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Knox County, Tennessee
Knox County Courthouse
Seal of Knox County, Tennessee
Map of Tennessee highlighting Knox County
Location in the state of Tennessee
Map of the U.S. highlighting Tennessee
Tennessee's location in the U.S.
Founded June 11, 1792
Seat Knoxville
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

526 sq mi (1,362 km²)
508 sq mi (1,316 km²)
17 sq mi (44 km²), 3.29%
 - (2020)
 - Density

751/sq mi (290/km²)

Knox County is a county in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2020 census the population was 478,971. Its county seat is Knoxville,[1] as it has been since the creation of the county. The county is at the geographical center of the Great Valley of East Tennessee. Near the heart of the county is the origin of the Tennessee River at the union of the Holston and French Broad Rivers.

The county is included in the Knoxville Metropolitan Area.


Knox County was created on June 11, 1792 by Governor William Blount from parts of Greene and Hawkins counties, and has the distinction of being one of only eight counties created during territorial administration. It is one of nine United States counties named for Revolutionary War general and first United States Secretary of War Henry Knox. Parts of Knox County later became Blount (1795), Anderson (1801), Roane (1801), and Union (1850) counties.

In 1786 James White built a fort five miles (8 km) below the junction of the French Broad and Holston Rivers on the southernmost edge of frontier settlement in present-day East Tennessee. William Blount, governor of the Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio, selected the site of James White's Fort as the territorial capital in 1791. He gave it the name Knoxville in honor of his direct superior as territorial governor, Revolutionary War hero General Henry Knox (1750–1806), who served as the first U.S. Secretary of War from 1785 to 1794.

Governor Blount designated Knoxville as the capital of the Territory South of the River Ohio from 1791 to 1796. Knoxville also served as the capital of the State of Tennessee from 1796 to 1812, with the exception of one day in 1807, when the legislature met in Kingston to fulfill a treaty obligation with the Cherokee, and briefly again in 1817-18. Frontier leader General John Sevier, a resident of Knox County, served as governor of Tennessee from 1796 to 1801 and 1803 to 1809, most of Knoxville's years as the state capital. Since no state capitol building was constructed until 1845, when work began on the capitol building in Nashville, the general assembly met in taverns and public buildings. The William Blount Mansion (1792), the home of Territorial Governor Blount, is the most historically significant dwelling surviving in Knox County from the pre-statehood era. It is the only National Historic Landmark in the county.

The Civil War[]

View from the south bank of the Tennessee River by Union photographer George C. Barnard after the end of the Siege of Knoxville, December 1863. Source: Library of Congress

Knox County's strategic location along important railroad lines made it an area coveted by both Union and Confederate forces throughout the Civil War. Since the mountainous terrain of East Tennessee was mostly unsuitable for plantation crops such as cotton, slavery was not as prevalent as it was in Middle and West Tennessee - an 1860 census of Knox County showed a population of 20,020 white citizens and just 2,370 enslaved African Americans.[2] The lack of slavery combined with the vestiges of a once strong abolitionist movement in the region were two of the reasons that Knox County, along with much of East Tennessee, contained a great deal of pro-Union sentiment. However, there were family and other social ties which contributed to strong pro-Confederate sentiment as well. East Tennessee saw many of the "brother vs. brother" conflicts.

Prior to secession, Unionists from Knox County collaborated with other East Tennessee Unionists in an attempt to secede from Tennessee itself and remain part of the Union. O.P. Temple of Knox County was named to a 3-person commission that was to appear before the General Assembly in Nashville and request the secession of East Tennessee and pro-Union Middle Tennessee counties from the state.[3] The attempt failed. Knox County joined the Confederacy along with the rest of Tennessee after the second referendum for secession in 1861.[4]

Knox County remained under Confederate control until September 3, 1863, when General Ambrose Burnside and the Union army marched into Knoxville unopposed. Union Colonel William Harris, son of New York Senator Ira Harris, sent his father this message[2] in regards to Knox County's capture:

'Glory be to God, the Yankees have come! The flag's come back to Tennessee!' Such were the welcomes all along the road, as we entered Knoxville, it was past all description. The people seemed frantic with joy. I never knew what the Love of Liberty was before. The old flag has been hidden in mattresses and under carpets. It now floats to the breeze at every staff in East Tennessee. Ladies wear it -- carry it -- wave it! Little children clap their hands and kiss it.

