Harris County, Texas

Harris County, Texas
Harris County

The Harris County Civil Courthouse in Houston

Map of Texas highlighting Harris County
Location in the U.S. state of Texas
Map of the United States highlighting Texas
Texas's location in the U.S.
Founded 1837
Seat Houston
Largest city Houston
  Total 1,777 sq mi (4,602 km2)
  Land 1,703 sq mi (4,411 km2)
  Water 74 sq mi (192 km2), 4.2%
Population (est.)
  (2015) 4,538,028
  Density 2,608/sq mi (1,007/km²)
Congressional districts 2nd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 18th, 22nd, 29th, 36th
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5
Website www.co.harris.tx.us
Map of Harris County – Northeast one-fourth (circa 1912)

Harris County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 4,092,459,[1] making it the most populous county in Texas and the third-most populous county in the United States. Its county seat is Houston, the largest city in Texas and fourth-largest city in the United States. The county was founded in 1836 and organized in 1837.[2][3] It is named for John Richardson Harris, an early settler of the area.

Harris County is included in the Houston–The WoodlandsSugar Land Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Firefighters on San Jacinto Street, circa 1914
The Harris County Courthouse in Houston, in 1913.

The county was founded on December 22, 1836, as Harrisburg County. The name was changed to Harris County in December 1839.[2]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,777 square miles (4,600 km2), of which 1,703 square miles (4,410 km2) is land and 74 square miles (190 km2) (4.2%) is water.[4] Both its total area and land area are larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20154,538,028[5]10.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[6]
1850–2010[7] 2010–2014[1]

2010 Census

As of the 2010 Census, the population of the county was 4,092,459, White Americans made up 56.6% of Harris County's population; non-Hispanic whites represented 33.0% of the population. Black Americans made up 18.9% of the population. Native Americans made up 0.7% of Harris County's population. Asian Americans made up 6.2% of the population (2.0% Vietnamese, 1.2% Indian, 1.1% Chinese, 0.6% Filipino, 0.3% Korean, 0.1% Japanese, 1.0% Other). Pacific Islander Americans made up just 0.1% of the population. Individuals from other races made up 14.3% of the population; people from two or more races made up 3.2% of the county's population. Hispanics and Latinos (of any race) made up 40.8% of Harris County's population. As of the 2010 census, there were about 6.2 same-sex couples per 1,000 households in the county.[8]

2000 Census

As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 3,400,578 people, 1,205,516 households, and 834,217 families residing in the county, making it the largest county by population in Texas. The population density was 1,967 people per square mile (759/km²). There were 1,298,130 housing units at an average density of 751 per square mile (290/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 58.73% White, 18.49% Black or African American, 0.45% Native American, 5.14% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 14.18% from other races, and 2.96% from two or more races. 32.93% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 7.2% were of German, 6.2% American and 5.3% English ancestry according to Census 2000. 63.8% spoke only English at home, while 28.8% spoke Spanish and 1.6% Vietnamese.

In 2000 there were 1,205,516 households out of which 37.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.6% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.8% were non-families. 25.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.38.

In the county, the population was spread out with 29.00% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 33.4% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 7.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 99.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.0 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $42,598, and the median income for a family was $49,004. Males had a median income of $37,361 versus $28,941 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,435. About 12.10% of families and 14.97% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.6% of those under age 18 and 12.20% of those age 65 or over.


Harris County 1910 Courthouse Restored

According to Children At Risk, a local non-profit research organization, 20.8% of the Harris County children live in poverty, 6.5 per 1,000 die before age 1, and 38% drop out of high school.[10]


Harris County along with other Texas counties has one of the nation's highest property tax rates. In 2007, the county was ranked in the top 25 at 22nd in the nation for property taxes as percentage of the homes value on owner-occupied housing. The list only includes counties with a population over 65,000 for accuracy.[11]

Racial and ethnic demographics

As of 2014 Census estimates, Harris County had a population of 4,441,370 people.

