students between the Russellville and Ozark campuses. As of fall 2014, Arkansas Tech University is the third-largest institution of higher learning in the Natural State, preceded only by University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and Arkansas State University. With America’s entry into World War II, many Russellville men enlisted or were drafted into the military. Many of the local men served in the 153rd Infantry. Battery D and Battery F of the 206th Coast Artillery Regiment of the Arkansas National Guard were initially stationed at ATU. Many of the men saw service in Alaska in what is known as the Williwaw War.

In the years following the war, Russellville’s growth was sparked by the construction of Interstate 40 in 1956. The highway has been a boon to the area’s growth, much like the railroad was in the 1870s. A major economic boost came as a result of the completion of a dam near the Arkansas River crossing between Dardanelle and Russellville in 1965. The dam created a lake, which led to the establishment of Lake Dardanelle State Park, a major tourist attraction in the area. The completion of the lock and power dam, a part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which brings in between $1 to $2 billion in trade to the state each year, has greatly improved the area’s business prospects. During the 1970s, the town, like so many other small American towns, witnessed the decentralization of its historic downtown area, due to the advent of large retail outlets such as Wal-Mart. Many of the historic buildings were left to decay or were torn down. Also in the 1970s, Arkansas' only nuclear power plant, Arkansas Nuclear One, was built just outside the city, on Lake Dardanelle. The plant brought more people and jobs to the city.


Russellville is located at 35°16′42″N 93°8′13″W / 35.27833°N 93.13694°W / 35.27833; -93.13694 (35.278429, -93.136820). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.3 square miles (73 km2), of which 28.2 square miles (73 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) (0.08%) is water. It is located on the Arkansas River. The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Russellville has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 240
1880 514 114.2%
1890 1,321 157.0%
1900 1,832 38.7%
1910 2,936 60.3%
1920 4,505 53.4%
1930 5,628 24.9%
1940 5,927 5.3%
1950 8,166 37.8%
1960 8,921 9.2%
1970 11,750 31.7%
1980 14,518 23.6%
1990 21,260 46.4%
2000 23,682 11.4%
2010 27,920 17.9%
2020 28,940 3.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Russellville racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 19,978 69.03%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 1,787 6.17%
Native American 172 0.59%
Asian 476 1.64%
Pacific Islander 16 0.06%
Other/Mixed 1,629 5.63%
Hispanic or Latino 4,882 16.87%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 28,940 people, 10,184 households, and 5,858 families residing in the city.

2010 census

As of the 2010 Census, there were 27,920 people, 10,318 households, and 6,383 families residing in the city. The population density was 987.4 people per square mile (381.2/km2). There were 11,124 housing units at an average density of 393.4 per square mile (152.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 83.2% White, 5.5% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 1.6% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 6.7% from other races, and 2.3% from two or more races. 11.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 10,318 households, out of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.3% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.1% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 22.6% under the age of 18, 21.4% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29.1 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $38,234, and the median income for a family was $49,440. Males had a median income of $30,133 versus $19,906 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,637. About 14.5% of families and 18.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.8% of those under age 18 and 9.1% of those age 65 or over.

In popular culture

In the NBC series Heroes, Russellville is the location of the plane crash in "Trust and Blood" in season three, episode fifteen. However, research on the area was clearly minimal and the representation of Russellville showed poor understanding of the city's geography and history.

Russellville power plant, Arkansas Nuclear One was featured in a 2011 episode of Aerial America on the Smithsonian Channel.

In 2013, Russellville was chosen as one of the filming locations for the independent Christian film "Cowboys and Jesus". One scene was filmed at Cyclone Stadium, depicting a football game in which locals from the area were invited to attend, appearing as "extras".



Arkansas corporations Tyson Foods, Inc. and Innovation Industries Elevator Signal Fixtures are among the nearly fifty manufacturing plants employing more than 8,300 people. Overall, there are more than ten divisions of Fortune 500 companies located in Russellville. There is a diverse manufacturing base located in the city including: Frozen dinners, railroad crossties, elevator signal fixtures, parking meters, aluminum foil, graphite electrodes, Microplanes, and aircraft and automotive parts.


Russellville's local newspaper is The Courier, which is published six days a week (every day except Monday).

ABOUT the River Valley magazine, a monthly publication is distributed across five counties (Pope, Yell, Johnson, Conway, and Logan) of the Arkansas River Valley region is based in Russellville.

TV stations that reach Russellville are either from the Little Rock or Fort Smith markets as Russellville is on the "fringe" of both service areas. Russellville receives KFSM-TV (CBS) and KFTA-TV (FOX) from Fort Smith and KARK-TV (NBC) and KATV-TV (ABC) from Little Rock. The farther away from the city center one is, the likelihood becomes greater that one will receive the full package of channels from one market over the other (Fort Smith to the west and Little Rock to the east of town).

