Dougherty County, comprising about 330 square miles in southwest Georgia, was carved from Baker County in 1853 and named for Athens judge Charles Dougherty, in appreciation for his strong support of states' rights. In 1854 and 1856 the county gained more territory from parts of Worth County.
The original inhabitants of the area were Creek Indians, who were driven out in 1836 after the Creek Wars (1811-15). Many of the new settlers were wealthy cotton planters from the older parts of Georgia and South Carolina who were attracted to southwest Georgia's rich soil and the navigational possibilities of the Flint River. These planters settled around the new town of Albany, which was then still part of Baker County. The rapid growth of the population in and around Albany led the settlers to petition the state assembly for their own county, and Albany was chosen as county seat.
Beginning in 1890, the county's reliance on cotton farming during much of the nineteenth century gave way to the cultivation of pecans and peanuts. Cattle ranching arrived in the county during the 1930s, with meatpacking plants soon operating as a mainstay of the economy. The economy diversified somewhat with the arrival of World War II (1941-45), when two training fields for Allied pilots were established in the county. These fields, along with a postwar Marine Corps Logistics Base, were good sources of employment. New postwar industries included breweries, candy manufacturers (Bobs Candies), tire makers, and other factories.
The Flint River overran its banks in 1841, 1925, and 1994, causing major floods in Dougherty County.
In recent years, tourists have increasingly come to enjoy boating, fishing, and hunting in and around the county's Flint River, cypress swamps, and quail reserves.
Notable persons born in Albany include Ray Charles, acclaimed rhythm and blues musician; Alice Coachman, the first African American Olympic gold medal winner; Jim Fowler, host of the television series Wild Kingdom; trumpeter Harry James; brothers and civil rights activists C. B. King, Clennon Washington King Jr., Preston King, and Slater King; and Ray Knight, major league baseball player and husband of golfer Nancy Lopez.
The current courthouse, the third in the county's history, was built in 1968. Albany remains the only incorporated town in the county; other communities are Acree, Pecan City, Putney, and Radium Springs.
The large numbers of slaves brought into Dougherty County during its early days led to a significant black population throughout its post–Civil War history. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Dougherty County is 94,565, a decrease from the 2000 population of 96,065.
Susan R. Boatright and Douglas C. Bachtel, eds., Georgia County Guide (Athens: Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, University of Georgia, annual).
Daughters of the American Revolution, Thronateeska Chapter, History and Reminiscences of Dougherty County, Georgia (1924; reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1978.).
Works Progress Administration, Historical Background of Dougherty County, 1836-1940 (Atlanta: Cherokee, 1981).
Elizabeth B. Cooksey, Savannah
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