City of Rocky Mount
—  City  —
Braswell Memorial Library, 727 North Grace Street downtown in Rocky Mount
Official seal of City of Rocky Mount
Nickname(s): "City on the Rise" "Rock City"
Location of Rocky Mount within North Carolina
Coordinates: 35°56′16″N 77°47′26″W / 35.93778, -77.79056
Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Nash, Edgecombe
Founded Circa March 22, 1816
Incorporated February 28, 1867
 • Mayor David W.Combs
 • City 35.8 sq mi (92.7 km2)
 • Land 35.6 sq mi (92.1 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2)  0.59%
 • Urban 41 sq mi (106 km2)
 • Metro 1,050 sq mi (2,718 km2)
Elevation 100 ft (31 m)
Population (2008)
 • City 57,010
 • Density 1,571.4/sq mi (606.7/km2)
 • Urban 61,657
 • Metro 145,596
 • Metro density 136/sq mi (53/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Zip Code 27801-04
Area code(s) 252
FIPS code 37-57500[1]
GNIS feature ID 1022368[2]

Rocky Mount is an All-America City Award-winning city in Edgecombe and Nash counties in the coastal plains of the state of North Carolina. Although it was not formally incorporated until February 28, 1867, the North Carolina community that became the city of Rocky Mount dates from the beginning of the 19th century, and the first post office in the area opened in 1816. In 1996, the town of Battleboro merged with the city of Rocky Mount. As of 2008, the city's population was 57,010.

Rocky Mount is the principal city of the Rocky Mount, North Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had a population of 143,026, as of 2000, and which encompasses all of both Edgecombe and Nash counties. Rocky Mount is also a part of a Combined Statistical Area which encompasses both Rocky Mount and Wilson Metropolitan Areas. The Rocky Mount–Wilson CSA population is currently over 200,000 residents. The city is about 45 minutes away from the state capital, Raleigh.

Rocky Mount has a growing arts community. The city operates an Arts Center, a Children's Museum & Science Center, and a Community Theater at the Imperial Centre for Arts & Sciences.[3]

History of Rocky Mount[]

Rocky Mount had its beginning in the early part of the 19th century. It centered around the first post office which was established at the Falls of the Tar River on March 22, 1816. It was at that point that the name Rocky Mount appeared in documented history. The name undoubtedly derived from the rocky mound at the falls of the Tar River, which was also the site of one of the first cotton mills in North Carolina: Rocky Mount Mills was established in 1818. The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was built about 2 miles east of the mill in 1845 and became the main connection for Rocky Mount to the outside world.

An important change that the railroad brought was the establishment of Rocky Mount as a point of departure for travelers from the north and south. The Raleigh-Tarboro stage route (roughly where iI-95 and U.S. 64 run today) passed just below Rocky Mount which became the logical debarking point for railroad travelers wishing to proceed east or west.

The American Civil War and Reconstruction Era brought hard times to Rocky Mount. On February 19, 1867 Rocky Mount was incorporated.

The establishment of the Rocky Mount tobacco market in the late 19th century is one of the town's most noteworthy developments. The demand for bright leaf tobacco rose rapidly as the tobacco industry took shape and the growth of the tobacco market led to the establishment of the town's first bank in 1889.

Also during this period, the railroad exerted a powerful influence on the town. The tracks first reached Rocky Mount on Christmas Eve, in 1839. In 1840, a train of cars en route to Wilmington stopped in Rocky Mount to import some "Old Nash" for special toasts at opening festivities. The fame of Nash County apple brandy had spread fast. As Rocky Mount encouraged the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to locate shops and yard facilities in the town, there was an influx of railroad employees into Rocky Mount. In 1871, the county line moved from the Tar River to its present location near the tracks.

By the end of the 19th century, Rocky Mount's population was approximately 3,000. A main railroad line, a well established cotton mill, and productive farmland were major contributors to the area's growth and prosperity. The Chamber of Commerce was established in 1904.

On February 28, 1907 with a population of approximately 7,500 Rocky Mount was incorporated as a city. The 20th century brought a number of "firsts" to Rocky Mount - the first public school; one of the most modern hotels in the state, the Ricks Hotel; the first library; the establishment of the first daily newspaper, the Rocky Mount Evening Telegram; the first hospitals with services available to the public and the YMCA.

The City Lake was constructed in the late 1930s as a project of the Works Project Administration and the project provided much-needed employment to the area during the Great Depression.

In view of the community's educational facilities, the 1950s and '60s brought rapid growth. A new high school opened in 1953. North Carolina Wesleyan College opened in 1960. In 1968, Nash Community College and Edgecombe Community College opened in the twin counties in order to meet the needs of citizens in technical, vocational and general education programs.

