The seat of Dougherty County's government, Albany lies along the banks of the Flint River. It's about as Southern a town as you'll find anywhere, with a pace of life that's slower than that of big cities and a cost of living that's equally attractive.
With a population approaching 76,000 in the city itself, Albany is a young city from a demographic perspective, with most residents under the age of 45. Adjacent counties that are part of the Albany MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) include Lee County, which ranked 10th in 2003 as one of the state's fastest growing counties. Worth, Terrell, and Baker are the other counties in Albany's.MSA.
Founded in 1836 by Nelson Tift, and incorporated in 1841, Albany was named in hopes that it would become a transportation trade hub similar to the capital of New York.
Albany once boasted five train lines, moving as many as 55 trains through the city every day. The now-restored Union Station depot houses part of Thronateeska Heritage Center, which takes its name from the Creek Indian word for the Flint River. The center embraces a Museum of History, a planetarium, and a Science Discovery Center.
Albany's famous citizens include the peerless Ray Charles, born here in 1930. He gifted Georgia its official state song, "Georgia on my Mind." Famed bandleader Harry James was born in Albany in 1916, and Ray Stevens spent his teenage years here. Jim Fowler, who designed the Parks at Chehaw, one of the city's best recreational sites and was a wild animal authority and longtime host of Wild Kingdom, hails from Albany.
Local sports figures include Alice Coachman Davis, born here in 1923. She was the first African-American woman to take Olympic Gold in the 1948 games. Professional golfer Nancy Lopez and her husband, baseball legend Ray Knight, still live in Albany.
Albany's downtown revitalization centers around its riverfront. The RiverQuarium, opened in 2004, is a centerpiece of this activity, showcasing the ecology of the Flint River.
The city's vibrant cultural life features a symphony orchestra, a museum, a ballet, a theater and a chorale. The symphony is a professional organization with a full-time director and a regular concert season. The Albany Museum of Art pays good attention to the work of local artists, among them Mitch Mercer, known for his large vibrant canvases. A resource center for all arts organizations in this part of Georgia, the Albany Area Arts Council now is housed in the 1906 former Carnegie Library.
Albany's sporting life revolves around quail hunting season. But there's more: The city has an Arena football team, the South Georgia Wildcats, which started play in 2005.
Educational resources in Albany include two units of the University System of Georgia: Albany State University offers five bachelor's degree programs and six graduate degrees. Dalton College focuses on programs that allow students to complete core curriculum requirements. Also state supported, Albany Technical College provides technical and career education in a variety of fields from automotive repair to computer technology.
A strong economic and employment base supports Albany's quality of life, with major manufacturing employers such as Proctor & Gamble, Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., Miller Brewing Co., and Merck. The Marine Corps Logistics Command, a large non-manufacaturing employer, will grow another 150 jobs in the near future. Agriculture is important in Dougherty County, which ranks second in the nation in pecan production.
Southwest Georgia medical facilities serve this corner of the state at two locations, both in Albany: Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, a not-for-profit community hospital, and Palmyra Medical Centers, providing a range of up-to-the-minute medical services. One of Palmyra's centers, for instance, is devoted to orthopedics and neurosciences. "Phoebe," as most locals call it, is the region's largest employer, and in 2004 received a major national healthcare award for community health programs.