Johnson City, Tennessee

Johnson City is a city in Washington, Carter, and Sullivan counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee, with most of the city being in Washington County. As of the 2010 census, the population of Johnson City was 63,152,[6] and by 2017 the estimated population was 66,391, making it the ninth-largest city in the state.[2]

Johnson City, Tennessee
Downtown Johnson City
Location of Johnson City in Carter, Sullivan and Washington Counties, Tennessee.
Johnson City, Tennessee
Location of Johnson City in Tennessee
Coordinates: 36°20′N 82°22′W
CountryUnited States
Founded byHenry Johnson
  TypeCouncil-manager government
  MayorJenny Brock
  Vice MayorJoe Wise
  City ManagerM. Denis "Pete" Peterson
  City CommissionersDr. Todd Fowler
Dr. Larry Calhoun
John Hunter
  City43.3 sq mi (112.1 km2)
  Land42.9 sq mi (111.2 km2)
  Water0.3 sq mi (0.8 km2)
1,634 ft (498 m)
  Density1,534/sq mi (592.3/km2)
508,260 (88th)[3]
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
  Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
37601-37604, 37614, 37615 & 37684
Area code(s)423
FIPS code47-38320[4]
GNIS feature ID1328579[5]

Johnson City is ranked the #65 "Best Small Place for Business and Careers" in the US by Forbes,[7] and #5 in Kiplinger's list of "The 10 Least-Expensive Cities For Living in the U.S.A." stating the low cost of living is attributed to affordable homes and below-average utility, transportation and health-care costs.[8]

Johnson City is the principal city of the Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area, which covers Carter, Unicoi, and Washington counties[9] and had a combined population of 200,966[10] as of 2013. The MSA is also a component of the Johnson CityKingsportBristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region. This CSA is the fifth-largest in Tennessee with an estimated 500,538 people in residence.[11]


William Bean, traditionally recognized as Tennessee's first settler, built his cabin along Boone's Creek near Johnson City in 1769.[12]

In the 1780s, Colonel John Tipton (17301813) established a farm (now the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site) just outside what is now Johnson City. During the State of Franklin movement, Tipton was a leader of the loyalist faction, residents of the region who wanted to remain part of North Carolina rather than form a separate state. In February 1788, an armed engagement took place at Tipton's farm between Tipton and his men and the forces led by John Sevier, the leader of the Franklin faction.[13]

Founded in 1856 by Henry Johnson as a railroad station called "Johnson's Depot",[14] Johnson City became a major rail hub for the Southeast, as three railway lines crossed in the downtown area.[15] In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Johnson City served as headquarters for the narrow gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (the ET&WNC, nicknamed "Tweetsie") and the standard gauge Clinchfield Railroad. Both rail systems featured excursion trips through scenic portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains and were engineering marvels of railway construction. The Southern Railway (now Norfolk Southern) also passes through the city.[16]

During the American Civil War, before it was formally incorporated in 1869, the name of the town was briefly changed to "Haynesville" in honor of Confederate Senator Landon Carter Haynes.[17] Henry Johnson's name was quickly restored following the war, with Johnson elected as the city's first mayor on January 3, 1870. The town grew rapidly from 1870 until 1890 as railroad and mining interests flourished. However, the national depression of 1893, which caused many railway failures (including the Charleston, Cincinnati and Chicago Railroad or "3-Cs", a predecessor of the Clinchfield) and a resulting financial panic, halted Johnson City's boom town momentum.[18]

In 1901, the Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (now the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and National Cemetery), Mountain Home, Tennessee[19][20] was created by an act of Congress introduced by Walter P. Brownlow. Construction on this 450-acre (1.8 km2) campus, which was designed to serve disabled Civil War veterans, was completed in 1903 at a cost of $3 million. Before the completion of this facility, the assessed value of the entire town was listed at $750,000. The East Tennessee State Normal School was authorized in 1911 and the new college campus directly across from the National Soldiers Home. Johnson City began growing rapidly and became the fifth-largest city in Tennessee by 1930.[21]

Together with neighboring Bristol, Johnson City was a hotbed for old-time music. It hosted noteworthy Columbia Records recording sessions in 1928 known as the Johnson City Sessions. Native son "Fiddlin' Charlie" Bowman became a national recording star via these sessions.[22] The Fountain Square area in downtown featured a host of local and traveling street entertainers including Blind Lemon Jefferson.