With the success of Burnside's troops during the Knoxville Campaign, and especially during the decisive Battle of Fort Sanders, Knox County remained under Union control for the duration of the Civil War.

Government and politics[]

Like most counties in heavily Unionist East Tennessee, Knox County has historically been strongly Republican. Although it is somewhat conservative for an urban county, it is slightly less Republican than the rest of East Tennessee. This is largely due to the influence of Knoxville, which has elected Democratic mayors and occasionally sends Democrats to the state legislature.

Presidentially, Franklin Roosevelt carried the county in three of his four presidential bids, while neighboring Blount and Grainger counties are among the only counties in the nation to have never supported a Democratic candidate for president in their entire existence. Nevertheless, Democratic candidates have crossed the 40-percent mark only seven times since Roosevelt's death. In 1964, it was nearly swept up in Lyndon Johnson's national landslide; Johnson lost the county by only 334 votes. Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 are the only Democrats since then to come reasonably close to carrying the county, losing it by single-digit margins; in Clinton's case with Tennessean Al Gore on the ticket. Gore lost the county by 17 points in 2000 during his own bid for president, but still managed 40 percent. The Democrats would not cross the 40 percent threshold again until 2020, when Joe Biden received over 41 percent of the county's vote.[5]

United States presidential election results for Knox County, Tennessee[5]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 124,540 56.47% 91,422 41.45% 4,594 2.08%
2016 105,767 58.53% 62,878 34.80% 12,052 6.67%
2012 109,707 63.60% 59,399 34.43% 3,401 1.97%
2008 113,015 60.73% 70,215 37.73% 2,856 1.53%
2004 110,803 62.10% 66,013 37.00% 1,603 0.90%
2000 86,851 57.68% 60,969 40.49% 2,766 1.84%
1996 70,761 50.53% 61,158 43.67% 8,126 5.80%
1992 66,607 46.75% 59,702 41.90% 16,167 11.35%
1988 73,092 63.27% 41,829 36.21% 600 0.52%
1984 76,965 63.61% 43,448 35.91% 574 0.47%
1980 66,153 56.26% 45,634 38.81% 5,798 4.93%
1976 56,013 50.73% 53,034 48.03% 1,362 1.23%
1972 64,747 71.56% 24,076 26.61% 1,661 1.84%
1968 47,202 52.44% 24,528 27.25% 18,277 20.31%
1964 42,797 50.20% 42,463 49.80% 0 0.00%
1960 50,811 61.00% 31,990 38.40% 499 0.60%
1956 46,167 60.09% 29,768 38.74% 896 1.17%
1952 44,358 62.32% 26,681 37.48% 139 0.20%
1948 21,074 53.77% 15,946 40.68% 2,176 5.55%
1944 20,742 52.58% 18,482 46.85% 228 0.58%
1940 13,877 40.45% 20,226 58.96% 201 0.59%
1936 12,183 37.93% 19,837 61.76% 100 0.31%
1932 9,774 46.71% 10,755 51.39% 398 1.90%
1928 14,627 71.55% 5,767 28.21% 49 0.24%
1924 10,709 56.41% 6,935 36.53% 1,340 7.06%
1920 12,005 63.41% 6,801 35.93% 125 0.66%
1916 5,791 57.27% 4,214 41.68% 106 1.05%
1912 1,984 19.86% 4,069 40.73% 3,938 39.42%
1908 5,817 56.56% 4,090 39.77% 378 3.68%
1904 4,309 55.61% 3,196 41.25% 243 3.14%
1900 3,982 46.35% 4,389 51.08% 221 2.57%
1896 6,243 59.83% 4,020 38.52% 172 1.65%
1892 4,182 49.11% 3,987 46.82% 347 4.07%
1888 6,123 59.12% 3,929 37.94% 305 2.94%
1884 5,248 59.11% 3,481 39.21% 149 1.68%
1880 4,361 58.18% 3,119 41.61% 16 0.21%

The government of Knox County, Tennessee operates under a home rule format. The county administrator, formerly known as the County Executive, is called the County Mayor. There is also an elected county commission, which consists of 11 members. Knox County is divided into nine commission districts, with one commissioner elected from each district. Two commissioners are elected countywide and serve as at-large representatives. The county commissioners' districts do not correspond with those of the city of Knoxville, which has its own mayor and city council. Residents of the county living within Knoxville city limits vote both in city and in county elections, are represented by city and county mayors, and pay city and county taxes. While the administration appears to be duplicated, services tend to be separated. Knox County runs the local school and library systems. Knoxville maintains a police department independent of the county sheriff. The property assessor's office, tax offices, and the Metropolitan Planning Commission are combined between the city and county governments. All Knox County elections are conducted on a partisan basis.[6]

