Albany is a city in and the county seat of Dougherty County, Georgia, United States, in the southwestern part of the state. It is the principal city of the Albany, Georgia metropolitan area and the southwest part of the state. The population was 77,434 at the 2010 U.S. Census, making it the eighth-largest city in Georgia.
The area where Albany is located was formerly inhabited by the Creek Indians, who called it Thronateeska after their word for "flint" because of the mineral flint that was found near the river. The Creeks used this flintstone to make tools and weapons such as arrowheads.
Tift for decades was its leading entrepreneur. An ardent booster, he promoted education, business, and railroad construction. During the Civil War he provided naval supplies and helped build two ships. He opposed Radical Reconstruction inside the state and in Congress and was scornful of the Yankee carpetbaggers who came in. Fair concludes that Tift became "more Southern than many natives." His pro-slavery attitudes before the war and his support for segregation afterward made him compatible with Georgia's white elite.
The area was developed by planters using slave labor for clearing land and cotton cultivation. By 1840, Dougherty County's majority population was black, comprised overwhelmingly enslaved. The market center for cotton plantations, Albany was in a prime location for shipping cotton to markets by steamboats on the river. In 1858 Tift hired Horace King, a former slave and bridge builder, to construct a toll bridge over the river. King's bridge toll house still stands.
Already important as a shipping port, Albany later became an important railroad hub in southwestern Georgia. Seven lines were constructed to the town. An exhibit on trains is located at the Thronateeska Heritage Center in the former railroad station.
While integral to the economic life of the town, the Flint River has flooded regularly. There was extensive property damage in 1841 and 1925. Late twentieth-century floods have been extreme. In 1994, a severe flood was caused by rainfall from Tropical Storm Alberto; it killed 14 people and displaced 22,000. The state supported a $150 million renovation of the Albany State University campus to repair storm damage and accomplish upgrades. In addition, new housing was built on the south side of town to replace what had been destroyed. In 1998, the Flint River crested at above its bed and flooded parts of the city.
Because of flooding, the city has decided against redeveloping areas along the riverfront floodplain for commercial or residential purposes. It is being improved for other uses, with a riverfront walkway and a new aquarium built over a tributary creek.
On February 10, 1940, a severe tornado hit Albany, killing eighteen people and caused large-scale damage.
In 1912, the downtown U.S. Post Office and Courthouse building opened. Other federal projects have been important to the city and region. In 1937, Chehaw Park was constructed as a part of a New Deal program under the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.
After the beginning of the Cold War and the founding of the U.S. Air Force in late 1947, the airfield was reactivated and upgraded with runways for a U.S. Air Force base. It was named Turner Air Force Base. The Air Force used this base for very heavy bomber jets, such as the B-52 Stratofortress. A number of other Air Force units were also housed at this Air Force Base.
as the base was renamed. Among them were the 1370th Photomapping Group, and refueling and maintenance functions. The Turner Air Force Base was abandoned by the Air Force. In 1951, the U.S. Marine Corps established a logistics base on the eastern outskirts of Albany. During the 1950s and 1960s, so many white servicemen and associated workers arrived that the town briefly became majority white for the first time since 1870.
In 1967 the base was transferred to the U.S. Navy for its use. Naval Air Station Albany was used as the shore base of nearly all the Navy's RA-5C Vigilante twin-jet, carrier-based reconnaissance aircraft. This naval base was permanently deactivated and relinquished to civilian control in 1974.
In 1979, the Miller Brewing Company purchased part of the old naval base's property to build a new brewing plant.
In 1960, the population of Albany reached 50,000 people. In 1961–1962, African Americans in Albany played a prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement (see the Albany Movement). They led protests and non-violent demonstrations to end segregation of public facilities, gain the ability to vote, and restore their dignity. Assisted by activists from SCLC, CORE, SNCC, and the NAACP, African Americans and supporters took a stand to fight segregation through nonviolence. The city repealed its Jim Crow laws in 1963, but it took federal legislation to secure the franchise.
The decline in military bases and railroad restructuring led to job losses. Much of the remaining white population moved to suburbs and newer housing out of the city, which became majority African American in the 1970s. Struggling with a poor economy, in 1988, Albany made national headlines as the "Murder Capital of America," with the highest murder rate per capita in the United States. Other cities have since taken that title.