Broad Street in downtown Kingsport
Broad Street in downtown Kingsport
Flag of Kingsport
Official seal of Kingsport
Official logo of Kingsport
The Model City[1]
Location of Kingsport in Sullivan and Hawkins counties, Tennessee
Location of Kingsport in Sullivan and Hawkins counties, Tennessee
Kingsport is located in Tennessee
Location of Kingsport in Tennessee
Kingsport is located in the United States
Location of Kingsport in the US
Coordinates: 36°32′N 82°33′W / 36.533°N 82.550°W / 36.533; -82.550
CountryUnited States
CountiesSullivan, Hawkins
Chartered/Rechartered1822, 1917
 • TypeCouncil-manager
 • MayorPatrick Shull
 • City ManagerChris McCartt
 • City53.52 sq mi (138.63 km2)
 • Land52.60 sq mi (136.24 km2)
 • Water0.92 sq mi (2.38 km2)
1,211 ft (369 m)
 • City55,442
 • Density1,053.95/sq mi (406.93/km2)
 • Urban
98,411 (US: 316th) [3]
 • Metro
309,283 (US: 161st)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
37660, 37662, 37663, 37664, 37665 & 37669
Area code423
FIPS code47-39560
GNIS feature ID1303478[5]

Kingsport is a city in Sullivan and Hawkins counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2020 census, its population was 55,442.[6] Lying along the Holston River, Kingsport is commonly included in what is known as the Mountain Empire, which spans a portion of southwest Virginia and the mountainous counties in northeastern Tennessee. It is the largest city in the Kingsport–Bristol metropolitan area, which had a population of 307,614 in 2020.[7] The metro area is a component of the larger Tri-Cities region of Tennessee and Virginia, with a population of 508,260 in 2020.

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.[8]


Yancey's Tavern was an important stagecoach stop for travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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 became an important shipping port on the Holston River. 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 stopped a larger Union force for nearly two days. An army of over 5,500 troops under command of Major General George Stoneman 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.[9]

The city lost its charter after a downturn in its fortunes precipitated by the Civil War.

Kingsport in 1937.

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 2,500 people assembled in the Clinchfield Railroad yard to watch her hang from a railroad crane.[10]

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.

Into the 1950s, two important public works projects were constructed: the Boone Dam and the Fort Patrick Henry Dam, hydroelectric dams built along the South Fork Holston River. 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 1956 and is headquartered in Kingsport. In 2001, Pal's Sudden Service, won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, becoming the first restaurant company to receive the award.[11]


An aerial view of Long Island of the Holston and downtown Kingsport.

Kingsport is located in western Sullivan County at 36°32′N 82°33′W / 36.533°N 82.550°W / 36.533; -82.550 (36.5369, −82.5421),[12] 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.[13] Most of the water area is in the South Fork Holston River.


Climate data for Kingsport, Tennessee (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1916–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 79
Average high °F (°C) 46.4
Daily mean °F (°C) 36.9
Average low °F (°C) 27.3
Record low °F (°C) −18
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.88
Average snowfall inches (cm) 1.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 12.1 11.5 12.9 11.5 12.2 11.7 12.8 10.2 8.6 7.8 9.7 12.2 133.2
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 1.1 0.6 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.5 2.6
Source: NOAA[14][15]


There are several neighborhoods located within or just outside of Kingsport, offering different lifestyles:[1]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[16]

2020 census

Kingsport racial composition[17]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 48,212 86.96%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 2,024 3.65%
Native American 144 0.26%
Asian 754 1.36%
Pacific Islander 15 0.03%
Other/Mixed 2,574 4.64%
Hispanic or Latino 1,719 3.1%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 55,442 people, 23,640 households, and 14,273 families residing in the city.

2000 census

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 inhabitants 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, 4.07% 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. The council or board then hires a professional city manager.

In late 2021, or early 2022, the board decided to move the election to coincide with the primary elections in Tennessee in August of every even-numbered year.[18] This changes the Mayoral and Alderman election from May 2023 to August of 2024.

