Decatur County is located in the southwest corner of the state, adjoining Baker, Grady, Miller, Mitchell, and Seminole counties. One of the largest counties in Georgia at 596.8 square miles, Decatur shares its southern boundary with the Florida state line. There are four incorporated cities in the county: Attapulgus, Bainbridge (the county seat), Brinson, and Climax (named after the fact that it is the highest point on the railroad between Savannah and the Chattahoochee River).

Decatur County was created by an act of the state legislature on December 8, 1823, which carved all the area from Alabama to Grady County out of Early County. Later the western portion of the county was separated from Decatur to form Seminole County. Spanish explorers had visited the area as early as 1540, and settlements were founded shortly thereafter. Decatur County was named after Commodore Stephen Decatur, a War of 1812 (1812-15) naval hero who may be best remembered for his response to an 1816 toast: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.”

Decatur County Courthouse
Decatur County Courthouse

Courtesy of Don Bowman

According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population of Decatur County is 27,842, a decrease from the 2000 population of 28,240. The governing body is a six-member board of commissioners who serve staggered four-year terms elected from individual districts. The chairman is elected by the board from among their own members. The day-to-day operations are supervised by a county administrator.

Bainbridge College opened in 1973 and serves one Florida county and eight Georgia counties. The Gilbert H. Gragg–Decatur County Library is the headquarters of the Southwest Georgia Regional Library System and serves Decatur, Miller, and Seminole counties. It also is a subregional library for the blind and physically handicapped for sixteen southwest Georgia counties.

Decatur County sits atop the Floridan aquifer and is bisected by the Flint River. Lake Seminole, created by a dam at the Florida line built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, forms the southwestern boundary of the county. The lake is noted for bass fishing and is the site of an annual national tournament. Jack Wingate’s lodge and marina on the lake was made famous in the first Mark Trail comic strip, drawn by cartoonist Ed Dodd.

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Decatur County Courthouse

Decatur County Courthouse

The neoclassical revival-style Decatur County courthouse was built in Bainbridge, the county seat, in 1902.

Courtesy of Don Bowman

Decatur County Traveling Library

Decatur County Traveling Library

This bookmobile in Bainbridge, pictured ca. 1936-38, was reportedly the first one in Decatur County. "Decatur County Traveling Library" is painted on the door of the vehicle.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, # dec047.

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Bainbridge, 1923

Bainbridge, 1923

A parade passes down Broad Street in Bainbridge for the Decatur County centennial celebration in 1923.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, # dec009.

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Steamboat

Steamboat

The steamboat Getrude, laden with barrels of turpentine, passes a crowd on the banks of the Flint River near Bainbridge, 1910.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
dec060.

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