Town of Marion, Virginia
The Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia.
The Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia.
Official seal of Town of Marion, Virginia
America's Coolest Hometown
Marion is located in Virginia
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Marion is located in the United States
Marion (the United States)
Coordinates: 36°50′N 81°31′W / 36.833°N 81.517°W / 36.833; -81.517Coordinates: 36°50′N 81°31′W / 36.833°N 81.517°W / 36.833; -81.517
CountryUnited States
 • MayorDavid Helms
 • Town5.16 sq mi (10.76 km2)
 • Land5.13 sq mi (10.69 km2)
 • Water0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)
2,500 ft (800 m)
 • Town6,022
 • Density1,347.31/sq mi (537.98/km2)
 • Metro
Approximately 14,500 total population
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code276
FIPS code51-49464[2]
GNIS feature ID1498513[3]

Marion is a town in and the county seat of Smyth County, Virginia, United States. Conveniently positioned upon Interstate 81, Marion is easily accessible. Located in the Blue Ridge portion of the Southern Appalachian mountains in Southwest Virginia, the general Marion area is well known as a vicinity of stunning scenic beauty.[4] The town is named for American Revolutionary War officer Francis Marion. The town limits had a population of approximately 6,000, per 2020 Census estimates. However, together with the neighborhoods, an additional 9,000 residents residing in unincorporated Smyth County have Marion mailing addresses, granting the Marion, VA ZIP code (24354) a total population of about 14,500, which is around half of the county's total population.


Marion is one of a few towns to be designated as an official Virginia Main Street Community and National Main Street Community. The Lincoln Theatre, a meticulously renovated Art-Deco Mayan Revival-style performing arts center in Marion, is the home of the nationally syndicated bluegrass music program Song of the Mountains. The General Francis Marion Hotel has been completely restored. It is a boutique hotel that has received an AAA Three-Diamond ranking. The town hosts a monthly ArtWalk with local artists and musicians, held on the second Friday of each month in May through December.


Marion, Virginia is notorious for being the location of two large side-by-side ground storage water tower tanks, which are separately labeled "HOT" (in red letters) and "COLD" (in blue). The landmarks, positioned just off of Marion exit 47, are visible to both north and south bound Interstate 81 traffic lanes. Although they blend in almost unnoticeably to locals, they serve as curious anomalies to passersby, especially when their view is unobstructed by the vegetation growth during summer months.

Marion is located at 36°50′N 81°31′W / 36.833°N 81.517°W / 36.833; -81.517 (36.8370, −81.5165).[5]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 5.2 square miles (10.7 km2), all of it land.

Marion is home to legendary and popular Hungry Mother State Park, one of the six original Virginia State Parks from the 1930s.

Marion holds the state record low for the month of May at 15 degrees and the second lowest recorded April temperature in the state at 10. However, due to geographic location the overall yearly climate is considered mild. Marion is located at an increased elevation, which in certain conditions can yield a pronounced effect on temperature variations.


Historical population
Census Pop.
source:[6] [7]

2020 census

Marion Racial Composition[9]
Race Num. Perc.
White 5,213 87.17%
Black or African American 261 4.54%
Native American 12 0.21%
Asian 59 1.03%
Pacific Islander 1 0.02%
Other/Mixed 224 3.89%
Hispanic or Latino 181 3.15%

As of the 2020 United States Census, there were 6,022 people, 2,573 households, and 1,394 families residing within the town limits.

2000 census

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 6,500 people, 2,677 households, and 1,648 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,528.3 people per square mile (590.7/km2). There were 2,865 housing units at an average density of 689.6 per square mile (266.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 91.98% White, 5.94% African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.52% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.38% from other races, and 0.93% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.13% of the population.

There were 2,677 households, out of which 24.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.6% were married couples living together, 14.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.0% were non-families. 36.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 19.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.13 and the average family size was 2.76.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 19.4% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 26.0% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 20.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.2 males.

The current (2020) median income for a household in the town is $54,652.

History and Notables

Marion College, a two-year Lutheran women's college, operated from 1873 to 1967. Marion College, constructed in 1968 and named in honor of Francis Marion, is a residence hall at Roanoke College.

Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941), the well-known American author who strongly influenced the style of writing in the United States between World Wars I and II, was a Marion, Virginia resident for several years, and is buried in the town's Round Hill Cemetery. His writing greatly influenced and impacted other notable authors such as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, both of whom owe the first publication of their books directly to his efforts.

William Pat Jennings (August 20, 1919 - August 2, 1994) 28th Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. [10]

Marion is known for being the birthplace of the soft drink Mountain Dew.[11] Although Mountain Dew was first marketed under that name in Knoxville, TN, the original soft drink's formula changed drastically from Knoxville's formula to the syrup mixture that constitutes today's drink, which is Marion's version. In 1961, the rights to Mountain Dew were purchased by the Marion-based Tip Corporation. The Mountain Dew flavor was reworked by Marion resident William H. "Bill" Jones. Due to the success of the revised formulation, the Pepsi Corporation purchased the Tip Corporation in 1964.[12][13] Marion also hosted the Mountain Dew Festival for more than 50 years.[14]

In 1965, after graduating from Alvin High School, one of Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame pitchers, Nolan Ryan, signed a professional baseball contract with the New York Mets, and was assigned to a minor league team in the Appalachian League called the Marion Mets (1965–1976) in Marion, Virginia. Three years later Ryan pitched in the major leagues, debuting with the Mets in 1968.

Another very prominent Major League Baseball pitcher, relief pitcher William E. "Billy" Wagner, has close ties to Marion. Wagner was born in Marion, Virginia on July 25, 1971, spent the majority of his youth as a Marion resident, and continues to possess many relatives who reside in town. The seven time All-Star is one of only six relief pitchers in Major League Baseball history to accumulate a remarkable MLB career (1995-2010) total of 400 or more saves.

In 2014 Marion, Virginia officially became the home of the Emory and Henry College School of Health Sciences, located primarily in the former Smyth County Community Hospital building.

Katherine Johnson (also known as Katherine Goble, August 26, 1918 – February 24, 2020), an American NASA mathematician whose calculations were crucial to the success of US crewed spaceflights, began her distinguished career by accepting her first job as a teacher at a black public school (The Carnegie school) in Marion in 1937. Her many accolades included the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to her by President Barack Obama in 2015, and the portrayal of her by Taraji P. Henson as a lead character in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.

Back of the Dragon, which has quickly grown into one of the premier riding roads for motorcycles and sports cars in the nation, begins in Marion, Virginia, ending at the town of Tazewell, Virginia. The 32 mile route- which crosses 3 mountains- boasts approximately 435 curves, over 3,500 feet in elevation, and remarkably picturesque scenery.

R. T. Greer and Company, Henderson Building, Hotel Lincoln, Hungry Mother State Park Historic District, Lincoln Theatre, Marion Historic District, Marion Male Academy, Norfolk & Western Railway Depot, Preston House, and the Abijah Thomas House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[15]


The climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year-round. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Marion has a humid subtropical, abbreviated "Cfb" on climate maps. Marion's typical temperature numbers are usually around 45/25 F in January, and 85/65 F in July.[16]


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  6. ^ "Population Finder: Marion, Virginia". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-10. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  7. ^ "Marion town Virginia, United States". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  8. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 27, 2021. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  9. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved 2021-12-07.
  10. ^ United States Congress. "W. Pat Jennings (id: J000098)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  11. ^ "Mountain Dew - The Official Site". Archived from the original on 2019-03-17. Retrieved 2020-03-26.
  12. ^ Maddry, Larry (1994-08-06). "Reprinted Article: Soft drink finally gets its Dew from small Virginia town". Virginian Pilot. Norfolk, VA. Archived from the original on 2018-12-17. Retrieved 2014-12-23.
  13. ^ Byrd, Kimberly; Williams, Debra (2005). Smyth County, Virginia (Images of America Series). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738517568.
  14. ^ [Reprinted article by Glenna Elledge, Wednesday 7/27/94 issue of Smyth County News: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-02-05. Retrieved 2014-12-23.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)]
  15. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  16. ^ Climate Summary for Marion, Virginia