Current composition of BMA

Member Position First Elected Term Ends
Patrick W. Shull Mayor July 1st, 2019 August 31, 2024
Colette George Vice Mayor/Alderman July 1st, 2013 August 31, 2026
Betsy Cooper Alderman July 1st, 2017 August 31, 2026
Paul Montgomery Alderman July 1st, 2021 August 31, 2026
Darrel R. Duncan Alderman July 1st, 2019 August 31, 2024
James Phillips Alderman July 1st, 2019 August 31, 2024
Tommy Olterman Alderman July 1st, 2015 August 31, 2024

Past municipal election results

In May of 2021, incumbent Mayor Patrick Shull fought off three challengers, but won with 63.8% of the vote.

2021 Mayoral Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Patrick W. Shull (incumbent) 3,362 63.8
Nonpartisan Brian Woliver 1,295 24.6
Nonpartisan Michael Lathrop 567 10.6
Nonpartisan William Eugene Cody (write-in) 42 0.0
Total votes 5,266 100

Aldermen Collette George (who also serves as a county commissioner for Sullivan County) and Betsy M Cooper ran for re-election to another 4 year term and won. Alderman Jennifer Adler decided not to run for re-election. Political newcomer Paul Montgomery won the most votes in race beating out Bob Harshbarger (son of Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger), Joe Carr (who ran for Mayor in 2019, and was later elected to the Sullivan County Commission), Sara Buchanan, Wesley Combs, Gerald Sensabaugh (the former Safety for the Dallas Cowboys), and J.S. Moore.

2021 Alderman Election
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Paul W. Montgomery 2,918 19.6
Nonpartisan Collete George (incumbent) 2,264 15.2
Nonpartisan Betsy M Cooper (incumbent) 2,249 15.1
Nonpartisan Bob Harshbarger 1,924 12.9
Nonpartisan Joe Carr 1,674 11.3
Nonpartisan Sara Buchanan 1,525 10.3
Nonpartisan Wesley Combs 1,000 6.7
Nonpartisan Gerald Sensabaugh 936 6.3
Nonpartisan J.S. Moore 361 2.4
Total votes 14,869 100


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 John Crawford, Bud Hulsey, and Scotty Campbell respectively.[19] 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. State Senator Jon Lundberg and State Senator Frank Niceley currently serve in these positions. All of these elected officials are members of the Republican Party.[20]


Kingsport is represented in the United States House of Representatives by Republican Diana Harshbarger of the 1st congressional district.


Eastman Chemical Company has its world headquarters in Kingsport.[21] Domtar operates a paper mill in Kingsport. Domtar has temporarily shut this plant down from uncoated freesheet paper manufacturing and plans to convert the plant by 2023 to be able to create containerboard.[22] Holston Army Ammunition Plant operated by BAE Systems' Ordnance Systems, Inc. manufactures a wide range of secondary detonating explosives for the Department of Defense.[23]

In 2019, Kingsport's gross metropolitan product was reported to be US$14.1 billion.[8]


Colleges and universities

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.[24][25] East Tennessee State offers general education courses in the Hawkins County (westernmost) portion of the city, with more advanced courses at the Academic Village.[26]

Primary and secondary

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.

List of Kingsport city schools

Former school for African Americans

Douglass High School in Kingsport was one of the largest African American high schools in the region when it closed for desegregation in 1966.[29] 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 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.

Human resources


Kingsport is the location of two hospitals, both operated by Ballad Health:



Kingsport Police Department
Agency overview
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionKingsport, Tennessee, United States
General nature
Operational structure
Sworn members120
Unsworn members40 (approx)
Agency executive
  • Dale Phipps, Police Chief

Kingsport Police Department is the municipal law enforcement agency for the City of Kingsport.

As of 2021, the KPD consisted of 120 sworn officer positions, plus about 40 full-time support staff, including records, jail, maintenance and dispatch.

KPD has numerous specialized divisions to address the needs of the city, including Criminal Investigations, VICE and Narcotics, Traffic, Search and Rescue, Bomb Squad, and SWAT.




Kingsport shares a television market with Johnson City and Bristol, VA. WCYB-TV (NBC; THE CW on DT2) in Bristol, WEMT-TV (FOX) in Greeneville, WETP-TV (PBS) in Sneedville and WJHL-TV (CBS; ABC on DT2 aka ABC Tri-Cities) in Johnson City.

AM radio

FM radio



A black and white photograph of thirteen men arranged in two rows, standing and kneeling, on a baseball field. They are wearing light baseball uniforms with dark stripes and "Kingsport" written on the chest.
The 1921 Kingsport Indians were the first professional baseball team from Kingsport.

