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Tulia, Texas

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Title: Tulia, Texas  
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Subject: Interstate 27, Swisher County, Texas, Silverton, Texas, Dimmitt, Texas, Farwell, Texas
Collection: Cities in Swisher County, Texas, Cities in Texas, County Seats in Texas
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Tulia, Texas

Tulia, Texas
Motto: The City With A Future
Tulia, Texas is located in Texas
Tulia, Texas
Location of Tulia, Texas
Country United States
State Texas
County Swisher
 • Total 3.5 sq mi (9.2 km2)
 • Land 3.5 sq mi (9.2 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 3,484 ft (1,062 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 4,967
 • Density 1,419.1/sq mi (539.9/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 79088
Area code(s) 806
FIPS code 48-73868[1]
GNIS feature ID 1370199[2]
Website .org.tuliatexaswww

Tulia is a city in, and county seat of, Swisher County, Texas, United States.[3] The population was 4,967 at the 2010 census; in the 2013 census estimate, it had fallen to 4,903.[4] The city is at the junction of U.S. Route 87 and Texas State Highway 86, approximately two miles east of Interstate 27. Tulia is a center for farming and agribusiness activities.


  • History 1
    • 1999 drug arrest scandal 1.1
  • Geography 2
    • Climate 2.1
  • Demographics 3
  • Politics 4
  • Education 5
  • Media 6
  • In media 7
  • Notable people 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Its site was originally on the acreage of the Tule Ranch division of the JA Ranch. In 1887 a post office was established in James A. Parrish's dugout on Middle Tule Draw nine miles west of what is now the site of Tulia. Evidently the name Tule, after the nearby creek, had been selected for this post office, but at some point a clerk's error changed the name to Tulia. By 1900 Tulia was prospering as a stopping point for freight-wagon traffic en route to the railheads of Colorado City and Amarillo. A booming new era began with the extension of the Santa Fe line to Tulia in December 1906. With it came more settlers. In the mid-1980s local industrial plants manufactured products such as clothing and farm implements, and there were four large cattle-feeding enterprises nearby.[5]

1999 drug arrest scandal

Tulia gained notoriety following a drug sting in July 1999 that rounded up 46 people, 40 of whom were innocent African Americans. The remaining detainees were white people known to have ties within the black community, and in fact lived in the "Black" part of town. Nearly one-third of Tulia's Black males were arrested, about 15% of the town's Black population.[6][7] All charges were based on the word of undercover officer Tom Coleman, a so-called "gypsy cop" who made his living traveling through impoverished rural Texas offering to work undercover cheaply for short periods of time for underfunded police departments. Coleman claimed to have made over one hundred drug buys in the small town. He never recorded any of the sales, but claimed to have written painstaking notes on his leg under his shorts and upper arm under his shirt sleeve when nobody was looking.

During the roundup, no large sums of money, illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, or illegal weapons were found. The accused drug dealers showed no signs of having any income associated with selling drugs. The drugs Coleman claimed to have bought from the accused did not have the fingerprints of the accused on them or their baggies. No independent witnesses could corroborate Coleman's claims. In his testimony, Coleman gave inaccurate descriptions of the "dealers" he had allegedly bought cocaine from. One suspect had his charges dropped when he was able to prove he had been at work during the times he had supposedly sold Coleman cocaine. Another produced bank and phone records indicating she was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at the time of her alleged crime. Many of the accused, however, seeing the long sentences dealt by all-white juries in earlier cases, pleaded guilty in return for lighter sentences, despite their proclaimed innocence. The remaining defendants were convicted solely on the basis of Coleman's testimony. The Texas Department of Public Safety awarded "Lawman of the Year" to Coleman.[8][9]

Amarillo civil rights attorney Jeff Blackburn began investigating the Tulia defendants' cases,[10] along with civil rights organizations and a handful of attorneys from firms around the country.[11] Eventually the case became a cause célèbre, and money was raised to legally challenge the cases. Many had already served several years in prison before this process gained momentum. By 2004, Blackburn and his team had freed most of the "Tulia 46" and a $6,000,000 collective settlement was reached to avoid further litigation in civil court. Local authorities remain defiant, promising their town will not become a "slot machine" in the face of a new lawsuit stemming from an alleged incident of police brutality during the sweep.[12][13]

In 2005, Coleman was convicted of perjury and sentenced to ten years' probation and a $7,500 fine.[14]

Federal laws titled after Tulia have twice been introduced in the United States Congress, but not enacted, to increase the evidentiary standard required to convict a person for a drug offense and to require screening of law enforcement officers or others acting under color of law participating in drug task forces.[15]


Tulia is located at (34.5358942, -101.7585159).[16] It is located 46 miles (74 km) south of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.5 square miles (9.1 km2), all of it land.


