Liberal, Kansas
From left to right, clockwise: A welcome sign on U.S. Route 83, the Baker Arts Center, the Pioneer Mother of Kansas statue, the Liberal Chamber of Commerce office, Crosspointe Baptist Church of Liberal (formerly First Baptist Church), the Seward County Courthouse.
Motto: 
"Crossroads of Commerce"
Location within Seward County and Kansas
Location within Seward County and Kansas
KDOT map of Seward County (legend)
Coordinates: 37°02′48″N 100°55′40″W / 37.04667°N 100.92778°W / 37.04667; -100.92778[1]
CountryUnited States
StateKansas
CountySeward
Founded1888
Incorporated1888
Government
 • MayorJose Lara[2]
 • City ManagerRusty Varnado
Area
 • Total11.65 sq mi (30.18 km2)
 • Land11.43 sq mi (29.60 km2)
 • Water0.22 sq mi (0.57 km2)
Elevation2,848 ft (868 m)
Population
 • Total19,825
 • Density1,700/sq mi (660/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
67901, 67905
Area code620
FIPS code20-39825
GNIS ID485613[1]
Websitecityofliberal.org

Liberal is the county seat of Seward County, Kansas, United States.[1] As of the 2020 census, the population of the city was 19,825.[4][5] It is located in southwest Kansas, along U.S. Route 54 highway, near the Kansas-Oklahoma state line. Liberal is home of Seward County Community College.

History

See also: History of Kansas

Early settler Seymour S. Rogers built the first house in what would become Liberal in 1872. Rogers became famous in the region for giving free water to thirsty travelers. Reportedly, Liberal gained its name from the common response to his acts of kindness, "That's very liberal of you."[6][7] In 1885 Rogers built a general store, and with it came an official U.S. Post Office. Rogers named the post office 'Liberal'. After the railroad was built close by, a plan for the town site was created in 1888. A year later the population was around 800.[6]

Drought caused some farmers to give up and look for more fertile territory; however, when the nearby Indian Territory was opened, more settlers headed to the cheap land that would become Oklahoma.[6]

Natural gas was discovered west of town, in what would become part of the massive Panhandle-Hugoton Gas Field, in 1920. Oil was discovered southwest of town in 1951. In 1963 the largest helium plant in the world, National Helium, was opened.[6]

Geography

Liberal is located in southwestern Kansas at the intersection of U.S. Route 83 and U.S. Route 54, Liberal is 140 miles (225 km) north-northeast of Amarillo, Texas, 202 mi (325 km) west-southwest of Wichita, and 288 mi (463 km) southeast of Denver, Colorado.[8][9]

The city lies approximately 10 miles (16 km) southwest of the Cimarron River in the High Plains region of the Great Plains.[8]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.75 square miles (30.43 km2), of which 11.61 square miles (30.07 km2) is land and 0.14 square miles (0.36 km2) is water.[10]

Climate

Liberal has a semi-arid steppe climate (Köppen BSk) characterized by hot, dry summers, cool, dry winters, and large diurnal temperature variation year-round; relative humidity averages 63%.[11][12] On average, January is the coldest month, July is the hottest month, and June is the wettest month.[13]

The high temperature reaches or exceeds 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 80.1 days a year and 100 °F (38 °C) an average of 16.5 days. The minimum temperature falls to or below 0 °F (−17.8 °C) on an average 1.6 days a year. The highest temperature recorded in Liberal was 114 °F (45.6 °C) on June 10, 1981; the coldest temperature recorded was −20 °F (−28.9 °C) on February 27, 1930.[14]

