Abilene (// AB-i-leen) is a city in Taylor and Jones Counties in Texas, United States. Its population was 125,182 at the 2020 census, making it the 27th-most populous city in the state of Texas. It is the principal city of the Abilene metropolitan statistical area, which had an estimated population of 169,893, as of 2016. It is the county seat of Taylor County. Dyess Air Force Base is located on the west side of the city.
|Named for||Abilene, Kansas|
|County seat||Taylor County|
|• City Council||Mayor Anthony Williams (R)|
Weldon W. Hurt
|• City Manager||Robert Hanna|
|• City||112.09 sq mi (290.32 km2)|
|• Land||106.67 sq mi (276.27 km2)|
|• Water||5.42 sq mi (14.05 km2)|
|Elevation||1,719 ft (527 m)|
|• Density||1,157/sq mi (447/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||1329173|
Abilene is located off Interstate 20, between exits 279 on its western edge and 292 on the east. It is 150 miles (240 km) west of Fort Worth. The city is looped by I-20 to the north, US 83/84 on the west, and Loop 322 to the east. A railroad divides the city down the center into north and south. The historic downtown area is on the north side of the railroad.
Established by cattlemen as a stock shipping point on the Texas and Pacific Railway in 1881, the city was named after Abilene, Kansas, the original endpoint for the Chisholm Trail. The T&P had bypassed the town of Buffalo Gap, the county seat at the time. Eventually, a landowner north of Buffalo Gap, Clabe Merchant, known as the father of Abilene, chose the name for the new town. According to a Dallas newspaper, about 800 people had already begun camping at the townsite before the lots were sold. The town was laid out by Colonel J. Stoddard Johnson, and the auction of lots began early on March 15, 1881. By the end of the first day, 139 lots were sold for a total of $23,810, and another 178 lots were sold the next day for $27,550.
Abilene was incorporated soon after being founded in 1881, and residents began to set their sights on bringing the county seat to Abilene. In a three-to-one vote, they won the county election to do so. In 1888, the Progressive Committee was formed to attract businesses to the area, and in 1890 renamed itself as the Board of Trade. By 1900, 3,411 people lived in Abilene. In that decade, the Board of Trade changed its name to the 25,000 Club, in the hope of reaching a population of 25,000 by the next census. By 1910, though, the population had increased only to 9,204. Another group was formed, the Young Men's Booster Club, which became the Abilene Chamber of Commerce in 1914.
The cornerstone was laid in 1891 for Simmons College, the first of three universities in Abilene. It later developed as Hardin–Simmons University. Childers Classical Institute was founded in 1906, and developed as Abilene Christian University, the largest of the three. In 1923, McMurry College was founded; it later expanded its offerings as McMurry University.
In the late 20th century, Abilene succeeded in gaining branches of Texas State Technical College and Cisco College. Headquarters of the latter institution are located in the city.
In 1940, Abilene raised the money to purchase land to attract establishment of a U.S. Army base, southwest of town. It was named Camp Barkeley. When fully operational, it was twice the size of Abilene, with 60,000 men. When the base closed after World War II, many worried that Abilene could become a ghost town, but as the national economy boomed, many veterans returned to start businesses in Abilene.
In the early-1950s, to advocate for an Air Force base, residents raised US$893,261 (equivalent to about $9,325,416 in 2021) to purchase 3,400 acres (14 km2) of land. The Southern block of Congressmen gained approval for such a base here. For decades, Dyess Air Force Base has been the city's largest employer, with 6076 employees in 2007.
From 1950 to 1960, Abilene's population nearly doubled, from 45,570 to 90,638. In 1960, a second high school was added to the city's school system, Cooper High School.
In 1966, the Abilene Zoo was established near Abilene Regional Airport. The following year, one of the most important bond elections in the city's history passed for the funding of the construction of the Abilene Civic Center and the Taylor County Coliseum, as well as major improvements to Abilene Regional Airport. In 1969, the Woodson elementary and high school for black students closed as the city integrated its school system, more than 10 years after the US Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional.
In 1982, Abilene became the first city in Texas to create a downtown reinvestment zone. Texas State Technical College opened an Abilene branch three years later. The 2,250-bed French Robertson Prison Unit was built in 1989. A half-cent sales tax earmarked for economic development was created after the decline in the petroleum business in the 1980s. A branch of Cisco College was located in the city in 1990.