The racial and ethnic make-up of the county was 41.8% Hispanic or Latino. The population was 31.4% non-Hispanic white, 19.5% non-Hispanic black, 1.1% Native American, 7.0% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander. [Harris County Demographics]

As of 2013 37% of non-Hispanic whites in Harris County had postgraduate degrees and 36% of them had annual incomes over $75,000. Altogether, the non-Hispanic white population in Harris County is declining.[12]

As of 2013 19% of blacks in Harris County have postgraduate degrees.[12]

Steve H. Murdock, a demographer with the Rice University Hobby Center for the Study of Texas and a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, predicted that by 2040, Hispanic residents of the county will increase by 2.5 million, while the number of non-Hispanic whites will decrease by 516,000. This assumes that the net migration rate is equal to one half of that of 1990–2000.[13] As of 2013 13% of U.S.-born Latinos have postgraduate degrees, and 7% of Latino immigrants have postgraduate degrees.[12]

The Houston Area Asian Survey of the Kinder Institute of Urban Research Houston Area Survey stated that between 1990 and 2000 the Asian population in Harris County increased by 76%. Between 2000 and 2010 it increased by 45%. The Asian ethnic groups in Harris County have differing levels of educational attainment, religion, political views, and income. During that year, in Harris County, 50% of the county's Asian immigrants have postgraduate degrees. As of 2013 28% of Harris County Asians have household incomes of over $75,000. The report stated that many Asians were in earlier stages of careers and were younger, leading to lower incomes.[12] Of Indian and Pakistani residents, the second most educated Asian group in the county, behind Taiwanese, 71% have university or post-graduate degrees and 2% did not finish high school. Of Vietnamese, the least educated Asian group in the county, 30% have university or post-graduate degrees and 20% did not finish high school.[12]

As of 2012 Vietnamese were the largest group of Asians in Harris County. As of 1995 most Vietnamese, Filipinos, and Chinese stated that they were Republicans, while most Indians and Pakistanis stated that they were Democrats. In 2012, Indians and Pakistanis continue to identify as Democrats while Chinese, Filipinos, and Vietnamese were increasingly identifying as independents or Democrats.


Harris County Criminal Courts Building

In 2000, 1,961,993 residents of Harris County spoke English only. The five largest foreign languages in the county were Spanish or Spanish Creole (1,106,883 speakers), Vietnamese (53,311 speakers), Chinese (33,003 speakers), French including Cajun and Patois (33,003 speakers), and Urdu (14,595 speakers). Among those who spoke other languages, 46% of Spanish speakers, 37% of Vietnamese speakers, 50% of Chinese speakers, 85% of French speakers, and 72% of Urdu speakers said that they spoke English at least "very well".[14]


In 2013 Allen Turner of the Houston Chronicle said that residents of Harris County were "consistently conservative in elections" and that they were, according to a Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research opinion poll, "surprisingly liberal on topics such as immigration, gun control and equal matrimonial rights for same-sex couples".[15] It's been widely regarded to be a moderate or swing county in Texas, and has been a bellwether in Presidential elections, voting for winners of every Presidential elections since 2000 (both Barack Obama and Texas resident George W. Bush have won the county).[15]

As a result of the Obama sweep in 2008, many Democratic candidates in contests for lower-level offices also benefited, and many Republican incumbents were replaced by Democrats in the Harris County courthouse. Some of the defeated Republican district court judges were later re-appointed to vacant District Court benches by Governor Rick Perry. Republicans continue to hold all statewide offices after the 2014 elections, including all nine slots on each of the two high courts, but Harris County still has a mix of Democratic and Republican district court judges. All members of the two courts of appeals in the old Harris County Courthouse, by contrast, are Republicans. They are elected from an appellate district that includes Harris County, but also includes nine other counties that are more conservative and vote more Republican. Any generalizations about political leanings and voting patterns of the local electorate must take into consideration the geographic area/jurisdiction, and the same goes for public opinion polls. Whether elections for local offices coincide with presidential elections or mid-term elections also matters because turnout and composition of the voting segment of the electorate differ. The City of Houston, which overlaps with Harris County in part, but represents a smaller and more urban area and electorate, is even more liberal. That is why the City can elect a mayor who is not only a Democrat, but openly gay. (Mayoral elections are nominally non-partisan).

