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The City of West Memphis, Arkansas
—  City  —
Broadway Blvd.


Nickname(s): An Arkansas city by the Mississippi River.
Motto: Beautiful from every direction. Open for oppurtunity. Stop in, Stay awhile. Wide Open.
Location of West Memphis, Arkansas
Coordinates: 35°9′1″N 90°10′44″W / 35.15028°N 90.17889°W / 35.15028; -90.17889Coordinates: 35°9′1″N 90°10′44″W / 35.15028°N 90.17889°W / 35.15028; -90.17889
Country United States
State Arkansas
County Crittenden
 - Type Mayor–council government
 - Mayor William H. Johnson
 - Total 26.13 sq mi (68.9 km2)
 - Land 26.5 sq mi (68.13 km2)
 - Water 0.1 sq mi (0.2 km2)  0.26%
Elevation 210 ft (64 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 27,666
 Density 1,044.3/sq mi (403.2/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 72301, 72303
Area code(s) 870
FIPS code 05-74540
GNIS feature ID 0078727

West Memphis is the largest city in Crittenden County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 27,666 at the 2000 census, with an estimated population of 28,181 in 2005, ranking it as the state's 12th largest city, behind Bentonville.[1] It is considered part of the Memphis metropolitan area, and is located directly across the Mississippi River from Memphis.