1970 marked the year Rocky Mount received an All-America City Award. The little town built upon a rock had become the progressive city on the Great Falls of the Tar. The Seventies also brought a new post office building, completion of Nash General Hospital, a new campus for Nash Community College, recreational use of the reservoir on the Tar River, a new water plant, the Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport and new highways.

The Eighties brought in a new regional shopping mall, located on Wesleyan Boulevard, and an athletic center on Hardee's Boulevard. Now, in 2008, the city continues to grow and prosper with a population of over 50,000.

Historic Rocky Mount Mills Village[]

Situated near Rocky Mount's Tar River, the Rocky Mount Mills Historic Mill Village grew in the late-19th and early-20th century as a small community of tenants working for the Mill. Changes in industrialization eventually forced the closing of the mill, and this intimate way of life came to an end. However, when the mill closed, the property remained intact.

Though the property has been rental for its entire existence, covenants are now being place on the property to assure home ownership and owner occupancy. The covenants are also designed to protect the historical integrity of the existing structures in the village and to control the new infill residential construction.

Built between 1885 and 1940, each home is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. The houses themselves stand in generally good condition. A typical house can be described as a one-story building of gabled, saddlebag of frame construction with weatherboard siding, complete with gabled one-story ell and hip-roofed porch. The two-story buildings are single-pile frame construction with weatherboard siding, rear one-story addition, and hip-roofed porch. Once accommodating 145 homes, the village now contains 62 remaining residences. The layout of lots has approximated the original design for the village where the lots are deep and originally accommodated large a vegetable gardens in the rear. In many cases, the original windows, doors, and hardware are intact.

While many of Rocky Mount's communities flooded during Hurricane Floyd, none of the homes in the Mill Village experienced any damage or flooding at all.


As of the census of 2000,[1] there were 55,893 people, 21,435 households, and 14,682 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,571.4 inhabitants per square mile (606.7/km²). There were 24,167 housing units at an average density of 679.5 per square mile (262.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 40.92% White, 56.02% African American, 0.35% Native American, 0.70% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.91% from other races, and 1.07% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.85% of the population.

There were 21,435 households out of which 32.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.3% were married couples living together, 20.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.5% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.11.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.7% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 28.5% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females there were 85.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,661, and the median income for a family was $39,929. Males had a median income of $31,455 versus $34,409 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,804. About 15.8% of families and 20.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.6% of those under the age of 18 and 16.5% ages 65 or older.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 35.8 square miles (92.7 km²), of which, 35.6 square miles (92.1 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of it (0.59%) is water.

Rocky Mount is situated uniquely, in that the city straddles the county line, with part of it in Nash County and part of it in Edgecombe County. CSX Transportation tracks also separate the city at the county line, meaning that going to the other side of town always means crossing the tracks.



There are 3 major highways that intersect in Rocky Mount: U.S. Route 64, Interstate 95, and U.S. Route 301. Interstate 95 runs through a portion of West Rocky Mount, US 64 is a major east-west freeway through the city, and US 301 forms the major north-south thoroughfare through the city.

The state of North Carolina is currently in the works of constructing a new multi-lane highway called the Northern Connector which will connect West Rocky Mount to North Rocky Mount. The highway is being built to settle traffic on Wesleyan Blvd. and other roads in the Northern Rocky Mount area.[4]

I-95.svg Interstate 95 Exits: N.C 4, Dortches Blvd., and U.S. 64 with a future exit at Sunset Avenue just south of the U.S. 64 exit.

US 64.svg U.S. 64 Exits: Raleigh. St, Atlantic. Ave, Centura. Hwy/Church. St, Benvenue. Rd/Peachtree. St, U.S 301(Wesleyan. Blvd) Buck Leonard Blvd. TO Sunset Ave, Winstead Ave, Interstate 95, and Old Carraige Rd.

US 301.svg U.S 301 (Wesleyan. Blvd) Exits: Benvenue Rd, U.S 64, Sunset Ave, Bethelehem Rd, West Mount Dr, and N.C 97(Raleigh Rd).


The Rocky Mount-Wilson (RWI) Airport serves the Counties of Nash, Wilson and Edgecombe with regional air service. It is on NC Highway 97, and is just 6.5 miles from Rocky Mount, 9 miles from Wilson and only minutes from industrial traffic routes I-95, US 64, 264, 301 and NC 98.

The closest international airport is Raleigh-Durham International (RDU).

Cargo and charter flights in the area also utilize the Kinston Regional Jetport.


