Tulia, Texas

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Tulia, Texas
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The City With A Future
Swisher County Tulia.svg
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Tulia, Texas
Location of Tulia, Texas
Coordinates: 34°32′09″N101°45′31″W / 34.53583°N 101.75861°W / 34.53583; -101.75861 Coordinates: 34°32′09″N101°45′31″W / 34.53583°N 101.75861°W / 34.53583; -101.75861
Country United States
State Texas
County Swisher
  Total3.5 sq mi (9.2 km2)
  Land3.5 sq mi (9.2 km2)
  Water0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
3,484 ft (1,062 m)
  Density1,400/sq mi (540/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
  Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 806
FIPS code 48-73868 [1]
GNIS feature ID1370199 [2]
Website www.tuliatexas.org

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 2018 census estimate, it had fallen to 4,682. [4] The city is at the junction of U.S. Route 87 and Texas State Highway 86, about 2 mi east of Interstate 27. Tulia is a center for farming and agribusiness activities.

City Large and permanent human settlement

A city is a large human settlement. Cities generally have extensive systems for housing, transportation, sanitation, utilities, land use, and communication. Their density facilitates interaction between people, government organisations and businesses, sometimes benefiting different parties in the process.

A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or civil parish. The term is used in Canada, China, Romania, Taiwan and the United States. County towns have a similar function in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and historically in Jamaica.

Swisher County, Texas U.S. county in Texas

Swisher County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 7,854. Its county seat is Tulia. The county was created in 1876 and later organized in 1890. It is named for James G. Swisher, a soldier of the Texas Revolution and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.



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, 9 mi 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 four large cattle-feeding enterprises were 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 Whites 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 100 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.

African Americans are an ethnic group of Americans with total or partial ancestry from any of the black racial groups of Africa. The term typically refers to descendants of enslaved black people who are from the United States.

In law enforcement in the United States, the phrase gypsy cop is slang for a police officer who frequently transfers between police departments, often because of or regardless of misconduct or poor or unsuitable job performance.

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" from whom he had allegedly bought cocaine. 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]

Cocaine strong stimulant used as a recreational drug

Cocaine, also known as coke, is a strong stimulant most frequently used as a recreational drug. It is commonly snorted, inhaled as smoke, or dissolved and injected into a vein. Mental effects may include loss of contact with reality, an intense feeling of happiness, or agitation. Physical symptoms may include a fast heart rate, sweating, and large pupils. High doses can result in very high blood pressure or body temperature. Effects begin within seconds to minutes of use and last between five and ninety minutes. Cocaine has a small number of accepted medical uses such as numbing and decreasing bleeding during nasal surgery.

An all-white jury is a sworn body composed only of white people convened to render an impartial verdict in a legal proceeding. Juries composed solely of one racial group are not prohibited in the United States. However, the phrases "all-white jury" and "all-black jury"' may raise the expectation that deliberations may be less than fair. While the racial composition of juries is not dictated by law, racial discrimination in the selection of jurors is specifically prohibited. Racial discrimination in jury selection has a long history in the United States.

Plea bargaining in the United States is very common; the vast majority of criminal cases in the United States are settled by plea bargain rather than by a jury trial. They have also been increasing in frequency—they rose from 84% of federal cases in 1984 to 94% by 2001. Plea bargains are subject to the approval of the court, and different States and jurisdictions have different rules. Game theory has been used to analyze the plea bargaining decision.

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]

A cause célèbre is an issue or incident arousing widespread controversy, outside campaigning, and heated public debate. The term continues in the media in all senses. It is sometimes used positively for celebrated legal cases for their precedent value and more often negatively for infamous ones, whether for scale, outrage, scandal or conspiracy theories.

Police brutality Use of excessive force by a police officer

Police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct which involves undue violence by police members. Widespread police brutality exists in many countries and territories, even those that prosecute it. Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law.

In 2005, Coleman was convicted of perjury and sentenced to 10 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°32′09″N101°45′31″W / 34.5358942°N 101.7585159°W / 34.5358942; -101.7585159 (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 semiarid climate, BSk on climate maps. [17]

Record Low

Tulia holds the record for the lowest temperature in Texas, -23°F, set during the Great Blizzard of 1899. The temperature was matched by Seminole, Texas, in 1933. [18]


Historical population
1910 1,216
1920 1,189−2.2%
1930 2,20285.2%
1940 2,055−6.7%
1950 3,22256.8%
1960 4,41036.9%
1970 5,29420.0%
1980 5,033−4.9%
1990 4,699−6.6%
2000 5,1178.9%
2010 4,967−2.9%
Est. 20184,682 [19] −5.7%
U.S. Decennial Census [20]

As of the census of 2000, [1] 5,117 people, 1,698 households, and 1,222 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,447.6 people per square mile (559.7/km2). The 1,898 housing units averaged 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, 22.14% from other races, and 2.48% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 39.63% of the population.

Of the 1,698 households, 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 not families. About 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 distributed as 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 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.


Tulia is represented in the U.S. House by Republican Mac Thornberry.


The city is served by the Tulia Independent School District.

Schools that serve Tulia include:



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. [21] [22]

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. [23]

The Tulia 46 drug sting event was in movie production; Tulia by Paramount Pictures, directed by John Singleton and starring Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry, and was scheduled for release in 2014. [24] [25]

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

Rattlesnake is a 2019 crime drama mystery film set in Tulia.

Notable people

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  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 (GovTrack.us)" . Retrieved 2008-01-07.
  16. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  17. Climate Summary for Tulia, Texas
  18. "Texas Day by Day". texasdaybyday.com. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  19. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates" . Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  20. "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  21. Tulia, Texas: Scenes from the Drug War (2003) on IMDb
  22. Woodstock Film Festival 2004 Screening
  23. Tulia, Texas (2008) on IMDb
  24. Tulia (2014) on IMDb
  25. "Tulia (2008) - Movie Details - Cast & Crew, Photos & Trailer - The Movie Insider" . Retrieved 2008-01-07.