During the 1920s and the Prohibition era, Johnson City's ties to the bootlegging activity of the Appalachian Mountains earned the city the nickname of "Little Chicago".[23] Stories persist that the town was one of several distribution centers for Chicago gang boss Al Capone during Prohibition. Capone had a well-organized distribution network within the southern United States for alcohol smuggling; it shipped his products from the mountain distillers to northern cities. Capone was, according to local lore, a part-time resident of Montrose Court, a luxury apartment complex now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For many years, the city had a municipal "privilege tax" on carnival shows, in an attempt to dissuade traveling circuses and other transient entertainment businesses from doing business in town.[24] The use of drums by merchants to draw attention to their goods is prohibited. Title Six, Section 106 of the city's municipal code, the so-called "Barney Fife" ordinance, empowers the city's police force to draft into involuntary service as many of the town's citizens as necessary to aid police in making arrests and in preventing or quelling any riot, unlawful assembly or breach of peace.[25]


Johnson City is run by a five-person board of commissioners, who are as follows:[26]

  • Mayor: Jenny Brock
  • Vice Mayor: Joe Wise
  • Commissioner: Larry Calhoun
  • Commissioner: Todd Fowler
  • Commissioner: John Hunter

The city manager is M. Denis "Pete" Peterson.[27]


Johnson City is in northeastern Washington County at 36°20′N 82°22′W (36.3354, -82.3728),[28] with smaller parts extending north into Sullivan County and east into Carter County. Johnson City shares a contiguous southeastern border with Elizabethton. Johnson City also shares a small contiguous border with Kingsport to the far north along I-26 and a slightly longer one with Bluff City to the northeast along US 11E.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 43.3 square miles (112.1 km2), of which 42.9 square miles (111.2 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km2), or 0.75 percent, is water.[6]

The steep mountains, rolling hills, and valleys surrounding the region are part of the Appalachian Ridge-and-Valley Province, and Johnson City is just west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Roan Mountain, with an elevation of over 6,000 feet (1,800 m), is approximately 20 miles (32 km) to the southeast of the city. Buffalo Mountain, a ridge over 2,700 feet (820 m) high, is the location of a city park on the south side of town. The Watauga River arm of Boone Lake, a Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir, is partly within the city limits. The Nolichucky River flows 12 miles (19 km) to the south of Johnson City. Whitewater rafting and kayaking opportunities exist 20 miles (32 km) south of Johnson City where that river flows from the North Carolina state line near Erwin.


Climate data for Johnson City, Tennessee
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
Average high °F (°C) 45
Average low °F (°C) 25
Record low °F (°C) −21
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.42
Average snowfall inches (cm) 5.2
Average relative humidity (%) 59.0 71.5 69.0 67.0 69.5 73.0 75.0 76.5 76.5 74.0 68.5 69.5 74.0
Source #1: [29]
Source #2: [30]


Historical population
Est. 201866,778[31]5.7%

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 55,469 people, 23,720 households, and 14,018 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,412.4 per square mile. There were 25,730 housing units at an average density of 655.1 per square mile (253.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.09 percent white, 6.40 percent African American, 0.26% Native American, 1.22 percent Asian, 0.02 percent Pacific Islander, 0.69 percent from other races, and 1.32 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.89 percent of the population.

There were 23,720 households out of which 25.0 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1 percent were married couples living together, 11.6 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.9 percent were non-families. 33.9 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 11.5 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20, and the average family size was 2.82.

In the city, the population was spread out with 19.8 percent under the age of 18, 13.7 percent from 18 to 24, 28.1 percent from 25 to 44, 22.5 percent from 45 to 64, and 15.9 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,835, and the median income for a family was $40,977. Males had a median income of $31,326 versus $22,150 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,364. About 11.4 percent of families and 15.9 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.9 percent of those under age 18 and 12.7 percent of those age 65 or over.