The opinion poll found that 46% of Harris County residents supported same-sex marriage, up from 37% in 2001, 83% favored offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, providing they speak English and have no criminal record, up from 19% in 2009, and 89% support background checks for all firearms.[16]

Automobile ownership

As of U.S. Census figures current as of 1997, 9% of residents in Harris County did not own automobiles. This figure does not include people who own cars, but do not have enough money to repair the automobiles. As of that year, while the average income of all residents of the county was $41,000 (equivalent to $60,500 in 2015), the average income of households without cars was $13,000 (equivalent to $19,200 in 2015).[17]

Educational attainment

In 2011, according to the nonprofit Children at Risk, one-third of students at public high schools in Harris County do not graduate.[18]

Government and politics

Harris County vote[19]
by party in presidential elections
2016 41.8% 544,960 54.2% 706,471
2012 49.3% 586,073 49.4% 587,044
2008 48.8% 571,883 50.5% 590,982
2004 54.8% 584,723 44.6% 475,865
2000 54.3% 529,159 42.9% 418,267
1996 49.2% 421,462 45.2% 386,726
1992 43.1% 406,778 38.2% 360,171
1988 57.0% 464,217 42.1% 342,919
1984 61.5% 536,029 38.3% 334,135
1980 57.9% 416,655 38.1% 274,061
1976 52.2% 357,536 47.0% 321,897
1972 62.6% 365,672 36.9% 215,916
1968 42.9% 202,079 38.8% 182,546
1964 40.3% 154,401 59.5% 227,819
1960 51.7% 168,170 45.6% 148,275

County governments serve as agents of the state, with responsibilities defined in the Texas constitution. Counties are governed by the commissioners court. Each Texas county has four precinct commissioners and a county judge. Although this body is called a court, it conducts the general business of the county and oversees financial matters.[20] The commissioners court may hire personnel to run major departments, such as health and human services.

Besides the county judge and commissioners, the other elective offices found in most counties include the county attorney, county and district clerks, county treasurer, sheriff, tax assessor-collector, justices of the peace, and constables. As a part of the checks and balances system, counties have an auditor appointed by the district courts.[20]

The majority of Harris County voters are white and have tended to vote Republican at the presidential level since the mid-20th century; Barack Obama was the first Democrat to win the county since Texas native Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Democratic strength is found in the city of Houston. Suburban areas such as Cypress, Spring, and Katy in the county's western and northern areas, tend to be strongly Republican. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the county by the largest margins for a Democrat since 1964.[21]

County facilities

The 1910 county courthouse was renovated in the 1950s to update its systems. Some residents, such as Martin Dreyer, a Houston Chronicle reporter, were disturbed by modernization of the building, saying its character had been ruined. In the 21st century, the facility received a major renovation. Completed in 2011, the $50 million, eight-year project was designed to restore notable historic aspects of the courthouse while providing for contemporary communication and building needs.[22]

The Texas First Court of Appeals and the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals, since September 3, 2010, are located in the 1910 Harris County courthouse.[23][24] Previously they were located on the campus of the South Texas College of Law.[25]

The Harris County Jail is the largest in Texas, and one of the largest in the nation. In July, 2012, the facility held 9,113 prisoners. To handle overcrowding in the facility, the county had to ship inmates to other counties and some are housed out of the state.[26]