Several major projects of restoration and new construction: The Grace Museum and Paramount Theatre, and development of Artwalk in 1992, sparked a decade of downtown revitalization. In 2004, Frontier Texas!, a multimedia museum highlighting the history of the area from 1780 to 1880, was constructed. That year an $8 million, 38-acre (150,000 m2) Cisco Junior College campus was built at Loop 322 and Industrial Boulevard. Simultaneously, subdivisions and businesses started locating along the freeway, on the same side as the CC campus. This area attracted Abilene growth on the Loop.
Abilene has become the commercial, retail, medical, and transportation hub of a 19-county area more commonly known as "The Big Country", but also known as the "Texas Midwest". It is part of the Central Great Plains ecoregion. By the end of 2005, commercial and residential development had reached record levels in and around the city.
Abilene is located in northeastern Taylor County. The city limits extend north into Jones County. Interstate 20 leads east 149 miles (240 km) to Fort Worth and west 148 miles (238 km) to Midland. Three U.S. highways pass through the city. US 83 runs west of the city center, leading north 24 miles (39 km) to Anson and south 55 miles (89 km) to Ballinger. US 84 runs with US 83 through the southwest part of the city but leads southeast 52 miles (84 km) to Coleman and west with I-20 40 miles (64 km) to Sweetwater. US 277 follows US 83 around the northwest side of the city and north to Anson, but heads southwest from Abilene 89 miles (143 km) to San Angelo.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Abilene has a total area of 112.2 sq mi (290.6 km2), of which 106.8 sq mi (276.6 km2) are land and 5.4 sq mi (14.0 km2) are covered by water (4.82%). The water area is mainly from three reservoirs in the city: Lytle Lake southeast of downtown on the western edge of Abilene Regional Airport, Kirby Lake on the southeast corner of the US 83/84 and Loop 322 interchange, and Lake Fort Phantom Hill in Jones County in northern Abilene. Clear Creek runs through the city just east of downtown, flowing north to Elm Creek and ultimately part of the Brazos River watershed.
The fastest-growing sections of the city are in the southwest, along Southwest Drive, the Winters Freeway, and the Buffalo Gap Road corridor; the southeast, along Loop 322, Oldham Lane, Industrial Drive, and Maple Street; and in the northeast near the intersection of SH 351 and I-20. Many developments have begun in these three areas within the last few years with a citywide focus on the reinvigoration of downtown Abilene.
|Climate data for Abilene, Texas (1991−2020 normals)|
|Record high °F (°C)||90
|Mean maximum °F (°C)||80
|Average high °F (°C)||58.8
|Average low °F (°C)||33.7
|Mean minimum °F (°C)||18
|Record low °F (°C)||−9
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||1.10
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||0.7
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||4.7||5.4||6.0||5.0||7.7||7.0||5.1||5.9||5.8||6.6||4.6||5.1||68.9|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||0.9||0.7||0.3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.3||0.6||2.8|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||204.6||203.4||263.5||282.0||306.9||330.0||347.2||316.2||258.0||248.0||198.0||192.2||3,150|
|Source: National Weather Service, San Angelo Hong Kong Observatory (sun only, 1961–1990)|
Notable and historical buildings in Abilene include:
- Hotel Wooten (1930) at 302 Cypress Street downtown, built by grocery entrepreneur H. O. Wooten, at 16 stories tall, is designed after the Drake Hotel in Chicago. It was restored in 2004 as a high-end apartment building.
- First Baptist Church (1954) at 1442 North Second Street has a spire 140 feet from the ground. Pastor Dr. Jesse Northcutt oversaw the planning of this building of 325 tons of steel.
- The Church of the Heavenly Rest, Episcopal, at 602 Meander Street, reflects surprising Gothic architecture on the West Texas Plains. Its plaque reads: "No man entering a house ignores him who dwells in it. This is the house of God and He is here."
- The 20-story Enterprise Tower at 500 Chestnut Street, the highest structure in Abilene, rises to 283 feet above the Plains. It is the tallest building in west-central Texas and one of the five highest in the western two-thirds of the state.
- The Taylor County Courthouse at 300 Oak Street, with its international architectural style of concrete and pink granite, resembles few other courthouses.
