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Kingsport is a city in Hawkinsmarker and Sullivanmarker counties in the U.S. state of Tennesseemarker. The majority of the city lies in Sullivan County. The population was 44,095 at the 2000 census.

The name is a simplification of "King's Port," originally referring to the area around Ross's Landing. Kingsport is a principal city of the Kingsport–Bristolmarker–Bristolmarker, TN-VA Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which had a population of 302,451 as of 2006. The Metropolitan Statistical Area is a component of the Johnson Citymarker–Kingsport–Bristol, TN-VAmarker Combined Statistical Area – commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region. It is also commonly included in what is known as the "Mountain Empire," which includes a portion of southwest Virginia and the mountainous counties in Tennessee to the east.


The Long Island of the Holston Rivermarker, today mostly within the corporate boundaries of Kingsport, was an important site for the Cherokee, colonial pioneers, and early settlers. Early settlements at the site were used as a staging ground for people taking the Wilderness Road leading to Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. First chartered in 1822, Kingsport became an important shipping port on the Holston River. Goods originating for many miles from the surrounding countryside were loaded onto barges for the journey downriver to the Tennessee River at Knoxville. The young town lost its charter after a downturn its in fortunes precipitated by the Civil War. The name "Tennessee" originated from the old Yuchi Indian word, "Tana-see," meaning "The Meeting Place," which refers to The Long Island of the Holston Rivermarker.

Re-chartered in 1917, Kingsport was an early example of a "garden city," designed by city planner and landscape architect John Nolen of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It carries the nickname The Model City from this plan, which organized the town into areas for commerce, churches, housing, and industry. The result included some of the earlier uses of traffic circles (roundabouts) in the U.S. Kingsport was among the first municipalities with a city manager form of government and a school system built on a model developed at Columbia University. Most of the land on the river was devoted to industry. Indeed, most of Long Islandmarker is now occupied by Eastman Chemical Company.


Kingsport is located at (36.536851, -82.542123) , at the intersection of U.S. highways 11 and 23. Kingsport is also the starting or ending point of Interstate 26.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.0 square miles (116.6 km²), of which, 44.1 square miles (114.1 km²) of it is land and 0.9 square miles (2.4 km²) of it (2.07%) is water.


As of the census of 2000, there were 44,905 people, 19,662 households, and 12,642 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,018.9 people per square mile (393.4/km²). There were 21,796 housing units at an average density of 494.6/sq mi (191.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.32% White, 4.22% African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.34% from other races, and 1.06% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.05% of the population.

There were 19,662 households out of which 26.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% were non-families. 32.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.80.

In the city the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 25.3% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 84.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,524, and the median income for a family was $40,183. Males had a median income of $33,075 versus $23,217 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,549. About 14.2% of families and 17.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.9% of those under age 18 and 13.0% of those age 65 or over.


Residents of Kingsport are serviced by the Kingsport City Schools public school system, which operates seven elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school. Kingsport is also home to eight private academies. The city is also part of Sullivan county which has 2 other high schools in Kingsport.

While no college or university houses its main campus within the city, Northeast State Technical Community College, East Tennessee State Universitymarker, and University of Tennesseemarker have branch campuses in Kingsport.


Board of Mayor and Alderman

Kingsport City uses the Council-Manager system which was established in 1917 when the city was re-chartered.

Kingsport is governed locally by a seven member Board of Mayor and Alderman (BMA). The citizens elect the mayor to a two year term and the 6 aldermen to four year terms. The elections take place on odd number years with the mayor and three aldermen elected every two years. New terms begin on the 1st of July. The Board then elects a Vice Mayor from the six aldermen. Currently the board is comprised of Mayor Dennis Phillips, Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote, and Aldermen Ken Marsh, Larry Munsey, Pat Shull, Valerie Joh, and Jantry Shupe. Tom Parham will replace Pat Shull on July 1st of 2009

State Government

The Sullivan County portion of Kingsport is represented in the Tennessee House of Representatives by the 1st and 2nd State Representative Districts, and the Hawkins County portion by the 6th district. Currently serving in these positions are Reps. Jon Lundberg, Tony Shipley, and Dale Ford respectively. In the Tennessee State Senate, the Sullivan County portion of Kingsport is represented by the 2nd Senatorial District and the Hawkins County portion by the 4th district. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and State Senator Mike Faulk. All of these elected officials are members of the Republican Party.