United States Congress

Senators Name Party First Elected Level
  Senate Class 1 Ted Cruz Republican 2013 Junior Senator
  Senate Class 2 John Cornyn Republican 2002 Senior Senator
Representatives Name Party First Elected Area(s) of Harris County Represented
  District 2 Ted Poe Republican 2004 Atascosita, Baytown, Crosby, Dayton, Huffman, Humble, Kingwood, La Porte, eastern Sheldon, Spring
  District 7 John Culberson Republican 2000 West Houston, Memorial Villages, Bellaire, West University Place, west and northwest areas of county
  District 9 Al Green Democratic 2004 Alief, Southwest Houston, Houston's Southside
  District 10 Michael McCaul Republican 2004 Northwest
  District 18 Sheila Jackson Lee Democratic 1994 Downtown Houston, Bush IAH, northwest and northeast Houston, inner portions of Houston's Southside
  District 22 Pete Olson Republican 2008 Clear Lake City, NASA Johnson Space Center, Ellington Field, southern and central Pasadena, Deer Park
  District 29 Gene Green Democratic 1992 Aldine, Channelview, East Houston, Fall Creek portion of Humble, Galena Park, Jacinto City, northern Pasadena, North Shore, western Sheldon, South Houston

List above took effect January 4, 2007.

Texas Legislature

Texas Senate

District Name Party First Elected Area(s) of Harris County Represented
  4 Brandon Creighton Republican 2014 Kingwood, far eastern portions of Baytown
  6 Sylvia Garcia Democratic 2013 Houston Ship Channel, eastern portions of Houston, Jacinto City, Galena Park, northern Pasadena, western portion of Baytown
  7 Paul Bettencourt Republican 2014 Memorial Villages, Memorial/Spring Branch area, Addicks Reservoir, northwest portions of county
  11 Larry Taylor Republican 2013 Southeast
  13 Rodney Ellis Democratic 1990 Downtown Houston, Texas Medical Center, southwest and northeast Houston, Houston's Southside
  15 John Whitmire Democratic 1983 Northwest Houston, Bush IAH, southern portion of Humble, eastern Harris County
  17 Joan Huffman Republican 2008 Meyerland, Bellaire, West University Place, much of Greater Katy area, far west Houston, Barker Reservoir

Texas House of Representatives

District Name Party First Elected Area(s) of Harris County Represented
  126 Patricia Harless Republican 2006 Champions/FM 1960 area
  127 Dan Huberty Republican 2010 Humble, Kingwood, Lake Houston, Atascocita, Crosby, Wallisville
  128 Wayne Smith Republican 2002 Baytown, Deer Park, La Porte
  129 Dennis Paul Republican 2014 Clear Lake City, NASA Johnson Space Center, Southeast Harris County (including Seabrook and Webster)
  130 Allen Fletcher Republican 2008 Northwest Harris County (including Cypress, Tomball, Waller)
  131 Alma Allen Democratic 2004 far Southwest Houston and far South Side
  132 Mike Schofield Republican 2000 West Harris County (including Greater Katy area)
  133 Jim Murphy Republican 2010 (Also served 2006–2008) West Houston along West Sam Houston Tollway, including western portion of Memorial/Spring Branch and part of the Energy Corridor
  134 Sarah Davis Republican 2010 Inner western portions of Houston (including Meyerland, River Oaks and Memorial Park), Texas Medical Center, West University Place, Bellaire, Southside Place, Western Montrose
  135 Gary Elkins Republican 1994 Jersey Village and southeastern segments of the Champions/FM 1960 area
  137 Gene Wu Democratic 2013 Southwest Houston (including Sharpstown and Gulfton)
  138 Dwayne Bohac Republican 2002 Northwest Houston and parts of the Memorial/Spring Branch area north of I-10, Addicks Reservoir
  139 Sylvester Turner Democratic 1988 North Houston and Aldine west of I-45
  140 Armando Walle Democratic 2008 North Houston and Aldine east of I-45
  141 Senfronia Thompson Democratic 1972 Northeast Houston, Bush IAH, Greenspoint, southern portion of Humble
  142 Harold Dutton, Jr. Democratic 1984 East Houston and Northshore area
  143 Ana Hernandez Luna Democratic 2006 East Houston within Loop 610, Houston Ship Channel, Galena Park, Jacinto City, northern Pasadena
  144 Gilbert Pena Republican 2014 Southern Pasadena, far southeast Houston
  145 Carol Alvarado Democratic 2008 Inner southeastern portions of Houston (mainly east of I-45), South Houston (not part of the city of Houston)
  146 Borris Miles Democratic 2010 (Also served 2006–2008) Inner portions of Houston's South Side
  147 Garnet Coleman Democratic 1990 Downtown Houston, inner southeastern portions of Houston (mainly west of I-45), Eastern Montrose, Midtown, Third Ward
  148 Jessica Farrar Democratic 1994 North and Northwest Houston mainly within Loop 610 (including Houston Heights)
  149 Hubert Vo Democratic 2004 Far west Houston, Alief, unincorporated portions of Katy area east of Fry Rd, Barker Reservoir
  150 Debbie Riddle Republican 2002 North Harris County (including Spring and Klein)