- Paramount Theatre at 352 Cypress Street opened in 1930 and restored in 1986 had an original marquee 90 feet tall, with 1,400 lights.
- Lincoln Junior High School, 1699 South First Street. In 2012, the Abilene Independent School District deeded the property to the City of Abilene. This property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 28, 2012. Built in 1923, the architecture is Gothic Revival and includes two large gargoyles at the entrance and has Gothic and art deco motifs. It opened as Abilene High School in 1924, became Lincoln Junior High in 1955, and Lincoln Middle School in 1985. The campus closed in 2007. As of 2019, the Abilene Heritage Square was renovating the school into "a multipurpose center for learning, making, discovery, building community and innovating and encouraging our city's future businesses." The Abilene Public Library will also use the restored building as the new main branch.
|U.S. Census Bureau|
|Black or African American (NH)||12,242||9.78%|
|Native American or Alaska Native (NH)||496||0.4%|
|Pacific Islander (NH)||141||0.11%|
|Some Other Race (NH)||388||0.31%|
|Hispanic or Latino||33,634||26.87%|
As of the census of 2000, 115,930 people, 41,570 households, and 28,101 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,102.7 people per square mile (425.8/km2). The 45,618 housing units averaged 433.9 per square mile (167.5/km2). As of the 2010 census, Abilene had a population of 117,063. In 2020, its population was 125,182, with 43,607 households and 28,118 families residing in the city.
In 2000, the racial makeup of the city was 78.07% white, 8.81% African American, 0.55% Native American, 1.33% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 8.73% from other races, and 2.44% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 19.45% of the population. The racial and ethnic makeup of the population in 2010 was 62.4% non-Hispanic White, 9.6% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 1.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.1% non-Hispanic reporting some other race, 3.3% of two or more races, and 24.5% Hispanic or Latino. By 2020, its racial and ethnic composition was 56.23% non-Hispanic white, 9.78% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 2.14% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 0.31% some other race, 4.16% multiracial, and 26.87% Hispanic or Latino of any race.
At the 2000 census, the median income for a household in the city was $33,007, and for a family was $40,028. Males had a median income of $28,078 versus $20,918 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,577. About 10.9% of families and 15.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.6% of those under age 18 and 9.2% of those age 65 or over. At the 2020 American Community Survey, the median household income in the city was $52,518. The mean household income was $70,807.
The economy in Abilene was originally based on the livestock and agricultural sectors, but is now based strongly on government, education, healthcare, and manufacturing. The petroleum industry is prevalent in the surrounding area, also. The city has established incentives to bring new businesses to the area, including job training grants, relocation grants, and more.
The top 15 employers in Abilene, as of December 2019, were:
|1||Dyess Air Force Base||8400||Military|
|2||Hendrick Health System||3200||Healthcare|
|4||Abilene Christian University||1900||Education|
|5||City of Abilene||1300||Government|
|6||Abilene State Supported Living Center||1225||Mental health|
|7||Texas Department of Criminal Justice||1190||Law enforcement|
|8||Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas Claims Center||1090||Call center|
|9||Abilene Regional Medical Center||830||Healthcare|
|11||First Financial Bank (Texas)||540||Banking|
|14||Eagle Aviation Services||470||Aviation|
Government and infrastructureEdit
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) operates the Abilene District Parole Office in the city. The Robertson Unit prison and the Middleton Unit transfer unit are in Abilene and in Jones County.
On June 17, 2017, Abilene elected its first African-American mayor, Anthony Williams.
- Anthony Williams, 2017–present
Abilene has two school districts within the city limits: Abilene Independent School District (AISD) and Wylie Independent School District (WISD). High schools include Abilene High School and Cooper High School of AISD, and Wylie High School of WISD.
Colleges and universitiesEdit
Abilene is home to six colleges, three of which are religiously affiliated. Hardin–Simmons University is the oldest, founded in 1891. Abilene Christian University is the largest with 2012 undergraduate enrollment at 4,371.
|Abilene Christian University||Churches of Christ||1906||5,210|
|Texas State Technical College West Texas||1985||1,049|
|Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Abilene Campus||2006||332|
Hendrick Medical Center includes two large hospital campuses on the north and south sides of Abilene, and is one of the city's largest employers. It is one of seven healthcare institutions affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
The Presbyterian Medical Care Mission was founded in 1983 as a medical and dental clinic. Its services are focused to low-income individuals and families without insurance.