Climate data for Liberal, Kansas, 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1893–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 85
(29)
90
(32)
93
(34)
103
(39)
106
(41)
114
(46)
113
(45)
111
(44)
108
(42)
99
(37)
90
(32)
85
(29)
114
(46)
Mean maximum °F (°C) 71.2
(21.8)
77.2
(25.1)
85.2
(29.6)
90.8
(32.7)
96.6
(35.9)
101.7
(38.7)
104.5
(40.3)
101.8
(38.8)
99.2
(37.3)
93.0
(33.9)
79.8
(26.6)
70.6
(21.4)
105.6
(40.9)
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 47.6
(8.7)
51.0
(10.6)
60.7
(15.9)
69.6
(20.9)
78.7
(25.9)
88.8
(31.6)
93.2
(34.0)
91.2
(32.9)
83.9
(28.8)
71.5
(21.9)
58.3
(14.6)
47.4
(8.6)
70.2
(21.2)
Daily mean °F (°C) 33.7
(0.9)
36.6
(2.6)
45.5
(7.5)
54.2
(12.3)
64.2
(17.9)
74.6
(23.7)
79.1
(26.2)
77.4
(25.2)
69.5
(20.8)
56.8
(13.8)
43.4
(6.3)
34.1
(1.2)
55.8
(13.2)
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 19.7
(−6.8)
22.2
(−5.4)
30.3
(−0.9)
38.7
(3.7)
49.8
(9.9)
60.3
(15.7)
65.1
(18.4)
63.6
(17.6)
55.0
(12.8)
42.2
(5.7)
28.6
(−1.9)
20.8
(−6.2)
41.4
(5.2)
Mean minimum °F (°C) 5.5
(−14.7)
9.0
(−12.8)
14.7
(−9.6)
26.0
(−3.3)
37.7
(3.2)
50.9
(10.5)
57.9
(14.4)
57.0
(13.9)
42.3
(5.7)
27.5
(−2.5)
14.1
(−9.9)
6.4
(−14.2)
0.1
(−17.7)
Record low °F (°C) −19
(−28)
−20
(−29)
−12
(−24)
10
(−12)
20
(−7)
38
(3)
48
(9)
40
(4)
29
(−2)
8
(−13)
−2
(−19)
−15
(−26)
−20
(−29)
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.47
(12)
0.40
(10)
1.20
(30)
1.80
(46)
2.66
(68)
3.31
(84)
3.20
(81)
2.72
(69)
1.53
(39)
2.29
(58)
0.73
(19)
0.80
(20)
21.11
(536)
Average snowfall inches (cm) 3.5
(8.9)
1.8
(4.6)
2.3
(5.8)
0.4
(1.0)
0.1
(0.25)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.7
(1.8)
1.0
(2.5)
4.6
(12)
14.4
(36.85)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 2.2 2.3 3.8 5.1 6.1 6.8 7.0 6.5 4.1 3.8 2.7 2.8 53.2
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 1.7 1.4 1.1 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.5 1.6 6.8
Source 1: NOAA[15]
Source 2: National Weather Service[14]

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.Note
1900426
19101,716302.8%
19203,613110.5%
19305,29446.5%
19404,410−16.7%
19507,13461.8%
196013,81393.6%
197013,8620.4%
198014,9117.6%
199016,57311.1%
200019,66618.7%
201020,5254.4%
202019,825−3.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
2010–2020[5]

2020 census

The 2020 United States census counted 19,825 people, 6,618 households, and 4,771 families in Liberal.[16][17] The population density was 1,734.5 per square mile (669.7/km2). There were 7,389 housing units at an average density of 646.5 per square mile (249.6/km2).[17][18] The racial makeup was 38.79% (7,690) white or European American (24.25% non-Hispanic white), 3.31% (657) black or African-American, 2.47% (489) Native American or Alaska Native, 2.59% (514) Asian, 0.03% (6) Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian, 28.82% (5,714) from other races, and 23.98% (4,755) from two or more races.[19] Hispanic or Latino of any race was 68.09% (13,499) of the population.[20]

Of the 6,618 households, 44.7% had children under the age of 18; 48.4% were married couples living together; 25.5% had a female householder with no spouse or partner present. 23.2% of households consisted of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older.[17] The average household size was 2.9 and the average family size was 3.5.[21] The percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was estimated to be 6.6% of the population.[22]

30.9% of the population was under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 27.0% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 9.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.3 males.[17] For every 100 females ages 18 and older, there were 101.8 males.[17]

