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Kingsport is a city in Sullivan and Hawkins counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee; most of the city is in Sullivan County. As of the 2010 census the population was 48,205; as of 2016 the estimated population was 52,806.
Kingsport is the largest city in the Kingsport–Bristol–Bristol, TN-VA Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which had a population of 309,544 as of 2010. The Metropolitan Statistical Area is a component of the Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area – commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region. Census data from 2006–2008 for the Tri-Cities Combined Statistical Area estimates a population of 496,454.
Kingsport is commonly included in what is known as the Mountain Empire, which spans a portion of southwest Virginia and the mountainous counties in eastern Tennessee. The name "Kingsport" is a simplification of "King's Port", originally referring to the area on the Holston River known as King's Boat Yard, the head of navigation for the Tennessee Valley.
Kingsport was developed after the Revolutionary War, at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Holston River. In 1787 it was known as "Salt Lick", for an ancient mineral lick. It was first settled along the banks of the South Fork, about a mile from the confluence. The Long Island of the Holston River is near the confluence, which is mostly within the present-day corporate boundaries of Kingsport. The island was an important site for the Cherokee, colonial pioneers and early settlers, and specifically mentioned in the 1770 Treaty of Lochaber.
Early settlements at the site were used as a staging ground for other pioneers who were traveling overland on the Wilderness Road leading to Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. First chartered in 1822, Kingsport also became an important shipping port on the Holston River, a main transportation carrier. Goods originating for many miles around from the surrounding countryside were loaded onto barges for the journey downriver to the Tennessee River at Knoxville.
In the Battle of Kingsport (December 13, 1864) during the Civil War, a force of 300 Confederates under Colonel Richard Morgan (1836–1918) stopped a larger Union force for nearly two days. An army of over 5,500 troops under command of Major General George Stoneman (1822–1894) had left Knoxville 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 on the opposite side the Holston River, Union Col. Samuel Patton took a force of cavalry to a ford in the river 2.5 miles (4.0 km) 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 a Union prison in Knoxville.
The city lost its charter after a downturn in its fortunes precipitated by the Civil War.
On September 12, 1916, Kingsport residents demanded the death of circus elephant Mary (an Asian elephant that performed in the Sparks World Famous Shows Circus). She had killed city hotel worker Walter Eldridge, who was hired by the circus the day before as an assistant elephant trainer. Eldridge was attacked and killed by the elephant while he was leading her to a pond. The elephant was impounded by the local sheriff. Leaders of several nearby towns threatened to prevent the circus from performing if it included the elephant. The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the situation was to hold a public execution. On the following day, she was transported by rail to Erwin, Tennessee, where a crowd of over 1,500 people assembled in the Clinchfield Railroad yard to watch her hang from a railroad crane.
Re-chartered in 1917, Kingsport was an early example of a "garden city". Part of it was designed by city planner and landscape architect John Nolen of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was nicknamed as the "Model City" from this plan, which organized the town into areas for commerce, churches, housing and industry. Most of the land on the river was devoted to industry. Most of the Long Island is now occupied by Eastman Chemical Company, which is headquartered in Kingsport. As part of this plan, Kingsport built some of the earliest traffic circles (roundabouts) in the United States.
Kingsport was among the first municipalities to adopt a city manager form of government, to professionalize operations of city departments. It developed its school system based on a model promoted by Columbia University.
Pal's Sudden Service, a regional fast-food restaurant chain, opened its first location in Kingsport in 1956.
Kingsport is located in western Sullivan County at 36°32′N 82°33′W (36.5369, −82.5421), at the intersection of U.S. Routes 11W and 23. Kingsport is the northwest terminus of Interstate 26. US 11W leads east 22 miles (35 km) to Bristol and southwest 28 miles (45 km) to Rogersville, while US 23 leads north 38 miles (61 km) to Big Stone Gap, Virginia. I-26 and US 23 lead south 8 miles (13 km) to Interstate 81 and 83 miles (134 km) to Asheville, North Carolina.