The cultural aspects of Abilene revolve around a mix of the local college and university campuses, the agriculture community of the surrounding area, and a growing nightlife scene in the downtown area. Abilene is also home to the restored Paramount Theatre, the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra, the Grace Museum, the Center for Contemporary Arts, the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, The Abilene Zoo, Frontier Texas!, the 12th Armored Division Museum, the Taylor County Expo Center, the Abilene Convention Center, six libraries (three private, three public), 26 public parks, six television stations, a daily newspaper, and several radio stations, including one NPR station (89.5 KACU).
The Abilene Reporter-News is the primary daily newspaper of the city of Abilene and the surrounding Big Country area.
- 88.1 FM KGNZ (Christian contemporary)
- 89.5 FM KACU (Public Radio)
- 90.5 FM KAGT (Christian contemporary)
- 91.3 FM KAQD (Religious)
- 91.7 FM KQOS (Religious)
- 92.5 FM KMWX (Adult contemporary)
- 93.3 FM KBGT (Tejano)
- 94.1 FM KVVO (Inspirational Country)
- 95.1 FM KABW (Country)
- 96.1 FM KORQ (Farm, Country)
- 98.1 FM KTLT (Active Rock)
- 99.7 FM KBCY (Country)
- 100.7 FM KULL (Classic hits)
- 102.7 FM KHXS (Classic Rock)
- 103.7 FM KCDD (Top 40)
- 105.1 FM KEAN (Country)
- 106.3 FM KKHR (Regional Mexican)
- 106.9 FM KLGD (Country)
- 107.9 FM KEYJ (Active Rock)
- 1280 AM KSLI (Country)
- 1340 AM KWKC (News Talk)
- 1470 AM KYYW (News Talk)
- 1560 AM KZQQ (Sports talk)
The city of Abilene is served by Abilene Regional Airport.
- Ken Baumann, actor
- Raleigh Brown, member of the Texas House of Representatives and a state-court judge
- Doyle Brunson, two-time World Series of Poker champion, attended and played basketball at Hardin–Simmons College before injuring his knee.
- Randall "Tex" Cobb, heavyweight boxer and actor
- Charles Coody, Masters-winning professional golfer (from Stamford and Abilene) — graduate of ACU
- Carole Cook, an actress, was born January 14, 1924 in Abilene as Mildred Frances Cook. She was a close friend of Lucille Ball's.
- Roy Crane, nationally syndicated cartoonist (Wash Tubbs, Captain Easy, Buz Sawyer)
- Dorian, hip-hop recording artist, was born in Abilene.
- Bob Estes, professional golfer
- W. C. Friley, first president of Hardin–Simmons University, 1892–1894
- Billy Gillispie, former Texas Tech University Red Raiders, Kentucky, and Texas A&M men's basketball coach
- Ryan Guzman, actor
- Homer Hailey (1903–2000), Church of Christ clergyman and professor at Abilene Christian University
- David W. Harper (born 1961), actor, played James Robert Walton on CBS television series The Waltons, 1972–1981
- Kristy Hawkins (born 1980), IFBB professional bodybuilder
- Jerry Herron (born 1949), dean of Wayne State University Honors College
- Katie Hill, former United States congresswomen from CA-25.
