Kilgore, Texas

Kilgore, Texas

World's Richest Acre Park in downtown Kilgore, where the greatest concentration of oil wells in the world once stood
Motto: "The City of Stars"

Location of Kilgore, Texas
Coordinates: 32°23′8″N 94°52′7″W / 32.38556°N 94.86861°W / 32.38556; -94.86861Coordinates: 32°23′8″N 94°52′7″W / 32.38556°N 94.86861°W / 32.38556; -94.86861
Country United StatesUnited States
State TexasTexas
Counties Gregg, Rusk
  Type Council-Manager
  City Council Mayor R.E. Spradlin III
Merlyn Holmes
Harvey McClendon
Neil Barr
Lori Weatherford
  City Manager Josh Selleck
  Total 15.4 sq mi (40.0 km2)
  Land 15.4 sq mi (39.9 km2)
  Water 0.0 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation 358 ft (109 m)
Population (2014)
  Total 14,948
  Density 842.5/sq mi (324.4/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
  Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 75662-75663
Area code(s) 903
FIPS code 48-39124[1]
GNIS feature ID 1339101[2]
Website City of Kilgore, Texas
Kilgore City Hall sign evokes the importance of oil to the city's history.
St. Lukes United Methodist Church in downtown Kilgore
First Baptist Church of Kilgore
Kilgore Public Library
Main Street promotional sign in Kilgore
Citizens Bank in downtown Kilgore

Kilgore is a city in Gregg and Rusk counties in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Texas. Over three-fourths of the city limits is located in Gregg County, the remainder in Rusk County. Kilgore and was the childhood residence from age of six of the noted classical pianist Van Cliburn, the namesake for Van Cliburn Auditorium on the Kilgore College Campus. The population was 12,975 at the 2010 census; a July 2015 estimate placed it at 14,947.[3]


Kilgore was founded in 1872 when the International-Great Northern Railroad completed the initial phase of rail line between Palestine and Longview. The rail company chose to bypass New Danville, a small community about 10 mi (16 km) southeast of Longview, in lieu of a new townsite platted on 174 acres (0.70 km2) sold to the railroad by Constantine Buckley Kilgore, the town's namesake. That way the railroad gained the profits from sale and development of these lands.

The new town received a post office in 1873 and, with a station and transportation for getting commodity crops to market, soon began to draw residents and businesses away from New Danville. By 1885, the population had reached 250 and the community had two cotton gins, a church, and its own school. The racially segregated Kilgore Independent School District was organized in 1910. By 1914 the town had two banks, several businesses, and a reported population of 700. The 1920s showed continued steady growth, and by 1929 Kilgore was home to an estimated 1,000 residents.

Prosperity came to a halt, however, when Kilgore was dealt severe blows by a steep decline in cotton prices (on which most of the town's economy was still based), and the effects of the Great Depression. Businesses began to close and, by the middle of 1930, the population had fallen to 500; the community appeared destined to become a ghost town. Blacks joined the Great Migration out of the South to northern, midwestern, and western cities for work.

Kilgore's fortunes changed dramatically on October 3, 1930, when wildcatter Columbus M. "Dad" Joiner struck oil near the neighboring town of Henderson. This well, known as the Daisy Bradford #3, marked the discovery of the vast East Texas Oilfield. Seemingly overnight Kilgore was transformed from a small farming town on the decline into a bustling boom town. The Daisy Bradford #3 was subsequently followed by the Lou Della Crim No. 1 and many others.[4] By 1936, the population had increased to more than 12,000 and Kilgore's skyline was crowded with oil derricks.

Oil production continued at a breakneck pace throughout the early 1930s, with more than 1,100 producing oil wells within city limits at the height of the boom. The explosive growth left most civic services overwhelmed, and as a result Kilgore was forced to incorporate in 1931. With the city flooded with male workers and roustabouts, law enforcement struggled to keep order among the shanties, tents, and ramshackle honkytonks that crowded Kilgore's main streets. On one occasion, they had to summon help from the Texas Rangers to keep the peace.