Executive branch[]

The county mayor is the head of the executive branch of Knox County Government. The current county mayor is Glenn Jacobs, better known by his WWE identity of Kane. According to the county's charter, the mayor is the chief financial officer of the county, which includes developing the county's annual budget, approving county contracts, etc. Other responsibilities of the county mayor's office include maintaining county roads, highways and bridges, codes enforcement and operating the county's health department and library system.[6]

The mayor has the authority to veto resolutions and ordinances passed by the Knox County Commission. A majority-plus-one vote is required to override a mayoral veto, unless the vetoed legislation was required to have a two-thirds vote for original passage. In such cases, a two-thirds vote of the commission is required to override the veto.[6]

Executive branch departments

  • Finance
    • Purchasing
    • Community Development
  • Engineering & Public Works
    • Highway Engineering
    • Highway Maintenance
    • Stormwater Management
    • Codes Enforcement
    • Solid Waste & Recycling
    • Fire Prevention Bureau
  • Probation
  • Risk Management & Human Resources
  • Veterans Services
  • Senior Services
  • Health Department
    • Air Quality
  • Knox County Public Library
  • Constituent Services
  • Communications
  • Information Technology

Legislative branch[]

The Knox County Board of Commissioners is the legislative body of Knox County and consists of 11 members: nine elected at the district level and two elected countywide to serve at-large.[7] Commissioners meet multiple times each month, with their primary business meetings being a monthly work session and a monthly voting meeting. During the work session, commissioners generally debate items on the monthly agenda and take a non-binding vote on each item in advance of the more formal voting meeting, which is generally held the following week.[6]

The Board of Commissioners approves resolutions, ordinances, honorariums, road names, as well as most county contracts and large expenditures. Resolutions require a single vote for passage, while ordinances require two votes, or "two readings". The County Commission also serves as the appropriating body of the county and must approve an annual budget – presented by the mayor – which includes funding for the various county departments, including the Knox County Schools. The body also sets the property tax rate for the county.[6]


The Knox County Sheriff serves as the top law enforcement office of the county, and is elected countywide. The sheriff is responsible for overseeing the county jail, providing courtroom officers, serving warrants and providing general law enforcement functions, such as patrol and criminal investigation.


On February 11, 2017, Brandon Lambert was wanted on multiple warrants for property crimes. Sheriffs Deputies shot him to death in a Turkey Creek parking lot after, allegedly, his vehicle moved towards them. He was unarmed. There is no video of the shooting or the alleged movement of the vehicle. Knoxville Police Department investigated the incident and cleared all deputies.[8]

On July 27, 2019, Johnathan Binkley, age 35, died after being hogtied face down for four minutes. At least seven law enforcement officers were present at the time of death. Binkley was pronounced dead within an hour of being stopped.[9] Binley's mother is suing the Sheriff's department.[10]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 526 square miles (1,362.3 km2), of which 508 square miles (1,315.7 km2) is land and 17 square miles (44.0 km2) (3.29%) is water.

Cherokee Caverns

Cherokee Caverns is located 14 miles west of Knoxville on Highway 62. It was discovered in 1854 by Robert Crudgington who noticed fog emerging between rocks on his farm. He dug the entrance open and explored the cave. His daughter Margaret Crudgington opened the cave to the public in 1929 under the name Gentrys Cave, then changed the name to Grand Caverns in 1930. The cave has been open to the public, sporadically, ever since, under a variety of names. The name currently in use is Cherokee Caverns.[11]

Indian artifacts located in the cave indiate that another entrance to the cave existed at some time in the past.[11]

Major highways[]

Interstate highways[]

  • Interstate 40
    • Interstate 140
    • Interstate 640
  • Interstate 75
    • Interstate 275
  • Interstate 3 (Proposed)

U.S. Highways[]

  • U.S. Routes 11, 11E, and 11W
  • U.S. Route 25W
  • U.S. Route 70 (Kingston Pike)
  • U.S. Route 129
  • U.S. Route 441

State Routes[]