County government

Harris County elected officials

Position Name Party
  County Judge Ed Emmett (succeeded Robert Eckels in 2007) Republican
  Commissioner, Precinct 1 Rodney Ellis Democratic
  Commissioner, Precinct 2 Jack Morman Republican
  Commissioner, Precinct 3 Steve Radack Republican
  Commissioner, Precinct 4 R. Jack Cagle[27] Republican
  County Attorney Vince Ryan Democratic
  District Attorney Kim Ogg Democratic
  District Clerk Chris Daniel Republican
  County Clerk Stan Stanart Republican
  Sheriff Ed Gonzalez Democratic
  Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris Bennett Democratic
  Treasurer Orlando Sanchez Republican
  School Trustee, At-Large, Pos. 3 Diane Trautman Democratic
  School Trustee, At-Large, Pos. 5 Michael Wolfe Republican
  School Trustee, At-Large, Pos. 7 Don Sumner Republican
  School Trustee, Pct. 1, Pos. 6 Erica Lee Democratic
  School Trustee, Pct. 2, Pos. 1 Marvin Morris Republican
  School Trustee, Pct. 3, Pos. 4 Louis D. Evans III Republican
  School Trustee, Pct. 4, Pos. 2 Angie Chesnut Republican
  Constable, Precinct 1 Alan Rosen Democratic
  Constable, Precinct 2 Christopher E. Diaz Democratic
  Constable, Precinct 3 Ken Jones Democratic
  Constable, Precinct 4 Mark Herman Republican
  Constable, Precinct 5 Phil Camus Republican
  Constable, Precinct 6 Heliodoro Martinez Republican
  Constable, Precinct 7 May Walker Democratic
  Constable, Precinct 8 Phil Sandlin Republican

County services

The Harris County Flood Control District manages the effects of flooding in the county.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office operates jail facilities and is the primary provider of Law Enforcement services to the unincorporated areas of the county. The Sheriff is the Conservator of The Peace in the county. The Harris County jail facilities are in northern Downtown on the north side of the Buffalo Bayou. The 1200 Jail,[28] the 1307 Jail, (originally a TDCJ facility, leased by the county),[29] and the 701 Jail (formed from existing warehouse storage space) are on the same site.[30]

Community Services Department provides community services. The department maintains the 20 acres (8.1 ha) Oates Road Cemetery (also known as the Harris County Cemetery), a cemetery for indigents in eastern Houston, near the former Southern Bible College. In March 2010 the county adopted a cremation first policy, meaning that the default preference for most indigents is to have them cremated instead of buried. As of 2010 the county authorized the community services department to purchase about 50 acres (20 ha) of land in the Huffman area so the county will have additional spaces for indigent burials.[31]

The Harris County Housing Authority (HCHA) is a governmental non-profit corporation which addresses the need for quality affordable housing.[32] The HCHA has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as the highest performing housing authority in the region and was recently named one of America's 10 best Public Housing Authorities.[33] Guy R. Rankin, IV is Chief Executive Officer of Harris County Housing Authority (HCHA).