By the mid-1930s the oil boom had begun to subside, and most of the small oil companies and wildcatters had sold out to major corporations. The boom was essentially over by 1940. But, oil production has remained central to the city's economy. The population, which fluctuated wildly throughout the 1930s, stabilized at around 10,000 in the 1950s. A 2015 estimate placed it at just under 15,000 residents.


Kilgore is located at 32°23′8″N 94°52′7″W / 32.38556°N 94.86861°W / 32.38556; -94.86861 (32.385534, -94.868502).[5]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.4 square miles (40.0 km²), of which 15.4 square miles (39.9 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.19%) is covered by water.

Major highways


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201514,947[6]15.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[7]

As of the census[1] of 2000, 11,301 people, 4,403 households, and 2,963 families resided in the city. The population density was 734.3 people per square mile (283.5/km²). The 4,766 housing units averaged 309.7 per square mile (119.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.22% White, 12.34% African American, 0.41% Native American, 0.68% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 6.95% from other races, and 1.38% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 11.11% of the population.

Of the 4,403 households, 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.5% were married couples living together, 12.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.7% were not families. About 27.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the city, the population was distributed as 24.6% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $43,129, and for a family was $61,765. Males had a median income of $45,995 versus $30,124 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,297. About 9.7% of families and 15.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.1% of those under age 18 and 13.9% of those age 65 or over.[8]

Arts and culture

Kilgore College was established during the 1930s oil boom.
The East Texas Oil Museum is located on the campus of Kilgore College.
The Kilgore History and Art Center is located downtown in a former post office building.
The Crim Theatre in downtown Kilgore dates back to the 1930s.

Texas Shakespeare Festival

Kilgore is home to the Texas Shakespeare Festival, an annual summer repertory company. Founded in 1986, the Texas Shakespeare Festival presents four shows in rotating repertory every summer at the Van Cliburn Auditorium on the campus of Kilgore College.

Kilgore Public Library

Based on the style of Normandy cottages, construction of the Kilgore Public Library began in 1933 and was completed in 1939. The New Deal agencies, the Public Works Administration and Works Progress Administration of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, participated in the construction.


Local government

According to the city's most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Fund Financial Statements, the city's various funds had $17.4 million in revenues, $19.4 million in expenditures, $19.5 million in total assets, $0.8 million in total liabilities, and $17.5 million in investments.[9]

The structure of the management and coordination of city services is:[9]

Department Director
City Manager Joshua C. Selleck
City Attorney Robert G. Schleier
City Clerk Deborah Dane
Municipal Court Judge Glenn D. Phillips
Police Chief Todd Hunter
General Services Director B. J. Owen
Public Works Director Seth Sorensen
Finance Director Lawanna Williams
Fire Chief Johnny Bellows
Library Director Linda Johnson
Planning Director Carol Windham

State government

Kilgore is represented in the Texas Senate by Republican Kevin Eltife, District 1, and in the Texas House of Representatives by Republican David Simpson, District 7 and Travis Clardy, District 11.

Federal government

At the federal level, the two U.S. Senators from Texas are Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Kilgore is part of Texas' 1st congressional district, which is currently represented by Republican Louie Gohmert.


Public school

The City of Kilgore is served by the Kilgore Independent School District. A small portion of the town is also served by the Sabine ISD.

Colleges and universities

Kilgore College is home to the Rangers and the world-renowned Kilgore College Rangerettes.


The Kilgore News Herald is a twice-weekly newspaper published in the city.[10]

Notable events

On September 23, 1983, five men and women were abducted from a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Kilgore and found slain, execution-style, in an oilfield outside of town. The crime went unsolved until November 2005, when two men, already in prison for other crimes, were charged, tried and convicted for this crime.[11]

In 2001, the Kilgore College Ranger football team had a perfect season, winning the Southwest Junior College Football Conference. The 2001 squad finished #2 in the nation, losing the NJCAA national championship when the coaches poll gave the championship to Georgia Military College.

On December 18, 2004, the Kilgore High School "Ragin' Red" Bulldog football team completed a perfect season (16-0) after winning the Class 4A Division II state championship game, 33-27, in a double-overtime thriller against the Dallas Lincoln Tigers at Baylor University's Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco. Nick Sanders blocked a potential go-ahead field goal attempt by Lincoln and returned it for the winning touchdown.[12]

See also


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