  • Tennessee State Route 1 (Kingston Pike, Cumberland Avenue, Magnolia Avenue, and Rutledge Pike) – follows United States Routes 70 and 11 (11W when it splits in the east part of the county)
  • Tennessee State Route 9 (Clinton Highway, Asheville Highway) – follows United States Routes 25W, and additionally in the eastern part of the county, U.S. Routes 70 and 11E
  • Tennessee State Route 33 (Maryville Pike, Chapman Highway, Henley Street, Broadway, Maynardville Highway)
  • Tennessee State Route 34 (Andrew Johnson Highway)
  • Tennessee State Route 61 (Washington Pike and East Emory Road)
  • Tennessee State Route 62 (Oak Ridge Highway and Western Avenue)
  • Tennessee State Route 71 (Chapman Highway, Henley Street, Broadway, Norris Freeway) – follows U.S. Route 441
  • Tennessee State Route 115 (Alcoa Highway) – follows U.S. Route 129
  • Tennessee State Route 131 (Lovell Road, Ball Camp-Byington Road, Beaver Ridge Road, Emory Road, and Tazewell Pike)
  • Tennessee State Route 158 (Neyland Drive and James White Parkway)
  • Tennessee State Route 162 (Pellissippi Parkway)
  • Tennessee State Route 168 (Gov. John Sevier Highway)
  • Tennessee State Route 169 (Middlebrook Pike)
  • Tennessee State Route 170 (Raccoon Valley Road)
  • Tennessee State Route 331 (Tazewell Pike and Emory Road)
  • Tennessee State Route 332 (Concord Road and Northshore Drive)
  • Tennessee State Route 475 (a proposed bypass for I-75)

Mass Transportation[]

Knoxville Area Transit provides city bus service, while McGhee Tyson Airport features a variety of regional flights to Midwestern and Southern cities.

Adjacent counties[]


Age pyramid Knox County[12]

As of the census[13] of 2000, there were 382,032 people, 157,872 households, and 100,722 families residing in the county. The population density was 751 people per square mile (290/km²). There were 171,439 housing units at an average density of 337 per square mile (130/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 88.10% White, 8.63% Black or African American, 0.26% Native American, 1.29% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.50% from other races, and 1.18% from two or more races. 1.26% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 157,872 households out of which 28.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.80% were married couples living together, 10.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.20% were non-families. 29.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the county, the population was spread out with 22.30% under the age of 18, 11.60% from 18 to 24, 30.40% from 25 to 44, 23.10% from 45 to 64, and 12.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 93.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $37,454, and the median income for a family was $49,182. Males had a median income of $35,755 versus $25,140 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,875. About 8.40% of families and 12.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.50% of those under age 18 and 9.70% of those age 65 or over.

Cities, communities, and places[]

Cities and towns[]

Unincorporated communities[]

  • Ball Camp
  • Bluegrass
  • Byington
  • Carter
  • Concord
  • Corryton
  • Gibbs
  • Halls Crossroads
  • Hardin Valley
  • Heiskell
  • Karns
  • Kimberlin Heights
  • Mascot
  • Mt. Olive
  • Pedigo
  • Plainview
  • Powell
  • Ramsey
  • Ritta
  • Riverdale
  • Skaggston
  • Solway
  • Strawberry Plains
  • Thorn Grove

See also[]

  • National Register of Historic Places, Knox County, Tennessee
  • Knox County Schools


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ a b Tumblin, J.C.. "Knoxville in the Civil War". Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  3. ^ "Furman:East Tennessee Anti-Secession Resolutions". Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  4. ^ "Ordinance of Secession of Tennessee". Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  5. ^ a b Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Knox County Charter". 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Fugitive killed in officer-involved shooting at Turkey Creek struggled with addiction" (in en-US). 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "Caves of Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains" by Larry E. Matthews, 2008, ISBN 978-1-879961-30-2, Published by the National Speleological Society, Chapter 1 - Cherokee Caverns, pages 17-36.
  12. ^ Based on 2000 census data
  13. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  • History of Tennessee From the Earliest Time to the Present: Together With an Historical and a Biographical Sketch of From Twenty-five to Thirty Counties of East Tennessee. (The Goodspeed Publishing Co., Chicago & Nashville), 1887.
  • Rothrock, Mary U., editor. The French Broad-Holston Country: A History of Knox County, Tennessee. (Knox County Historical Committee; East Tennessee Historical Society, 1946).

External links[]

Coordinates: 35°59′N 83°56′W / 35.99, -83.94

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Knox County, Tennessee. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.