State government

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice operates some correctional facilities in Harris County, including:

As of 2001 Kegans and Lychner serves male state jail offenders from Harris County, with Kegans getting lower risk offenders and Lychner getting higher risk and special needs offenders. If both of the male state jails in Harris County are full, excess offenders go to the Gist Unit in Jefferson County. Female state jail offenders from Harris County go to the Plane Unit in Liberty County.[37]

The South Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility Unit, a parole confinement facility for males operated by Global Expertise in Outsourcing, is in Downtown Houston, west of Minute Maid Park.[38]


Hewlett-Packard United States offices, formerly headquarters of Compaq

In 2000 the largest employers in Harris County were Administaff, Compaq, Continental Airlines, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, and Southwestern Bell.[39]

The University of Houston System's annual impact on the Houston-area's economy equates to that of a major corporation: $1.1 billion in new funds attracted annually to the Houston area, $3.13 billion in total economic benefit, and 24,000 local jobs generated.[40][41] This is in addition to the 12,500 new graduates the UH System produces every year who enter the workforce in Houston and throughout Texas. These degree-holders tend to stay in Houston. After five years, 80.5 percent of graduates are still living and working in the region.[41]

In 2009 20% of the office space in northwest Harris County was vacant. As of that year, more office space is being built; in 2010 northwest Harris will have twice the amount of office space that it had in 2009. The vacancy rate in the area near Farm to Market Road 1960 and Texas State Highway 249 in north Harris County was 53% in 2009.[42]

Various companies are headquartered in incorporated and unincorporated areas throughout Harris County.

Academy Sports and Outdoors, a sporting goods retailer, has its corporate offices and product distribution center in unincorporated western Harris County.[43] Hewlett-Packard operates its United States region office in a complex northwest unincorporated Harris County; the complex formerly belonged to Compaq prior to Compaq's merger with HP.[44][45] Internet America, an internet service provider, is headquartered in northwest unincorporated Harris County.[46] Smith International has its headquarters in the Greenspoint district and in an unincorporated area in Harris County.[47][48] BJ Services Company has its headquarters in the Spring Branch district and in unincorporated Harris County.[49][50] FMC Technologies has its headquarters in an unincorporated area.[51] Cybersoft Technologies has its headquarters in an unincorporated area.[52] In 2012 Noble Energy announced that it was consolidating its headquarters and two other Greater Houston offices into a 10 story building on the former Compaq headquarters property in unincorporated Harris County.[53] Goya Foods previously had its Texas offices in an unincorporated area in the county.[54]

General Electric operates an aeroderivative division facility on Jacintoport in unincorporated Harris County.[55][56] Randall's Food Markets, a subsidiary of Safeway Inc., has its distribution center in unincorporated Harris County.[57]

In 2008 KBR announced that it will open a new office facility in an unincorporated area in western Harris County.[58] In December KBR said that it would not continue with the plans due to a weakened economy.[59] In January 2009 KBR announced that it will not open the new office facility.[60]

Diplomatic missions

The Consulate-General of Pakistan in Houston in an unincorporated area of Harris County

Various consulates are located in the county; one, the Consulate-General of Pakistan in Houston, which opened in June 2004, is at 11850 Jones Road in an unincorporated section of the county.[61] The other consulates are in areas of Houston.


Primary and secondary schools

Harris County Department of Education – Ronald W. Reagan Building

The Harris County Department of Education, a county division overseeing education by local school districts, with a 2011 budget of approximately $100 Million, is headquartered in the Ronald W. Reagan Building in the Northside district in Houston. It has an Adult Education Center in the Northside and an office in the North Post Oak Building in Spring Branch.[50][62][63]

Seven elected Harris County School Trustees oversee the operation of the Harris County Department of Education. Trustees are elected through a partisan election process via the Republican and Democratic primaries and in the November general elections, serving staggered six year terms of office, with 3 Trustees elected countywide and four Trustees elected to oversee the four Commissioner Precincts in Harris County, Texas.