Johnson City is served by Tri-Cities Regional Airport (IATA Code TRI) and Johnson City Airport (0A4) in Watauga.

Interstate highways

Johnson City is bisected by Interstate 26, which connects the city to Kingsport to the north and Asheville, North Carolina, and Spartanburg, South Carolina, to the south. Interstate 81 intersects I-26 a 16 miles (26 km) northwest of the city center and carries drivers to Knoxville to the southwest and Bristol to the northeast.

Major federal and state routes

  • U.S. Route 19W runs through the city, signed partially on I-26, before joining 19E near Bluff City en route to Bristol.
  • U.S. Route 11E connects Johnson City to Jonesborough and Greeneville to the southwest, and reunites with 11W to the northeast in Bristol before continuing on to Roanoke, Virginia. In Johnson City, route 11E forms a concurrency with North Roan Street, a major artery in the city.
  • U.S. Route 321, also partially on the 11E route, connects Johnson City to Elizabethton (forming a high-speed, limited-access freeway) before continuing on to Hickory and Gastonia, North Carolina.
  • U.S. Route 23 is concurrent with I-26 from North Carolina, through Johnson City, and north to the I-26 terminus in Kingsport.

Public transport

Johnson City Transit (JCT) operates a system of buses inside the city limits, including a route every fifteen minutes along Roan Street. Main transit routes operate 6:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. on Saturdays. JCT also has an evening route that operates weeknights between 6:15 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.[33] The Johnson City Transit Center, downtown on West Market Street, also serves as the transfer point for Greyhound lines running through the city. JCT operates the BucShot, a system serving the greater ETSU campus.

The Southern Railway used to serve Johnson City with several trains: the Birmingham Special (ended, 1970), the Pelican (ended, 1970) and the Tennessean (ended, 1968).[34]


Colleges and universities

East Tennessee State University has around 16,000 students in addition to a K-12 University School, a laboratory school of about 540 students.[35] University School was the first laboratory school in the nation to adopt a year-round academic schedule.[36]

Milligan College is just outside the city limits in Carter County, and has about 1,200 students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

Northeast State Community College is renovating a building in downtown Johnson City for use as a new satellite teaching site.[37]

Tusculum College has a center on the north side of Johnson City in the Boones Creek area.

Johnson City School System

Elementary schools

  • Cherokee Elementary
  • Fairmont Elementary
  • Lake Ridge Elementary
  • Mt. View Elementary
  • North Side Elementary
  • South Side Elementary
  • Towne Acres Elementary
  • Woodland Elementary

Intermediate schools

  • Indian Trail Intermediate School

Middle schools

  • Liberty Bell Middle School

High schools

Private schools

  • Ashley Academy (PreK-8)
  • St. Mary's (K-8)
  • Providence Academy (K-12)
  • Tri-Cities Christian Schools (PreK-12)


Johnson City is an economic hub largely fueled by East Tennessee State University and the medical "Med-Tech" corridor,[17] anchored by the Johnson City Medical Center, Franklin Woods Community Hospital, ETSU's Gatton College of Pharmacy and ETSU's Quillen College of Medicine.

Johnson City is ranked #35 "Best Small Place for Business and Careers" in the USA.[7] Due to its climate, high-quality health care, and affordable housing, it is ranked #8 "Best Place for African Americans to Retire" by Black Enterprise magazine.[38] Kiplinger ranked Johnson City #5 in "The 10 Least-Expensive Cities For Living in the U.S.A.", stating the low cost of living is attributed to affordable homes and below-average utility, transportation and health-care costs.[8]

The popular citrus soda, Mountain Dew, traces its origins to Johnson City. In July 2012, PepsiCo announced that a new, malt-flavored version of the drink named Mountain Dew Johnson City Gold, in honor of the city. The drink was test marketed in the Chicago metropolitan area, Denver, and Charlotte, beginning in late August.[39]

Major companies headquartered in Johnson City

  • American Water Heater Company (owned by A.O. Smith Corp.)
  • Advanced Call Center Technologies
  • Cantech Industries
  • General Shale Brick LLC
  • Mayes Brothers Tool Mfg
  • Moody Dunbar, Inc.
  • Mullican Flooring
  • R.A. Colby, Inc.
  • TPI Corporation