In the summer of 1541, Spanish Explorer Hernando De Soto crossed the Mississippi River into what is now Crittenden County with an army of over 300 conquistadors and almost as many captured Native-American slaves. The Spanish found the land to be the most densely populated that they had seen since starting their journey on the Florida coast, two years earlier. The Spanish expedition departed Arkansas two years later leaving behind numerous old world diseases. It was one hundred and thirty years before Europeans visited this region again. The French expedition of Joliet and Marquette in 1673 found none of the towns or people that the Spanish had documented. All that remained were the many mounds that still dot the landscape along the rivers and creeks. The original inhabitants, like the later settlers were drawn to this region because of its fertile river bottom soil, abundant game, and thick forest. The earliest recorded immigrant to the area that is now West Memphis, Benjamin Foy, was a native of Holland who was sent in 1795 by the Spanish governor of the large area claimed by Spain to establish a settlement on the Mississippi River. He chose a location across the river from present day Memphis, Tennessee. In 1797 the hamlet, designated Foy’s Point, took the name Camp de la Esperanza or as translated, Field of Hope. The name remained but took on an English name, “Hopefield,” when it became part of the United States with the completion the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Benjamin Foy was named to the new position of United States Magistrate of the region. Foy, noted for his honest character and extensive knowledge of the country, ran a clean and lawful town with a bright future until his death 1823. Crittenden County is bounded on the east by the Mississippi River and was established in 1825, eleven years before Arkansas became a state. Named after Robert Crittenden, the first secretary of Arkansas Territory, the county had a population of 1,272 in 1830. Hopefield became the eastern terminal for the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad in 1857. However the Civil War forced a halt to track construction just east of the St. Francis River in 1861. During the summer of 1862 Memphis fell into the hands of the Union forces. Most Confederate soldiers were ferried across the river to Hopefield, Arkansas, and surrounding farms. Many of these soldiers were moved on to other battle fronts, but some remained to harass the Union forces and disrupt river traffic. This became such a problem that on February 19, 1863, four companies of Federal forces burned down the entire town. The town of Hopefield was rebuilt after the war but never regained the prominence it once held in Crittenden County. Hopefield was eventually destroyed by flood in 1912 through a change in the course of the Mississippi River. Crittenden County needed a new center for government and business after the Civil War. In 1884 the town of West Memphis was platted by second-generation Crittenden County residents, two sons of Robert Vance. Robert Vance, Jr., with his brother William Vance were among the first settlers of the region in the 1830s. Within a year the town had grown to over two hundred residents. Robert Vance was appointed postmaster of West Memphis in 1885. By 1888 West Memphis had three businesses owned by the Winchester brothers, the Richard brothers and C.B. Givin. Because of the vast resources of massive old growth forests surrounding the young town of West Memphis, the lumber industry became the fuel for its progress into the twentieth century. In 1904, Zack Bragg moved to West Memphis and opened Bragg Mill. With the construction a railroad bridge over the Mississippi River in 1892, the rail line that had once passed through Hopefield moved to Hulbert, a small farm town owned by a Memphis attorney on the edge of West Memphis. Bragg was able to ship his milled lumber and logs by rail and by river. In 1914, P.T. Bolz of St. Louis opened the Bolz Slack Barrel Cooperage plant. With the coming of the automobile age, the first automobile bridge across the Mississippi River at Memphis was constructed in 1917. This heralded the growth of the small industrial town of West Memphis as its main street, Broadway Avenue, became a U.S. Highway and an influx of traffic began streaming through the town. West Memphis was officially incorporated in 1923 and continued to grow to become the largest city in Crittenden County. The availability of river and rail transportation transformed West Memphis into the manufacturing and distribution hub of the county. Although in the 1930s West Memphis, along with the rest of the Mississippi Delta had fallen on hard times due to the national economic depression and the devastating 1927 flood in the Mississippi River Valley, the city grew and developed at a record pace. However, the most notable export of West Memphis from that era became its original Blues music. At one time Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Mr. Lockwood, and B.B. King all called West Memphis home. Ever increasing automobile traffic and demand for the industrial products produced and shipped through the West Memphis rail and river traffic even during the hard times of the 1930s and war years of the 1940s instigated the growth and development of the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, Broadway Avenue. Tourist courts, restaurants, hotels and other amenities geared toward the traveler began to be constructed along the traffic corridor through West Memphis. During the World War II years, transportation of soldiers and goods through the roads, river, and rail lines in the Memphis/West Memphis area created the need for lodging and human services. Construction of a second automobile bridge across the Mississippi River connecting Memphis and West Memphis in 1949 created another influx of automobile traffic through West Memphis. The buildings in the 700, 800, and 900 blocks of E. Broadway reflect the growth of the city of West Memphis in the years 1930 to 1958. Until the national interstate system was opened in the 1950s, diverting traffic away from former routes through the middle of America’s towns, West Memphis’ Broadway Avenue was the city’s center of commerce with retail stores, tourist courts and hotels and office buildings. Decline of Broadway Avenue was rapid after the traffic through the town diminished with the opening of the interstate highways. Although the three blocks of E. Broadway contained in the West Memphis Commercial Historic District remain much as they appeared in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the remainder of the city’s major traffic corridor, Broadway Avenue, has experienced much change. Because West Memphis and the surrounding areas in Crittenden County have been subject to some of the country’s most disastrous floods due the Mississippi River backing into the St. Francis River, the growth of the city was delayed. It was not until the importance of the automobile and its rapid rise as the major mode of transportation, did the growth of West Memphis begin in earnest. The city’s major corridor, Broadway Avenue, also U.S. Highway 70, brought thousands of travelers through the city and created the demand for the businesses that were opened in the 1930s and 1940s along the highly traveled route.


West Memphis is located at 35°9′1″N 90°10′44″W / 35.15028°N 90.17889°W / 35.15028; -90.17889 (35.150294, -90.178831)[2].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 26.6 square miles (68.8 km²), of which, 26.5 square miles (68.6 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km²) of it (0.26%) is water.


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Primarily because of its central location and transportation infrastructure, West Memphis has become a hub for distribution and assembly operations.

The city lies at the point where two of the nation's most heavily travelled interstate highways, Interstate 40 and Interstate 55, intersect with the Mississippi River (a major cargo waterway) and large rail-lines operated by BNSF and Union Pacific.[3]


Downtown West Memphis (2010)

Broadway is the downtown district for the city of West Memphis. This downtown area has more than 84 stores and restaurants lining the street and is still growing. Broadway is the host of the city's "Blues on Broadway," hosting famous blues singers. City officials are still finding ways to renovate this area.

West Memphis Gateway

The West memphis Gateway serves as the main entrance to the city of West Memphis. The LED lighting for the overpass support beams light at night according to the season of the year. Black streaks often appear on the overpass, but city officials are currently finding ways to make this stop happening.