Several school districts serve Harris County communities. Among the 26 Districts, are:

On July 1, 2013 the North Forest Independent School District closed and its territory became a part of Houston ISD.[64]

In addition state-operated charter schools are in the county. Charter schools in unincorporated areas include:

The department of education of the county operates the Highpoint Schools.[66]

Colleges and universities

Rice University - Sally Port

Four separate and distinct state universities are located in Harris County. The University of Houston is a nationally recognized Tier One research university, and is the flagship institution of the University of Houston System.[67][68][69] The third-largest university in Texas, the University of Houston has nearly 40,000 students on its 667-acre campus in southeast Houston.[70] The University of Houston–Clear Lake and the University of Houston–Downtown are stand-alone universities; they are not branch campuses of the University of Houston. Located in the historic community of Third Ward is Texas Southern University, one of the largest historically black colleges and universities in the United States.

Several private institutions of higher learning—ranging from liberal arts colleges to a nationally recognized research university—are located within Harris County. Rice University is one of the leading teaching and research universities of the United States and ranked the nation's 17th best overall university by U.S. News & World Report.[71]

Three community college districts exist with campuses in and around Harris County. The Houston Community College System serves most of Houston. The northwestern through northeastern parts of the county are served by various campuses of the Lone Star College System, while the southeastern portion of the county is served by San Jacinto College. The Houston Community College and Lone Star College systems are within the 10 largest institutions of higher learning in the United States.

Public libraries

Harris County operates its own public library system, the Harris County Public Library.

In addition, Houston has the Houston Public Library, a city-controlled public library system.

The cities of Baytown, Bellaire, Deer Park, and Pasadena have their own city-controlled libraries.


Harris County Annex M has the headquarters of the Harris County Transit agency.[72]

Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) serves several areas within Harris County. An agency of the Harris County government, Harris County Transit, serves communities in Harris County that are not served by METRO.[73]

In Harris County, the average one way commute for a person using an automobile was 25 minutes, while the average commute for a person not using an automobile was 44 minutes, a 76% longer duration than the figure for commuters with cars.[17]

Major highways

See List of Highways in Harris County for more roadways in Harris County.

Mass transit

Many areas in Harris County are served by Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO), a public transportation agency headquartered in Downtown Houston.

Intercity buses

Greyhound Bus Lines operates various stations throughout Harris County.


Two commercial airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport, are located in Houston and in Harris County. The Houston Airport System defines Harris County as a part of Bush Intercontinental's service region.[74] The city of Houston operates Ellington Field, a general aviation and military airport in Harris County.

General aviation airports for fixed-wing aircraft outside of Houston include:

Emergency Services

Police services

The 1200 Jail, the headquarters of the Harris County Sheriff's Office
Little York Volunteer Fire Department Station 81
Westfield Fire Station 2

Incorporated cities operate their own police departments.

Harris County operates the Harris County Sheriff's Office, which serves unincorporated areas and supplements police forces of incorporated areas.

Harris County also has a constable for each of its eight precincts and hundreds of deputies assigned to each. They mainly serve in a patrol function, established to maintain peace in the county as well as providing security to county buildings such as court houses and district attorney's offices.

Municipal Fire/EMS Services

The Harris County Fire Marshal's Office operates an Investigative Branch, an Emergency Response Branch (Hazardous Materials Response) and Prevention Branch (Inspections). The office is headquartered at 2318 Atascocita Road in an unincorporated area.[75] Incorporated cities operate their own fire departments.

The City of Houston operates the Houston Fire Department which provides fire and emergency medical coverage to the City of Houston.

Other municipalities in Harris County may provide their own fire service or may be part of an Emergency Service District that provides service for the city. Cities with municipal fire departments include:

Emergency Services Districts

Areas outside of municipal city limits (and some smaller municipalities) have fire and emergency medical services provided by Emergency Service Districts, distinct governmental units with the ability to levy property and sales taxes. ESD's may provide fire service, EMS service or both (dual services) and the services they provide determine the limits on their adoptable tax rate.