Other companies

  • JD Squared, manufacturer of tube and pipe benders and other fabrication tools
Top employers in Johnson City[40]
Ballad Health (formerly Mountain States Health Alliance) 3541
East Tennessee State University 1990
Citi Commerce Solutions 1700
Washington County School System 1275
James H. Quillen VA Medical Center 1259
American Water Heater Company 1194
AT&T Mobility (formerly Cingular) 1000
The Pavilion at Founder's Park hosts the local Farmer's Market


Johnson City serves as a regional medical center for northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia, along with parts of western North Carolina and southeastern Kentucky.

The Johnson City Medical Center, designated a Level 1 Trauma Center[41] by the State of Tennessee, is one of Ballad Health's three tertiary hospitals. Also affiliated with the center are the Niswonger Children's Hospital, a domestic affiliate of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital[42] and Woodridge Hospital, a mental health and chemical dependency facility.

Franklin Woods Community Hospital is a LEED-certified facility in North Johnson City.[43] The "green" hospital (opened July 12, 2010) encloses approximately 240,000 square feet (22,000 m2) on a 25-acre (100,000 m2) lot adjacent to The Wellness Center inside MedTech Park. The hospital has 80 licensed beds and a 22-room Emergency Department. Of the licensed beds, 20 are dedicated to Women's and Children's Services.

The James H. & Cecile C. Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital, also in North Johnson City, serves patients who have suffered debilitating trauma, including stroke and brain-spine injuries.

Additionally, the James H. Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in the Mountain Home community in Johnson City's southside, serves veterans in the four-state region. The center is closely involved with the East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine.



As a regional hub for a four-state area, Johnson City is home to a large variety of retail business, from well-known national chains to local boutiques and galleries.

The Mall at Johnson City is the city's only enclosed shopping mall. California-based Forever 21 opened an XXI Forever flagship store on the mall's upper level, and Express opened in late 2010. The nearby Target Center houses Target, T.J.Maxx, Books-A-Million, and Pier One.

Much of the new retail development is in North Johnson City, along State of Franklin Road. Johnson City Crossings is the largest of these developments. On the other side of the highway are retailers Kohl's, Lowe's, Sam's Club and Barnes & Noble.

Local media

Online is the online portal of the local television station and rebroadcasts many show segments for free online. is the online portal of the local newspaper and publishes articles found in the daily paper as well as breaking news.



WJHL-TV is a CBS affiliate licensed in Johnson City. The station's DT2 subchannel serves as an affiliate of ABC. The city is part of the Tri-Cities Designated Market Area, which also comprises WCYB-TV in Bristol, VA (NBC; CW on DT2), WEMT in Greeneville (Fox), WETP-TV in Sneedville (PBS) and WKPT-TV in Kingsport (MyNetworkTV).


Johnson City is part of the Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol Arbitron radio market. WETS-FM 89.5 FM, on the campus of East Tennessee State University, is the region's NPR affiliate and the Tri-Cities' first HD radio service. WJCW 910 AM and WQUT 101.5 FM are Cumulus Media stations which are also licensed in Johnson City. The EDGE is a non-broadcasting student-run radio station at East Tennessee State University.[44]

Notable people

Points of interest

Sister Cities

Johnson City has 2 sister cities.:[61]