- Micah P. Hinson, indie rock singer
- Gregory Hoblit, film director
- Robert Dean Hunter, member of Texas House of Representatives from Abilene, 1986–2007; vice president emeritus of Abilene Christian University
- Bill Jones, former NFL player for the Kansas City Chiefs
- Morgan Jones, railroad builder
- Rainy Day Jordan, Playboy playmate (Miss December 2011)
- Ashley Kavanaugh, public official and former political aide; wife of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh
- Case Keenum, quarterback for the Cleveland Browns
- Johnny Knox, former wide receiver for the Chicago Bears
- John Lackey, former starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs
- Billy Maxwell, golfer, winner of seven PGA Tour events
- Mildred Paxton Moody, wife of Governor Dan Moody
- Bobby Morrow, three-time gold medal winner at 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, named Sportsman of the Year in 1956 by Sports Illustrated
- Scott Nagy, head coach of the Wright State University men's basketball team, and former head coach for South Dakota State University men's basketball
- Billy Olson, pole vaulter (1988 Summer Olympics, for the U.S. team that boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics); held several world records, including first 19-foot (5.8 m) indoor pole vault — vaulted for AHS and ACU
- Ty O'Neal, rodeo cowboy and film actor
- Terry Orr, tight end for the Washington Redskins — played for CHS
- Fess Parker (1924–2010), actor and hotel and winery owner, attended Hardin–Simmons University, played football at HSU before transferring to University of Texas, starred in TV as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone
- Lee Roy Parnell, country musician
- Vinnie Paul (1964–2018), born in Abilene; musician, co-founder, and drummer of heavy metal band Pantera and Damageplan, drummer of Hellyeah
- Charles Perry, member of Texas Senate from Lubbock, was born in Abilene in 1962.
- Dominic Rhodes, born in Waco Texas, but lived in Abilene. Was a football player for Cooper High School, NFL football player for Indianapolis Colts.
- Lou Halsell Rodenberger, author and biographer of Jane Gilmore Rushing, professor at McMurry University
- Rick Roderick, philosopher
- Bill Sharman, Hall-of-Fame NBA basketball player and coach, born in Abilene
- Jessica Simpson, singer and actress, born in Abilene
- Jorge A. Solis (born 1951), United States federal judge, 5th Circuit
- Rawson Stovall, video game producer/designer, author, and first nationally syndicated reviewer of video games
- Steven Stucky, Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer
- Sarah Weddington, lawyer, represented "Jane Roe" in case of Roe v. Wade
- Ann Wedgeworth, actress
- Mason Williams, musician, best known for his guitar instrumental "Classical Gas"
In popular cultureEdit
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- Abilene...On Catclaw Creek: A Profile of a West Texas Town (Abilene, Texas: Reporter Publishing, 1969)
- Katharyn Duff and Betty Kay Seibt. Catclaw Country: An Informal History of Abilene in West Texas (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1980)
- Fane Downs, ed. The Future Great City of West Texas: Abilene, 1881–1981 (Abilene: Richardson, 1981).
- Paul D. Lack et al. The History of Abilene (Abilene, Texas: McMurry College, 1981)
- Juanita Daniel Zachry. Abilene (Northridge, California: Windsor, 1986).
- Tracy M. Shilcutt; David A. Coffey; Donald S. Frazier (2000). Historic Abilene: An Illustrated History. San Antonio: Historical Publishing Network "for the Abilene Preservation League". ISBN 978-1-893619-06-7.
- David J. Wishart, ed. (2004). "Cities and Towns: Abilene, Texas". Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-4787-7.
- Paul T. Hellmann (2006). "Texas: Abilene". Historical Gazetteer of the United States. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 1-135-94859-3.
- Donald S. Frazier; Robert F. Pace (2009). Abilene Landmarks: An Illustrated Tour. State House Press. ISBN 9781933337302.
- Jack E. North (2010). Early Abilene. Images of America. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia. ISBN 9781439624791.
- Glenn Dromgoole; Jay Moore; Joe W. Specht, eds. (2013). Abilene Stories: From Then to Now. Abilene Christian University Press. ISBN 978-0-89112-368-2.
- Lost Abilene: Images of America, Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. 2013. ISBN 978-0-73859-693-8
- David G. McComb (2015). "Railroad Towns: Abilene". The City in Texas: a History. University of Texas Press. pp. 133+. ISBN 978-0-292-76746-1.
- "Larry the Answer Guy: Several congressmen have come from this area", Abilene Reporter-News, March 22, 2016 (List of U.S. Congressional representatives for Abilene, 1883–2016)
- Official website
- Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Abilene, Texas at Curlie
- "Collections: City Directories: Abilene". Portal to Texas History. University of North Texas Libraries. (circa 1900s-1950s)
- "Historical Maps of Texas Cities: Abilene". Perry–Castañeda Library Map Collection. University of Texas at Austin.
- "Abilene". Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Austin, Texas. Archived from the original on 2017-04-11. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
- Items related to Abilene, Texas, various dates (via Digital Public Library of America)
- "Locations: Taylor County". West Texas Digital Archives – via University of North Texas Libraries.