ESD's may provide services directly or may contract with an agency or agencies for services. Additionally, ESD's may overlap one another to ensure both fire and EMS services are provided.

ESD Type Provider Sales Tax Rate (2015)[76] Property Tax Rate per $100 Valuation (2015)[77]
Harris County ESD #1 EMS Harris County Emergency Corps[78] .10
Harris County ESD #2 EMS South Lake Houston EMS 1% .0280120
Harris County ESD #4 (4A) Dual Huffman FD 1% (2%) .10 (.10)
Harris County ESD #5 EMS HCESD5 EMS 1% .02
Harris County ESD #6 EMS North Channel EMS .5% .0089
Harris County ESD #7 Fire Spring VFD 1% .06545
Harris County ESD #8 EMS Northwest EMS[79] .10
Harris County ESD #9 Dual Cy-Fair FD 1% .055
Harris County ESD #10 Fire Eastex Fire Department[80] 1% .10
Harris County ESD #11[81] EMS Cypress Creek EMS[82] .04185
Harris County ESD #12 Fire Cloverleaf Fire Department .5% .03
Harris County ESD #13 Fire Cypress Creek FD .08826
Harris County ESD #14 Dual Highlands VFD 2% .05
Harris County ESD #15 Fire Tomball FD 1% .05
Harris County ESD #16 Fire Klein VFD 1% .05
Harris County ESD #17 Fire Little York VFD 1% .10
Harris County ESD #19 Fire Sheldon VFD .03
Harris County ESD #20 Fire Northwest FD 1% .10
Harris County ESD #21 Dual Rosehill FD 1% .10
Harris County ESD #24 Fire Aldine Fire & Rescue .10
Harris County ESD #25 Fire Westfield FD .10
Harris County ESD #28 Fire Ponderosa VFD 1% .10
Harris County ESD #29 Fire Champions VFD 1% .09032
Harris County ESD #46 Dual Atascocita VFD[83] 1% .08
Harris County ESD #47 Dual Westlake FD 1% .095186
Harris County ESD #48[84] Dual HCESD48 FD 1% .089
Harris County ESD #50 Dual Channelview FD 1% .05
Harris County ESD #60 Fire Sheldon VFD 1% .05
Harris County ESD #75 Dual Baytown FD 1% .0875
Harris County ESD #80 Fire Crosby FD 1% .04178
Harris-Fort Bend ESD #100 Dual Community FD 1% .07951
Waller-Harris ESD #200[85] Other Multiple Fire/EMS Agencies .0995

Political organization

The chief administrative officer of a Texas County, as set up in the Texas Constitution, is the County Judge, who sits as the chair of the county's Commissioners' Court (the equivalent of a Board of Supervisors in some other states). Since 2007, this position in Harris County is held by Judge Ed Emmett. The county is split into 4 geographical divisions called Precincts. Each precinct elects a Commissioner to sit as a representative of their precinct on the commissioners court and also for the oversight of county functions in their area.

Other elected positions in Harris County include a County Attorney, a County Clerk, a District Attorney, a District Clerk, a Sheriff, 8 Constables, a Tax Assessor-Collector, a County Treasurer, and every judge in the county except municipal judges, who are appointed by the officials of their respective cities.

Many of the organs of the Harris County government reside in the Harris County Campus in Downtown Houston.

Hospital services

Within Harris County, hospital services for the indigent and needy are provided by the Harris County Hospital District, a separate governmental entity. Harris County Hospital District operates three hospitals: LBJ General Hospital, Quentin Mease Community Hospital, and Ben Taub General Hospital, as well as many clinics.

Additionally, numerous private and public hospitals operate in Harris County, including institutions in Texas Medical Center and throughout the county, for example the Harris County Psychiatric Center


Cities (multiple counties)


Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

See also


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Coordinates: 29°52′N 95°23′W / 29.86°N 95.39°W / 29.86; -95.39

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