The 2016-2020 5-year American Community Survey estimates show that the median household income was $48,434 (with a margin of error of +/- $3,385) and the median family income was $54,167 (+/- $9,562).[23] Males had a median income of $34,371 (+/- $2,664) versus $26,005 (+/- $1,722) for females. The median income for those above 16 years old was $30,586 (+/- $1,873).[24] Approximately, 10.1% of families and 13.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.5% of those under the age of 18 and 9.2% of those ages 65 or over.[25][26]

2010 census

As of the 2010 census,[27] there were 20,525 people, 6,623 households, and 4,838 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,832.6 inhabitants per square mile (707.6/km2). There were 7,118 housing units at an average density of 641.3 per square mile (247.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 68.6% White, 3.7% African American, 2.9% Asian, 0.8% American Indian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 20.6% from other races, and 3.2% from two or more races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race made up 58.7% of the population.[28]

There were 6,623 households, of which 42.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% were married couples living together, 7.1% had a male householder with no wife present, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.0% were non-families. 21.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.03, and the average family size was 3.54.[28]

The median age was 28.4 years. 32.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 12.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.8% were from 25 to 44; 19.4% were from 45 to 64; and 8.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city population was 51.4% male and 48.6% female.[28]

The median income for a household in the city was $40,247, and the median income for a family was $44,167. Males had a median income of $31,435 versus $25,208 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,668. About 15.3% of families and 17.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.6% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.[28]

2000 census

As of the census[29] of 2000, there were 19,666 people, 6,498 households, and 4,756 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,778.4 inhabitants per square mile (686.6/km2). There were 7,014 housing units at an average density of 634.3 per square mile (244.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 63.56% White, 4.21% African American, 0.72% Native American, 3.25% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 23.93% from other races, and 3.27% from two or more races. 43.30% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,498 households, out of which 42.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.0% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.8% were non-families. 21.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.96 and the average family size was 3.46.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 31.7% under the age of 18, 12.1% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 16.7% from 45 to 64, and 9.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females, there were 104.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,482, and the median income for a family was $41,134. Males had a median income of $29,315 versus $22,017 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,108. About 14.3% of families and 17.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.8% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.[29]

Economy

Grain elevator in Liberal (2010)

See also: Golden Triangle of Meat-packing

Energy and agriculture are the main economic drivers of the area. Natural resources include oil, natural gas, water, gravel and sand. The beef industry (ranches, feed lots and packing plants) is Liberal's largest source of employment. Hard winter wheat, corn, milo, alfalfa and cotton are common crops. Trucking is a major industry. Dairies and pork processors are a growing business.

As of 2012, 70.2% of the population over the age of 16 was in the labor force. 0.0% was in the armed forces, and 70.2% was in the civilian labor force with 63.4% being employed and 6.9% unemployed. The composition, by occupation, of the employed civilian labor force was: 28.5% in production, transportation, and material moving; 20.0% in natural resources, construction, and maintenance; 19.9% in sales and office occupations; 18.9% in management, business, science, and arts; and 12.6% in service occupations. The three industries employing the largest percentages of the working civilian labor force were: manufacturing (24.4%); educational services, health care, and social assistance (19.4%); and retail trade (10.5%).[28]

The cost of living in Liberal is relatively low; compared to a U.S. average of 100, the cost of living index for the city is 80.8.[30] As of 2012, the median home value in the city was $85,600, the median selected monthly owner cost was $961 for housing units with a mortgage and $383 for those without, and the median gross rent was $648.[28]

Top employers

According to Liberal's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top 10 employers in the city are:[31]

# Employer Employees
1 National Beef Packing Company 3,500
2 Liberal USD 480 800
3 Seward County Community College 450
4 Southwest Medical Center 425
5 Walmart Stores 350
6 Seaboard Foods 275
7 Seward County 200
8 City of Liberal 200
9 National Carriers 200
10 Panhandle Oilfield Services 175