Rocky Mount is served by Amtrak. The train station is centrally located on Main Street in downtown Rocky Mount.[5]

Nash General Hospital[]

Nash General Hospital, opened in 1971, was the first all-private room hospital in North Carolina.[6] It is home to a Women's Center, a Cardiovascular Services department, and a Critical Care Unit. A subunit of the hospital, known as Nash Day Hospital, opened in 1984 as a free-standing outpatient surgery center.[7] The hospital also operates The Bryant T. Aldridge Rehabilitation Center in honor of Kinston native Bryant T. Aldridge, the first manager of Nash General, which opened in 1999,[8] and the Coastal Plain Hospital, a mental health facility.[9]


The City of Rocky Mount is served by the Nash-Rocky Mount Public School System, along with a number of private and charter schools in the area. Post-secondary institutions include Nash Community College, Shaw University, North Carolina Wesleyan College and Edgecombe Community College.

Nash-Rocky Mount Elementary Schools include Benvenue Elementary, D.S.Johnson Elementary, Englewood Elementary School,O.R. Pope Elementary School, Susie C. Baskerville Elementary School, M.B. Hubbard Elementary School, Coopers School, Winstead Avenue Elementary School, Red Oak Elementary, Spring Hope Elementary, and Nashville Elementary.

Middle schools include JFW Parker Middle School, Edwards Middle School, Southern Nash Middle School, Red Oak Middle School, and Nash Central Middle School.

Public high schools include Rocky Mount High School, Northern Nash High School, Southern Nash High School, Nash Central High School, and Nash Rocky Mount Early College. The private schools located in Rocky Mount are Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), Rocky Mount Academy, Faith Christian School, and Falls Road Baptist School.

One N.C. charter school located in Rocky Mount is Rocky Mount Preparatory School.


Rocky Mount was the home of R.M.I. (Rocky Mount Instruments), best known for the 368x Electra Piano Harpsichord, which was a significant instrument in the world of rock and jazz in the late 60's-early 70's.

Rocky Mount was the home of Centura Bank until it was bought by the Royal Bank of Canada and the United States headquarters was moved to nearby Raleigh.

The oldest Hardee's fast food franchise is in Rocky Mount. The first Hardee's had been in nearby Greenville, but it has since been torn down. Rocky Mount and nearby Nashville had some of the few Hardee's restaurant owned directly by the corporation and not a franchise; they have since been sold to Boddie-Noel. Rocky Mount is also the corporate headquarters of Boddie-Noell, which owns over 300 Hardee's franchise locations and all of the Texas Steakhouse & Saloon restaurants.

Notable residents[]

  • Jack Kerouac, writer, lived here with his sister and mother for some time
  • J.J. Arrington, NFL running back
  • Anthony Avent, former NBA player
  • Lloyd W. Bailey, a faithless elector in the 1968 presidential election, who cast his vote for George Wallace instead of Richard Nixon.
  • Thurbert Baker, current Attorney General of the state of Georgia.
  • Luther Barnes, gospel recording artist, preacher, composer, producer, songwriter
  • Herman Boone, born in Rocky Mount; football coach; "Remember The Titans" based on his story.
  • Jim Boyd, 1956 Olympic Gold Medaist in boxing.
  • Jim Clack, center for the 1970s Terry Bradshaw-led, Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Roy A. Cooper, current Attorney General of the state of North Carolina.
  • Mike Easley, former Governor of the State of North Carolina.
  • Phil Ford, UNC-Chapel Hill's second all-time leading scorer, currently asst. coach with the Charlotte Bobcats.
  • James Carson Gardner, first Republican Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina of the 20th century; opened the world's first Hardee's franchise restaurant.
  • Kaye Gibbons, critically acclaimed novelist
  • Allan Gurganus, best-selling author - Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All
  • William B. Harrison, Jr., Chairman of JP Morgan Chase.
  • Curtis J. Holt, Sr., Civil Rights Activist
  • Terrell Hudgins, football wide receiver for the Elon Phoenix (2005–2009) and runner-up for FCS Walter Payton Award.
  • Earle Hyman, actor, born in Rocky Mount.
  • Kay Kyser, big band leader of the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Sugar Ray Leonard, Olympic and professional boxer was born in Rockey Mount.[10]
  • Walter Fenner Leonard, better known as Buck Leonard, was a Negro League hall of fame baseball player.[11]
  • Thelonious Monk, jazz musician.
  • Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears Defensive End
  • Tom Smith, musician, Fulbright Professor, IAJE Jazz Ambassador Recipient
  • Harold Vick, jazz bandleader and session-man.
  • Charles Linwood Williams NBA Player; former President of NBA Players Association.
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead actress


External links[]

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Coordinates: 35°57′15″N 77°48′20″W / 35.954112, -77.805572

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Rocky Mount, North Carolina. 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.