According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Tulia has a semi-arid climate, abbreviated "BSk" on climate maps.[17]


As of the census of 2000,[1] there were 5,117 people, 1,698 households, and 1,222 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,447.6 people per square mile (559.7/km2). There were 1,898 housing units at an average density of 537.0 per square mile (207.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 66.45% White, 8.40% African American, 0.43% Native American, 0.10% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 22.12% from other races, and 2.48% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 39.63% of the population.

There were 1,698 households out of which 37.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.5% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 25.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.18.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.8% under the age of 18, 11.9% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 18.7% from 45 to 64, and 15.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 113.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 116.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,794, and the median income for a family was $32,415. Males had a median income of $24,857 versus $20,000 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,956. About 16.0% of families and 19.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.7% of those under age 18 and 14.9% of those age 65 or over.


Federally, Tulia is represented by Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry.


The city is served by the Tulia Independent School District.

Schools that serve Tulia include:

  • Tulia High School (Grades 9-12)
  • Tulia Junior High School (Grades 6-8)
  • W.V. Swinburn Elementary School (Grades 3-5)
  • Highland Elementary School (Grades EE-2)


  • Swisher County News

In media

A documentary Tulia, Texas: Scenes from the Drug War was filmed by Sarah Kunstler and Emily Kunstler in 2003, and won the Best Documentary Short award at Woodstock Film Festival.[20][21]

Another documentary, titled Tulia, Texas, filmed by Cassandra Herman and Kelly Whalen, premiered in 2008 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin and aired on PBS February 10, 2009.[22]

Presently, the Tulia 46 drug sting event is in movie production Tulia by Paramount Pictures, directed by John Singleton and starring Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry, scheduled for release in 2014.[23][24]

The 1999 drug arrests were also explored in the documentary 'American Drug War: The Last White Hope'.

Notable people


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names".  
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ Estimate. - U.S. Census Bureau. - - April 2005. - (Microsoft Excel *.XLS document).
  5. ^ Tulia, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
  6. ^ "The Color of Justice in Tulia Texas". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  7. ^ Nate Blakeslee. Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town. New York: PublicAffairs.  
  8. ^ "The Color of Justice by Nate Blakeslee - The Texas Observer". Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  9. ^ "Tulia Travesty Covered Up By Texas Prosecutors and Courts". Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  10. ^ Jeff Blackburn: Tulia Defender, 1-13-2003, .com.lawwww, Retrieved 8-23-2010.
  11. ^ Nate Blakeslee. Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 1-58648-454-0
  12. ^ "The Austin Chronicle: News: Color of Justice: An Undercover Drug Bust Opens Old Wounds in Tulia, Texas". Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  13. ^ "News & Opinion: Color of Justice (Austin Chronicle . 07-31-00)". Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  14. ^ Rise of the Warrior Cop; The militarization of America's police forces, by Radley Balko, 2013, kindle location 4445
  15. ^ "H.R. 253: No More Tulias: Drug Law Enforcement Evidentiary Standards Improvement Act of 2007 (". Retrieved 2008-01-07. 
  16. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  17. ^ Climate Summary for Tulia, Texas
  18. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  20. ^ Tulia, Texas: Scenes from the Drug War (2003) at the Internet Movie Database
  21. ^ Woodstock Film Festival 2004 Screening
  22. ^ Tulia, Texas (2008) at the Internet Movie Database
  23. ^ Tulia (2014) at the Internet Movie Database
  24. ^ "Tulia (2008) - Movie Details - Cast & Crew, Photos & Trailer - The Movie Insider". Retrieved 2008-01-07. 

External links

  • City of Tulia
  • Tulia, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
  • from 1918-1956Tulia HeraldSearch the
  • Tulia Independent School District
  • Tulia, Texas (Video).  
  • Tulia, Texas at the Internet Movie Database (Documentary)
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