Government

Liberal has a commission-manager government with a city commission consisting of five members elected at-large. Elections occur every two years in the odd numbered year, and commissioners serve two-year or four-year terms depending on the number of votes they receive. Each year, the commission appoints a member to serve as mayor and another to serve as vice-mayor.[32] The city manager heads the city administration.[33]

Education

Colleges

Primary and secondary

The community is served by Liberal USD 480 public school district, which operates twelve schools in the city:[34]

There is also a Christian school in Liberal: Fellowship Baptist School (K–12).[35]

Transportation

U.S. Route 83 runs north–south along the east side of the city, intersecting U.S. Route 54 which runs northeast-southwest. In addition, Liberal is the western terminus of U.S. Route 270 which runs concurrently with U.S. 83 south from the city.[8]

Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport is immediately west of the city.[36] Publicly owned, it has two operative paved runways and is used primarily for general aviation.[37] United Express provides airline service with daily flights to Denver.[38]

The Tucumcari Line of the Union Pacific Railroad runs parallel to U.S. 54 northeast–southwest through the city.[39]

The City Bus provides fixed-route and dial-a-ride transit services Monday through Friday.[40]

Media

Main article: Media in Liberal, Kansas

Four newspapers are published in Liberal. The Leader & Times is the city's main daily newspaper, published six days a week.[41] It is the result of the merger between the city's two previous dailies, the High Plains Daily Leader and the Southwest Daily Times.[42] The publisher of the Leader & Times also prints a weekly Spanish language paper, El Lider.[43] Seward County Community College publishes a bi-weekly student newspaper, the Crusader.[44] The fourth paper is the Liberal Light, published weekly.[45]

Liberal is a center of broadcast media for southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. Two AM and seven FM radio stations are licensed to and broadcast from the city.[46][47] Liberal is in the Wichita-Hutchinson, Kansas television market,[48] and one television station broadcasts from the city: KSWE-LD, a sister station of KDGL-LD in Sublette, Kansas.[49]

On cable, viewers can receive stations from the Wichita/Hutchinson market (via semi-satellite stations in Garden City/Ensign), PBS' Tulsa affiliate, KOED, as well as Amarillo, Texas's CBS affiliate, KFDA-TV.

Culture

Events

Liberal is famous for its annual Pancake Day race that is held in competition with the town of Olney, United Kingdom for the fastest time between both cities.[50]

Points of interest

Liberal's Adventure Bay water park in 2010

Liberal has a water park known as Adventure Bay.

The fifth largest collection of civilian and military aircraft in the United States is located at the Mid-America Air Museum. Started with a gift of fifty planes by General Tom (Thomas) Welch, Jr., the museum has more than one hundred aircraft.[51]

The Coronado Museum has items from the Native Americans that lived in the area, as well as items from Francisco Vásquez de Coronado's expedition to the area in 1541, and the history of farming and ranching in the county in more recent times.[52]

Liberal is home to "The Land of Oz" exhibit from The Wizard of Oz, a recreation of Dorothy Gale's house and the famed Yellow Brick Road, featuring donated bricks bearing the names of former U.S. Senator Bob Dole, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and Liza Minnelli (Judy Garland's daughter). This exhibit was originally designed and displayed for Topeka in 1981, but relocated here eleven years later by its creator Linda Windler.[53]

Liberal Memorial Library is located on North Kansas Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets in Cooper Park. The Book Front entrance was completed in April 1955 and designed by the building's architect George L. Pitcher. Wheeler Williams, a sculptor from New York, signed an agreement in October 1960 to mold the "Pioneer Mother of Kansas." This six foot statue, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. D. K. Baty, was to be erected in Cooper Park on Memorial Day, May 30, 1961. It was placed opposite of the "Statue of Liberty," which was donated and placed in Cooper Park by the Boy Scouts of America.

Sports

The Liberal Bee Jays, a semi-professional baseball team, have won five national championships and 13 state championships. The Bee Jays have been coached by three major league managers and have sent 165 players to the major leagues.[54]

In popular culture

Notable people

See also: List of Seward County Community College people

Notable individuals who were born in and/or have lived in Liberal include:

References

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Further reading