The city is bordered to the west by the town of Mount Carmel, to the southeast by unincorporated Colonial Heights, and to the northeast by unincorporated Bloomingdale. The Kingsport city limits extend west into Hawkins County and north to the Virginia border.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 50.8 square miles (131.5 km2), of which 49.8 square miles (129.0 km2) are land and 0.93 square miles (2.4 km2), or 1.86%, are water. Most of the water area is in the South Fork Holston River.
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 per square mile (393.4/km²). There were 21,796 housing units at an average density of 494.6 per square mile (191.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.32% White, 11.2% African American, 0.79% Asian, 0.24% American Indian/Alaska Native, 0.02% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 0.34% some other race, and 1.06% two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.05% of the population.
There were 19,662 households 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.
Kingsport 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 Aldermen. The citizens elect the mayor to a two-year term and the six aldermen to four-year terms. The elections take place in odd numbered years, with the mayor and three aldermen elected every two years. New terms begin on July 1. The board elects a vice mayor from among the six aldermen. As of 2016 the board is composed of Mayor John Clark, Vice Mayor Mike McIntire, Aldermen Colette George, Tom Parham, Tom Segelhorst, Tommy Olterman and Darrell Duncan. The council or board hire a professional city manager.
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 Representatives Jon Lundberg, Tony Shipley, and Dale Ford respectively. In the Tennessee State Senate, the Sullivan County portion of Kingsport is represented by the 4th Senatorial District and the Hawkins County portion by the 8th district. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and State Senator Frank Niceley currently serve in these positions. All of these elected officials are members of the Republican Party.
Kingsport is represented in the United States House of Representatives by Republican Phil Roe of the 1st congressional district.
While no college or university has its main campus within the city, these institutions have branch campuses in Kingsport:
King, Lincoln Memorial, Milligan and Northeast State are all located in the Kingsport Academic Village complex in downtown Kingsport. East Tennessee State offers general education courses in the Hawkins County (westernmost) portion of the city, with more advanced courses at the Academic Village.
Residents of Kingsport are served by the Kingsport City Schools public school system. It operates eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school. In addition, Kingsport has eight private academies, most with religious affiliation.
Douglass High School in Kingsport was one of the largest African-American high schools in the region when it closed for desegregation in 1966. The school's former building on East Walnut Avenue (now East Sevier Avenue) was a historic Rosenwald School, built in 1929–30 with a combination of funds from the city, private citizens and the Rosenwald Fund. Although during the years of segregation the Douglass Tigers football team was not allowed to play white teams, the Tigers won a Tennessee state football championship and a state basketball championship in 1946, and a state basketball championship in 1948. The present building, built in 1951 at 301 Louis Street, is now the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex, named for Douglass' former principal, and home to most of Kingsport's non-profit agencies, a Parks and Recreation extension, as well as home to the Sons and Daughters of Douglass, Incorporated, administrators of the Douglass Alumni Association – Kingsport, an IRS 501(c)3 non-profit corporation.
Kingsport is the location of two hospitals:
Kingsport shares a television market with Johnson City and Bristol, VA. WCYB-TV (NBC; CW on DT2) in Bristol, WEMT (Fox) in Greeneville, WETP-TV (PBS) in Sneedville and WJHL-TV (CBS; ABC on DT2) in Johnson City all serve Kingsport.
The Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian League, a rookie-level baseball 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 Stadium named after former Mayor Hunter Wright.
Eastman Chemical Company is headquartered in Kingsport. Domtar operates the Kingsport Mill at which the company produces uncoated freesheet. Holston Army Ammunition Plant operated by BAE Systems' Ordnance Systems, Inc. manufactures a wide range of secondary detonating explosives for the Department of Defense.
The Kingsport Parks and Recreation manages several parks within the city.
Kingsport Police Department is the municipal law enforcement agency for the city. The current chief is David Quillin.
In 2006, the KPD consisted 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.
Since the organization was established, five members of the Kingsport Police Department have died in the line of duty.
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