Distribution centers

Major operations include distribution centers for retailers such as Family Dollar Stores[4] and manufacturers such as Ciba Chemicals.[5]

Continuing nearly $40 million in expenditures in West Memphis since 1998, Ciba Specialty Chemicals began construction of a new $1.3 million, 7,000-square-foot (650 m2) laboratory facility in December 2003, which was completed in June 2004.[6]


Southland Greyhound Park (2008)

West Memphis is one of only two cities in Arkansas (along with Hot Springs) with a venue for parimutuel gambling, pre-dating the casino developments in nearby Tunica County, Mississippi by many years.

In the 1990s, Southland Greyhound Park, one of West Memphis's largest employers, saw its attendance and revenues decline drastically, with a corresponding economic impact on both the town and state. This was largely attributed to the rise of casino gambling in nearby Tunica, Mississippi. By 2002, Southland struggled to survive.[7]

Following an estimated $40 million investment by the park's owner[8] and the addition since 2006 of electronic games of skill and video poker machines,[9][10] Southland has added more than 300 new employees, making it the third largest employer in West Memphis with 660 employees.[8]


In a pattern typical of urban areas of the Southern United States,[11][12] West Memphis tends to have crime levels considerably above the national average. For the year of 2006, the violent crime index was 1989.3 violent crimes committed per 100,000 residents. The national average was 553.5 crimes committed per 100,000 residents. The same applied to all forms of property crime in the city.[13][14] For 2008, the total murder risk for the city was over two and a half times the United States average, the same applied when compared to the Arkansas state average. Other forms of crime were roughly the same with the exception of larceny which was slightly above the national average.[15] While the crime within West Memphis is typically high, it is relatively average when compared with its far larger neighboring city Memphis, the same applies to other cities throughout the same region of the Southern United States.[16][17][18][19][20]


As of the census[21] of 2000, there were 27,666 people, 10,051 households, and 7,136 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,044.3 people per square mile (403.2/km²). There were 11,022 housing units at an average density of 416.1/sq mi (160.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 55.93% Black or African American, 42.16% White, 0.21% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.51% from other races, and 0.64% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.01% of the population.

There were 10,051 households out of which 36.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.4% were married couples living together, 25.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families. There were 553 unmarried partner households: 475 of both sexes, 52 same-sex male, and 26 same-sex female. 24.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.23.

In the city the population was spread out with 31.5% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 28.2% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 86.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,399, and the median income for a family was $32,465. Males had a median income of $29,977 versus $21,007 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,679. About 23.7% of families and 28.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 40.9% of those under age 18 and 22.3% of those age 65 or over.



Public schools

  • West Memphis High School, 10-12
  • West Junior High School, 7-9
  • Bragg Elementary School, K-6
  • Richland Elementary School, K-6
  • Faulk Elementary School, K-6
  • East Junior High School, 7-9
  • Jackson Elementary School, PK-6
  • Maddux Elementary School, K-6
  • Weaver Elementary School, K-6
  • Wedlock Elementary School, K-6
  • Wonder Elementary School, K-6
  • Wonder Junior High School, 7-9
  • Avondale Elementary School, PK-1
  • Wedlock Elementary School, K-6

Private schools

Notable residents


  1. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population for All Incorporated Places in Arkansas" (CSV). 2005 Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. Retrieved November 16, 2006. 
  2. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "Total Access"
  4. ^ "Family Dollar Leverages Strong West Memphis Distribution Operation into 6,000th Store"
  5. ^ "New Laboratory Constructed at the Ciba West Memphis Plant"
  6. ^ "New Laboratory at the Ciba West Memphis plant". Ciba News (Ciba). 2004-09-04. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  7. ^ Whitsett, Jack (2002-01-14). "Southland yearns for dogs' glory days". Arkansas Business Journal (Arkansas Business Limited Partnership). Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  8. ^ a b Editorial (2007-05-04). "New games make Southland park more competitive". Memphis Business Journal (American City Business Journals). Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  9. ^ "". 
  10. ^ [1] Dixie Martin, Arkansas Business, March 29, 1993.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

External links

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