The city is home to the Kingsport Axmen, a collegiate summer baseball team of the Appalachian League.[30] The nickname is in reference to frontiersman Daniel Boone, who began the Wilderness Road in Kingsport.[30] The Axmen play their home games at Hunter Wright Stadium,[31] which is named after former mayor Hunter Wright.[32]

Professional baseball was first played in Kingsport, by the Kingsport Indians in the Appalachian League from 1921 to 1925.[33] The team went dormant for 12 years before it returned to the circuit as the Kingsport Cherokees from 1938 to 1955—with the exception of the 1942 season as the Kingsport Dodgers and as members of the Mountain States League in 1953 and 1954.[33] The club was later known as the Kingsport Orioles (1957), Kingsport Pirates (1960–1963), Kingsport Royals (1969–1973), and Kingsport Braves (1974–1979).[33] The Kingsport Mets were members of the Appy League from 1980 to 2020, except for the 1983 season when the New York Mets temporarily relocated the team to Sarasota, Florida, as the Gulf Coast League Mets, while their home ballpark was being renovated.[33] In conjunction with a contraction of Minor League Baseball beginning with the 2021 season, the Appalachian League was reorganized as a collegiate summer baseball league, and the Mets were replaced by the Axmen, a new franchise in the revamped league designed for rising college freshman and sophomores.[34]


Bays Mountain Park.

The Kingsport Parks and Recreation manages several parks within the city.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b "Welcome to Our Kingsport Neighborhoods". Kingsport Maps. Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  2. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  3. ^ "List of 2020 Census Urban Areas". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Census Population API". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  6. ^ "Quickfacts: Kingsport city, Tennessee". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 24, 2021.
  7. ^ "2020 Population and Housing State Data". United States Census Bureau, Population Division. August 12, 2021. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  8. ^ a b "Kingsport, TN". Best Places for Business and Careers 2019. Forbes. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  9. ^ Thomas R. Ramsey, Jr., The Raid, (Kingsport Press, 1973)
  10. ^ Schroeder, Joan V. "The Day They Hanged an Elephant in East Tennessee", Blue Ridge Country
  11. ^ Reuters: Pal's Sudden Service Shares Secret of its Success
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  13. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Census Summary File 1 (G001): Kingsport city, Tennessee". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  14. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  15. ^ "Station: Kingsport, TN". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991-2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  16. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved August 30, 2013.
  17. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved December 26, 2021.
  18. ^ "Kingsport Considering Moving Election Date". Times News. December 7, 2021. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
  19. ^ "Tennessee House of Representatives, Members". Archived from the original on October 27, 2008.
  20. ^ "Tennessee State Senate, Members". Archived from the original on September 19, 2008.
  21. ^ "About Eastman Chemical Company".
  22. ^ "Kingsport Paper Mill - Domtar".
  23. ^ "The United States Army - Joint Munitions Command". Archived from the original on March 17, 2015. Retrieved August 11, 2015.
  24. ^ Wagner, Rick (May 3, 2016). "Tusculum, UT leave Kingsport Higher Education Center". Kingsport Times-News. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  25. ^ "About KAV - The Kingsport Academic Village". The Kingsport Academic Village. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  26. ^ "ETSU at Kingsport". Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  27. ^ "D-B EXCEL". Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  28. ^ Hinds, Allie (February 14, 2017). "Alternative high school experience "DB-Excel" gets new home in Kingsport". WJHL. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  29. ^ "Douglass High School (1926-1966) - 1A 143 - Kingsport, TN - Tennessee Historical Markers on".
  30. ^ a b McClung, Andrew (February 5, 2021). "Kingsport Appy League Team Unveils 'Axmen' as New Name". WCYB. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  31. ^ "Hunter Wright Stadium". Kingsport Axmen. Major League Baseball. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  32. ^ "Hunter Wright Stadium information". Kingsport Mets. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  33. ^ a b c d "Kingsport, Tennessee Encyclopedia". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  34. ^ "MLB, USA Baseball Announce New Format for Appalachian League". Major League Baseball. September 29, 2020. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  35. ^ "Graduates: Dobyns-Bennett High School". Kingsport Times-News. Kingsport, TN. May 16, 1986. p. 6A – via
  36. ^ "Blake Leeper |". Archived from the original on September 12, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.

Further reading