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Shelbyville, Tennessee
Downtown Shelbyville
Downtown Shelbyville
The Walking Horse Capital of the World and The Pencil City
Location of Shelbyville in Bedford County, Tennessee.
Location of Shelbyville in Bedford County, Tennessee.
Country United States
State Tennessee
County Bedford
Platted 1810
Incorporated 1819
Named for Isaac Shelby
 • Total 18.44 sq mi (47.76 km2)
 • Land 18.44 sq mi (47.76 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
755 ft (230 m)
 • Total 20,335
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,198.60/sq mi (462.78/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 931
FIPS code 47-67760
GNIS feature ID 1269993

Shelbyville is a city in and the county seat of Bedford County, Tennessee, United States. The town was laid out in 1810 and incorporated in 1819. Shelbyville had a population of 20,335 residents at the 2010 census. The town is a hub of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and has been nicknamed "The Walking Horse Capital of the World".


Shelbyville is in Middle Tennessee on a Highland Rim limestone bluff upon the banks of Duck River, which flows around the southern and eastern sides of town.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.6 square miles (48.2 km2), all land.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 1,708
1860 776 −54.6%
1870 1,719 121.5%
1880 1,869 8.7%
1890 1,823 −2.5%
1900 2,236 22.7%
1910 2,869 28.3%
1920 2,912 1.5%
1930 5,010 72.0%
1940 6,537 30.5%
1950 9,456 44.7%
1960 10,466 10.7%
1970 12,262 17.2%
1980 13,530 10.3%
1990 14,049 3.8%
2000 16,105 14.6%
2010 20,335 26.3%
2019 (est.) 22,101 8.7%

2020 census

Shelbyville racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 13,156 55.85%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 2,942 12.49%
Native American 65 0.28%
Asian 173 0.73%
Pacific Islander 10 0.04%
Other/Mixed 1,045 4.44%
Hispanic or Latino 6,166 26.17%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 23,557 people, 7,257 households, and 5,025 families residing in the city.


Shelbyville is at the intersection of U.S. Route 231 and U.S. Route 41A. It was the terminus of a branch line (from Wartrace), located along what is now known as Railroad Avenue, connecting with what was once known as the Saint Louis, Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad.

Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration

The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration takes place each year during the 11 days and nights prior to Labor Day. It is the largest show for the Tennessee Walking Horse, during which the breed's World Grand Champion and over 20 World Champions are named. The Celebration is a festival event where more than $650,000 in prizes and awards are given. The Celebration began in 1939, and the first winner was Strolling Jim.

In popular culture

Shelbyville was featured in Miranda Lambert's video "Famous in a Small Town". The city was also profiled in the film Welcome to Shelbyville, as part of the PBS documentary film series Independent Lens. The film spotlights recent demographic changes in the community, with a focus on the growing number of immigrants from Latin America and Somalia (both Somalis and people from the Bantu minority ethnic group). Shelbyville was also featured in GADA film's "Our Very Own" (2005 Film), directed by Cameron Watson. The film, dubbed "a love story to Shelbyville", highlights some of the peculiar and humorous memories of Shelbyville in the 1970s. The film follows five teenagers who are determined to meet Shelbyville's own Sondra Locke. Filmed in 2004, it highlights the square, Capri Theater, Pope's Cafe, Central High School, Duck River Dam, TWHNC, and many other landmarks. Cameron Watson is also one of Shelbyville's own.


Shelbyville Tennessee square
Town Square of Shelbyville

Shelbyville is known as "The Pencil City" because of its historical importance as a center of wood-cased pencil manufacturing. It is still a site for manufacture of writing instruments. In 1982, National Pen Corporation purchased its largest competitor, U.S. Pencil and Stationery Company. Sanford Corporation produces the Sharpie, the world's top-selling writing instrument, in the city. It was in Shelbyville in 1991 that the world's longest pencil was produced, a plastic-cased pencil 1,091 feet (333 m) long, weighing 27 pounds (12 kg).

Other major business operations in Shelbyville include manufacturers Calsonic Kansei, Newell Rubbermaid, Cebal America, and Jostens; it is also home to a Tyson Foods facility and a distribution center for Wal-Mart, as well as several nationwide trucking businesses.


K-12 education

Bedford County School District operates primary and secondary schools. Shelbyville Central High School is the local public high school.

After the end of non-penal slavery in the United States the AME Church opened a school for African-American children. The public school system graduated its first black class in 1890. The schools for African-American children operated by the district were East Bedford School and Bedford County Training School for Negroes (a.k.a. John McAdams High School and also Harris High School for Negroes). Schools racially integrated after 1964.

Higher education

The Tennessee College of Applied Technology - Shelbyville is one of 46 institutions in the Tennessee Board of Regents System, the seventh largest system of higher education in the nation. This system comprises six universities, fourteen community colleges, and twenty-six technology centers. More than 80 percent of all Tennessee students attending public institutions are enrolled in a Tennessee Board of Regents institution.

Notable people

Jim Cooper, Official Portrait, ca2013
Congressman Jim Cooper.
  • Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper (born 1954). In Shelbyville, his family owns the historic River Side Farmhouse, built for his great-great-grandfather, Jacob Morton Shofner, in 1890, and the Gov. Prentice Cooper House in Shelbyville, built in 1904 for his grandfather, William Prentice Cooper, who served as the mayor of Shelbyville. His father, Prentice Cooper, who was born in the River Side Farmhouse, was the Governor of Tennessee from 1939 to 1945.
  • Sumner Archibald Cunningham (1843-1913), founding editor of the Confederate Veteran, buried in Shelbyville's Willow Mount Cemetery.
  • Dickie Gardner, horse trainer
  • Joe Jenkins, Major League Baseball player
  • Harold A. Katz (1921-2012), Illinois state representative and lawyer
  • Sondra Locke (1944–2018), actress/director
  • Judy and Joe Martin, a married couple who trained horses together
  • Joyce Paul (1937–2016), country music singer
  • Samuel Escue Tillman (1847–1942), U.S. Army officer and superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Shelbyville (Tennessee) para niños

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