National Government

Kingsport as a whole is represented in the US House of Representatives by Republican Phil Roe of the 1st Congressional District.

Civil War History

In the Battle of Kingsport (December 1864) during the American Civil War (1861-1865), a force of 300 Confederates under Colonel Richard Morgan CSA (b.1836, d.1918) stopped a larger Union force for nearly two days. An army of over 5,500 troops under command of Major General George Stoneman USA (b.1822, d.1894) had left Knoxville, Tennessee, to raid Confederate targets in Virginia: the salt works at Saltville, the lead works at Wytheville and the iron works in Marion. While Col. Morgan's small band held off a main Union force under Major General Cullem Gillem USA on the opposite side the Holston River, Col. Samuel Patton USA took a force of cavalry to a ford in the river 2.5 miles north and came down behind the Confederates. Out-numbered, out-flanked and demoralised by the bitter winter weather, Col. Morgan surrendered. The Confederates suffered 18 dead, and 84 prisoners of war were sent to Union prison in Knoxville. (Source: Thomas R. Ramsey, Jr., "The Raid," (Kingsport Press, 1973))

Odd History

On September 12, 1916, Kingsport residents demanded the death of circus elephant Mary (a five ton Asian elephant who performed in the Sparks World Famous Shows Circus) for her killing of a city hotel worker named Walter "Red" Eldridge, who was hired the day before as an assistant elephant trainer by the circus.

On the evening of September 12, Eldridge was killed by Mary in Kingsport, Tennessee while taking her to a nearby pond to splash and frolic and drink.

There are several accounts of his death but the most widely accepted version is that he prodded her behind the ear with a hook after she reached down to nibble on a watermelon rind.

She went into a rage, snatched Eldridge with her trunk, threw him against a drink stand and deliberately stepped on his head, crushing it.

One of his ears was never found.

The details of the aftermath are confused in a haze of sensationalist newspaper stories and folklore.

Most accounts indicate that she calmed down afterward and didn't charge the onlookers, who were chanting, "Kill the elephant!"

Apparently, within minutes, a local blacksmith tried to oblige, firing more than two dozen rounds at the elephant with little effect.

Newspapers published claims that Murderous Mary had killed several workers in the past and noted that she was larger than the world famous Jumbo the elephant.

Mary was impounded by the local sheriff, and the leaders of several nearby towns threatened not to allow the circus to visit if Mary was included.

The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the potentially ruinous situation was to hold a public execution.

On the following day, a foggy and rainy September 13, 1916, she was transported by rail to Erwin, Tennesseemarker where a crowd of over 2,500 people (including most of the town's children) assembled in the Clinchfield railroad yard to watch the hanging.


  • Pal's Sudden Service, a regional fast-food restaurant chain, opened its first location in Kingsport.


  • The vessel SS Kingsport Victory, which later became USNS Kingsport, was named in honor of the city.

Notable natives and residents

Local media




Kingsport Police Department

Kingsport Police Department is the municipal law enforcement agency for Kingsport, Tennessee. The current chief is Gail Osborne.

As of 2006, The KPD consists of 104 sworn officers, 44 full-time non-sworn officers, and 17 part-time non sworn officers. The budget for 2005 was $8,602,800. The KPD has twelve SWAT members that train regularly. KPD SWAT responded to thirteen emergency calls during 2005.


The Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian League, a rookie-level league, play in the city. An affiliate of the New York Mets, the team has competed in the city since 1969, with the exception of 1983. The Mets play in Hunter Wright Stadiummarker named after multiple-term Mayor Hunter Wright.


  1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas
  2. Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen
  3. Kingsport Times News: Election Results
  4. Tennessee House of Representatives, Members
  5. Tennessee State Senate, Members
  6. Congressman Phil Roe Tennessee's 1st District - About the 1st District
  7. Kingsport Police Department, Home Page
  8. Kingsport Police Department, History
  9. Kingsport Police Department, Annual Report
  10. Kingsport Police Department, Budget
  11. Kingsport Police Department, Swat Team

Further reading

  • Long, Howard. Kingsport: A Romance of Industry. Overmountain Press (October 1993) ISBN 0932807895
  • Spoden, Muriel Millar Clark. The Long Island of the Holston: Sacred Island of the Cherokee Nation. ASIN: B0006WOGAM
  • Wolfe, Margaret Ripley. Kingsport Tennessee: A Planned American City. University Press of Kentucky (November 1987) ISBN 0813116244

External links

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