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Gadsden is a city in and the county seat of Etowah Countymarker, northeastern Alabamamarker, United Statesmarker, approximately 60 miles northeast of Birminghammarker. It is the principal city of and is included in the Gadsden Metropolitan Statistical Areamarker, which has a population of 103,459. As of the 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 37,291.

It was at one time the state's second most important industrial center, trailing only Mobilemarker. The two cities were important shipping centers: Gadsden for riverboats and Mobile for international trade. Up until the 1980s, Gadsden was almost totally dependent on heavy industry, including Goodyear Tire, and Republic Steel. After virtually crumbling in the 1970s and 1980s, Gadsden decided its best course of action was to stop being dependent on industry, and shedding its "company town" image. In 1991, Gadsden was awarded the honor of All-America City by the National Civic League, an award that honored the way Gadsden's citizens, government, businesses, and voluntary organizations work together to address critical local issues.


The first substantial white settlement in what is now Gadsden was a tiny town called Double Springs. It was begun by a mixed Indian-white settler named John Riley when he built his house near two springs around 1825. It became a stagecoach stop on the Huntsvillemarker-to-Romemarker route. The original house still stands today as the oldest house in Gadsden.The house changed hands to a couple named Gabriel and Asenath Hughes in 1840. Shortly thereafter, they began to purchase much of the land between Lookout Mountainmarker, the Coosa River, and down to the mouth of Wills Creek. Their land, plus that of John S. Moragne and Joseph Rhea, became the first part of the city of Gadsden. Double Springs was transformed on July 4, 1845, when one Captain James Lafferty piloted the first steamboat to the area, aptly named the Coosa. He landed near the site of the current Memorial Bridge on that date. The Hughes brothers offered to name the town "Lafferty's Landing" in his honor, but Lafferty declined. Instead, the name Gadsden was chosen, in honor of Colonel James Gadsden of South Carolinamarker, famous for the later Gadsden Purchase.

Perspective map of Gadsden in 1887.

The Spirit of American Citizenship Monument on Rainbow Drive (US 411), just before the Broad Street Bridge.
The Coosa River and East Gadsden are visible in the background.
After most of Gadsden's major industries in the 1970s and 80's, the city began to crash. A 1989 Rand McNally article listed Gadsden as one of the "Seven Worst Cities to Live in the United States." Spurred to action by these reports, efforts like the Cultural Arts Center and downtown redevelopment earned Gadsden first place in the 2000 City Livability Awards Program.


Gadsden is located at (34.010147, -86.010356) .

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 37.2 square miles (96.3 km²), of which, 36.0 square miles (93.2 km²) of it is land and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km²) of it (3.25%) is water.


Gadsden has a humid subtropical climate. It experiences hot, humid summers and generally mild winters, with average high temperatures ranging from 89.0 °F (31.6 C) in the summer to 49.4°F (9.5 C) high during winter.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high

°F (°C)
49 (9) 55 (13) 64 (18) 73 (23) 80 (27) 87 (31) 90 (32) 89 (32) 84 (29) 74 (24) 63 (17) 54 (12) 72 (22)
Average low

°F (°C)

31 (0) 39 (4) 48 (9) 56 (13) 64 (18) 68 (20) 68 (20) 61 (16) 48 (9) 40 (5) 32 (0) 49 (10)
Average rainfall: inches/mm 5.3 /

5 /









4.2 107 5.4 137 55.3 /



As of the census of 2000, there were 38,978 people, 16,456 households, and 10,252 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,083.6 people per square mile (418.4/km²). There were 18,797 housing units at an average density of 522.6/sq mi (201.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 62.69% White, 34.00% Black or African American, 0.30% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.22% from other races, and 1.17% from two or more races. 2.67% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 16,456 households out of which 24.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.5% were married couples living together, 18.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. 33.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 20.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 85.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,823, and the median income for a family was $31,740. Males had a median income of $29,400 versus $19,840 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,610. About 18.1% of families and 22.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.9% of those under age 18 and 14.6% of those age 65 or over.


Citing statistics from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations and the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority reports that approximately 12,000 residents of Etowah County are underemployed and 2,179 residents are unemployed as of 2008.


The Gadsden City Board of Education oversees fourteen schools: eight elementary schools, three middle schools, one high school, and two specialty schools (one alternative center and one technical center).

A new high school, Gadsden City High Schoolmarker, replaced the three former city high schools (Emma Sansom High School, Gadsden High School, and Litchfield High School) via merger for the 2006-2007 school year.

Gadsden is home to three institutions of higher learning: Gadsden State Community College, which is the second largest among the 27 two-year institutions comprising the Alabama College System, Jacksonville State Universitymarker, and the University of Alabamamarker, although the latter are small satellite institutions.


Gadsden is home to Congregation Beth Israelmarker, a Reform synagogue founded in 1908. In a 1960 attack, the synagogue was fire-bombed, its windows smashed, and two members wounded with a shotgun by a Nazi sympathizer.

Points of interest


  • The Gadsden Times (Daily morning paper. Part of the New York Times newspaper group.)
  • Gadsden Messenger - Weekly, locally owned newspaper.
  • The Reporter - Monthly, locally owned newspaper.


AM Radio
  • WGADmarker 930 - Oldies
  • WAAX 570marker - News/Talk
  • WJBYmarker 1350 - Sports Radio
  • WMGJ 1240 - Talk, Religious, Urban/Contemporary

FM Radio

Health Care


Notable natives and residents

See also


  • Goodson, Mike. Gadsden: City of Champions. Illustrated by Brock Cole. Arcadia, 2002; ISBN 0-7385-2375-5. Part of the "Making of America" series.
  1. Gadsden-Etowah Tourism Board: Early Gadsden History
  2. "Gadsden Receives First Place in 2000 City Livability Awards Program." The United States Conference of Mayors,however underemployment continues as a very severe problem as indicated by the economic data presented below. Accessed December 9, 2005.
  3. Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Authority website
  4. Webb, Clive. Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, University of Georgia Press, 2001, pp. 142-143. ISBN 0820325554

External links

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