See also


  1. Tennessee Blue Book, 2005-2006, pp. 618-625.
  2. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017 (PEPANNRES): Incorporated Places in Tennessee". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  3. "Tennessee Census Data (Memphis, Nashville-Davidson, Knoxville: estimated, metropolitan, areas) - (TN) - City-Data Forum".
  4. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  5. "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  6. "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Census Summary File 1 (G001): Johnson City city, Tennessee". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  7. "Best Small Places For Business and Careers".
  8. "The 10 Least-Expensive Cities For Living in the U.S.A.", Kiplinger
  9. METROPOLITAN STATISTICAL AREAS AND COMPONENTS Archived May 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Office of Management and Budget, May 11, 2007. Accessed 2008-07-30.
  10. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013)". 2013 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. Archived from the original (XLS) on June 27, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  11. "US Census 2008 CSA Estimates". March 27, 2009. Archived from the original on November 17, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2009.
  12. Paul Hellman, Historical Gazetteer of the United States (Taylor and Francis, 2005), p. 1016.
  13. A civil and political history of the state of Tennessee"; by John Haywood
  15. Graybeal, Johhny, "Riding the Rails: The Storied History of the ET&WNC Line" Archived June 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Johnson City Press, April 18, 2005
  16. "The East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad". Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  17. Haskell, Jean. Johnson City. Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Accessed: December 25, 2009.
  18. "Johnson City is a Typical American City Archived December 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine", The Sunday Chronicle (Johnson City), 1922.
  19. Center, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Deputy Under Secretary for Operations and Management, Veterans Integrated Service Network 9, James H. Quillen VA Medical. "Mountain Home VA Healthcare System".
  20. "Mountain Home National Cemetery". National Cemetery Administration.
  21. Fifteenth Census of the United States – 1930 – Population: Volume III, Part 2: Montana-Wyoming, p890
  22. "Old-Time Music Heritage", Johnson's Depot Website
  23. "Little Chicago", Johnson's Depot Website
  24. "The Day They Hanged an Elephant in East Tennessee" Archived January 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Blue Ridge Country, February 13, 2009
  25. "Code of Ordinance for Johnson City".
  26. City of Johnson City Board of Commissioners. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  27. City of Johnson City Administration, Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  28. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  29. "Average Weather for Johnson City, TN". Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  30. "Climate Information for Bristol - Johnson City - Tennessee". Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  31. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  32. "Census of Population and Housing: Decennial Censuses". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 8, 2006. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  33. "Johnson City Transit, General Information". Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  34. Southern Timetable, 1966, p. 6
  35. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 26, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 28, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. "Johnson City Press:".
  38. Nate Morabito, "Best Place for African Americans to Retire" Archived December 1, 2008, at the Wayback Machine,
  39. "PepsiCo to test malt-flavored Mountain Dew in some US cities". Reuters. July 13, 2012. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  40. "2030 Long Range Transportation Plan" (PDF). Johnson City Metropolitan Transport Planning Organization. pp. 3–9. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 18, 2011. Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  41. "Emergency Services Johnson City Medical Center".
  42. "St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Domestic Affiliates". Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  43. "Franklin Woods Community Hospital". Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2009.
  44. The EDGE website Archived June 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  45. "Counselor To The King". The New York Times. September 24, 1989.
  46. Billy Hathorn, Review of Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor's Story by Steven Lee Berk, M.D., Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press, 2011, in West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 184-186
  47. "Johnson City Fire Department welcomes rookie firefighters", Johnson City News and Neighbor, June 23, 2012, p1.
  48. William Grimes, "Joe Bowman, Sharpshooter, Dies at 84", The New York Times, July 6, 2009.
  49. Barber, Rex (September 21, 2011). "Jo Carson, ETSU grad and nationally known writer, storyteller dies at 64". Johnson City Press.
  50. "Kenny Chesney: 1998 Distinguished Alumnus in the Arts". ETSU Alumni Association. Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
  51. "Patrick Cronin". IMDb.
  52. "Sports Management - Flynn sports management".
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  54. "SHHS alum Wyck Godfrey named new president of Paramount Motion Pictures Group". September 12, 2017. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  55. "Jake Grove".
  56. " Del Harris".
  57. Ronson, Jon (November 30, 2012). "Bryan Saunders: portrait of the artist on crystal meth". The Guardian. London.
  58. "marker again".
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  60. Vist Johnson City, Buffalo Mountain Park November 14, 2019
  • Greater Johnson City, by Ray Stahl, 1986.
  • A History of Johnson City, Tennessee and its Environs, by Samuel Cole Williams, 1940.
  • History of Washington County, Tennessee, by Joyce and Gene Cox, Editors, 2001.
  • Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman, by Bob L. Cox, University of Tennessee Press, 2007.
  • The Railroads of Johnson City, by Johnny Graybeal, Tar Heel Press, 2007.
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