Several commercial radio stations serve the city, including KWKK-FM 100.9, KARV-AM 610 and KWXT-AM 1490, all of which are licensed to Russellville. In addition, radio stations KCJC-FM 102.3 and KCAB-AM 980 (both licensed to Dardanelle, AR); KVLD-FM 99.3 (licensed to Atkins, AR); KARV-FM 101.3 (licensed to Ola, AR) and KYEL-FM 105.5 (licensed to Danville, AR) have their studios in Russellville.

There are also two non-commercial radio stations operating in Russellville: KMTC-FM 91.1 and KXRJ-FM 91.9 (the radio station licensed to Arkansas Tech University).


Russellville is known for its local music, art scene, and historic downtown area. The most notable of these events is the Art Walk. On the first Friday night of each quarter (March, June, September, and December), the city hosts the Downtown Art Walk, in which the public may listen to live music, taste wine and food, and appreciate, purchase and sell art while connecting with the community, as well as have their picture taken in the Alley.

Russellville hosts a variety of sporting events and fishing tournaments, due to its location on Lake Dardanelle. Russellville is also close to Mt. Nebo and other state parks such as Lake Dardanelle State Park. Also many people commute to Russellville on a daily basis from its surrounding areas, for both work and recreation.

Russellville is also home to the Pope County Fairgrounds, which hosts many events ranging from horse racing to fairs and conventions. At the end of every summer, Russellville is also host to the annual Pope county fair; featuring rides, live music, livestock, games, and other various forms of entertainment. The county fair attracts more than 50,000 visitors each year.


Russellville is home to Arkansas Tech University, which was founded in 1909 and as of 2014 has 12,003 students.

Russellville is within the Russellville School District, which operates Russellville High School.

Russellville is also home to the Alternative learning center, which is made up of SLC (student learning center), SDC (student detention center), and an adult education center. The SLC program allows failing students to get more individualized attention so that they can catch up with the rest of their classmates or attain their high school diploma. The SDC program serves like an in-school suspension and serves students ranging from middle to high school. The adult learning center allows high school dropouts to come back and obtain their high school diplomas or GEDs.

In 2013, Russellville was chosen as one of the filming locations for the independent Christian film "Cowboys and Jesus". One scene was filmed at Cyclone Stadium, depicting a football game in which locals from the area were invited to attend, appearing as "extras".==In popular culture== In the NBC series Heroes, Russellville is the location of the plane crash in "Trust and Blood" in season three, episode fifteen.

Russellville power plant, Arkansas Nuclear One was featured in a 2011 episode of Aerial America on the Smithsonian Channel.

Notable people

  • American composer Scott Bradley, most known for his works in Tom and Jerry (MGM) cartoons, was from Russellville.
  • Natalie Canerday, actress (Sling Blade, October Sky, Walk the Line), graduated from Russellville High School.
  • Jeff Davis, Democratic United States Senator from Arkansas and the 20th governor of the state, lived in Russellville.
  • Trevor Drown, Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives for Pope and Van Buren counties since 2015; Libertarian Party nominee for United States Senate in 2010.
  • Jelly Gardner, baseball player in the Negro leagues.
  • Elizabeth Gracen, crowned Miss America in 1982, is a 1979 graduate of Russellville High School.
  • Brooks Hays began his law practice in Russellville with his father before he became a U.S. representative and an advisor to U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • Kenneth Henderson, Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives since 2015 for Pope County; real estate developer in Russellville.
  • NFL punter and College All-American Greg Horne graduated from Russellville High School in 1983.
  • Thomas H. Hudson, Democratic member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1976 to 1988; Baton Rouge attorney, and native of Russellville.
  • Andrea Lea, Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from Russellville since 2009; candidate for state auditor in 2014.
  • Famed knife maker Jimmy Lile was a Russellville native, best known for his work involving the Rambo film series.
  • NFL player and All-Pro selection Eddie Meador graduated RHS in 1955, and played college football at Arkansas Tech University.
  • Professional wrestler and reality television star Matt Riviera was born and raised in Russellville.
  • Kerry Shook, megachurch pastor.
  • Gary Johnston, U.S. Army major general and commander of Intelligence and Security Command, was a native of Russellville.
  • Greg Standridge, Republican member of the Arkansas State Senate from Russellville since 2015.
  • NBA player Corliss Williamson is a 1992 graduate of Russellville High School.
  • United States congressman Steve Womack was born in Russellville. He is a 1975 graduate of Russellville High School and 1979 graduate of Arkansas Tech University.
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