|Founded||December 14, 1827|
|Named for||Charles Harris|
|Largest city||Pine Mountain|
|• Total||473 sq mi (1,230 km2)|
|• Land||464 sq mi (1,200 km2)|
|• Water||9.1 sq mi (24 km2) 1.9%%|
|• Density||75/sq mi (29/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
Harris County is a county located in the west-central portion of the U.S. state of Georgia; its western border with the state of Alabama is formed by the Chattahoochee River. As of the 2020 census, the population was 34,668. The county seat is Hamilton. The largest city in the county is Pine Mountain, a resort town that is home to the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park (the largest state park in Georgia). Harris County was created on December 14, 1827, and named for Charles Harris, a Georgia judge and attorney.
Harris County is part of the Columbus, GA-AL metropolitan area and has become a popular suburban and exurban destination of residence for families relocating from Columbus. Because of this, Harris has become the sixth-wealthiest county in Georgia in terms of per capita income and the wealthiest in the state outside of Metro Atlanta.
The county was settled by European Americans largely after the federal government had removed the indigenous Creek people (Muscogee) in the 1830s, under treaties by which they ceded most of their homelands to the United States. They were relocated to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.
In the antebellum era, parts of the county were developed for cotton plantations, the premier commodity crop. Planters acquired numerous enslaved African Americans as laborers from the Upper South through the domestic slave trade.
The County Courthouse was designed by Edward Columbus Hosford of Georgia and completed in 1906.
Moonshiners were active in the mountain areas of the county in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both whites and blacks took part in this, and were common drinking patrons.
On January 22, 1912, a black woman and three black men were lynched in Hamilton, the county seat, for the alleged murder of young local white landowner Norman Hadley. He was described by journalist Karen Branan in her 2016 book about these events as a white, "near penniless plowboy-playboy" and "notorious predator of black women."
Of this group, Dusky Crutchfield was the first woman lynched in Georgia. The lynching case attracted attention of national northern newspapers. Also murdered by the lynch mob were Eugene Harrington, Burrell Hardaway, and Johnie Moore. (Note: There was confusion about the names of victims at the time, and variations in spelling have been published.)
The four had been taken in for questioning about Hadley's murder by Sheriff Marion Madison "Buddie" Hadley, but never arrested. Lynched as scapegoats by a white mob of 100 men, they were later shown to have been utterly innocent. As an example of the complex relationships in the town and county, Johnie Moore was a mixed-race cousin of the sheriff; and Norman Hadley was the sheriff's nephew.
In 1947, prosperous farmer Henry "Peg" Gilbert, a married African-American man who owned and farmed 100 acres in Troup County, was arrested by officials from neighboring Harris County and charged with harboring a fugitive. The 47-year-old father was accused in the case of Gus Davidson, an African-American man accused of fatally shooting a white man in Harris County and who had disappeared. Four days later Gilbert was dead, shot while held in jail by the Harris County Sheriff, who said it was self-defense. No charges were filed against him.
In 2016 the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project of Northeastern University reported on GGilbert's death in custody. They had found that Henry Gilbert had been beaten severely before his death, and shot five times. They asserted he had been detained and killed because whites resented his success as a farmer. Economic issues and competition were often at the bottom of lynchings. A white man took over Gilbert's land, cheating his family out of everything he had built.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 473 square miles (1,230 km2), of which 464 square miles (1,200 km2) are land and 9.1 square miles (24 km2) (1.9%) are covered by water.
The county is located in the Piedmont region of the state, with forests, farmland, and rolling hills covering much of the county. The Pine Mountain Range begins in the county, and runs across the northernmost parts of the county, with the highest point on the range found at Dowdell's Knob near the Meriwether County line.
The majority of Harris County is located in the middle Chattahoochee River–Lake Harding subbasin of the ACF River Basin (Apalachicola–Chattahoochee–Flint River Basin), with the exception of the county's southeastern border area, south of Ellerslie, which is located in the middle Chattahoochee River–Walter F. George Lake subbasin of the same ACF River Basin as that part of the county is drained by Bull Creek, which flows into Upatoi Creek south of Columbus.
Lake Harding and Goat Rock Lake both form much of the county's western border along the Chattahoochee, and both are very popular recreational destinations, especially for metro Columbus residents.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
|Black or African American (non-Hispanic)||5,170||14.91%|
|Hispanic or Latino||1.417||4.09%|
As of the 2020 United States census, there were 34,668 people, 12,156 households, and 9,581 families residing in the county.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 32,024 people, 11,823 households, and 9,268 families residing in the county. The population density was 69.0 inhabitants per square mile (26.6/km2). There were 13,397 housing units at an average density of 28.9 per square mile (11.2/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 79.3% white, 17.2% black or African American, 0.9% Asian, 0.3% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific islander, 0.7% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 2.7% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 17.2% identified as having African ancestry; 13.5% were German, 13.4% were Irish, 11.5% were English, and 10.5% identified as having American ancestry.
Of the 11,823 households, 35.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.0% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 21.6% were non-families, and 18.5% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.04. The median age was 42.0 years.
The median income for a household in the county was $67,018 and the median income for a family was $74,457. Males had a median income of $49,844 versus $37,103 for females. The per capita income for the county was $31,073. About 6.0% of families and 9.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.3% of those under age 18 and 10.5% of those age 65 or over.
Like all of Georgia except the Unionist Fannin, Towns, Pickens and Gilmer counties, which were in the upland region and could not support plantations, Harris County was historically dominated by a majority of conservative white voters after the Civil War. They belonged to the Democratic Party. From the end of Reconstruction to 1980, they supported Republican presidential candidates only twice, in 1964 (when Barry Goldwater carried the state in a landslide) and 1972 (during Richard Nixon's national landslide).
But the passage of civil rights legislation by the national Democratic Party and social and cultural disruption of the era resulted in white conservatives beginning to support the Republican Party. In 1984, the state swung from having given a 16.8 percent victory to the 'favorite son' of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, in 1976, to a nearly 20-point victory for Ronald Reagan in his second term. In this, it was part of the realignment of white conservatives across the South. Since then, these voters in Harris County have voted for Republican presidential candidates. 1984 is the last time that a Democrat gained more than 40 percent of the vote. This trend has been attributed to the effect of Columbus's suburbs extending into the county, but it is part of the broader realignment among conservatives in the region.
The Harris County School District holds preschool to grade 12 and consists of four elementary schools, an intermediate school, a middle school, and a high school. The district headquarters is located in Hamilton, and has 274 full-time teachers and over 4,411 students spread out over seven schools.