Williamson County is in the heart of southern Illinois. All major roadways to and through southern Illinois converge in the county. It is a natural to assume the leadership role in promoting the concept of regionalism throughout the area. Click on any of the items in the menu to the right for more specific information.
Williamson County is the geographic and economic hub of southern Illinois. Located at the crossroads of the region’s two major highways, it is a business and tourist magnet. Williamson County is growing at a faster rate than any other county in southern Illinois—1.9% since the 2000 census.
Williamson County is in the center of higher education in southern Illinois. John A. Logan College is in Carterville while Southern Illinois University Carbondale is less than 15 miles to the west. Rend Lake College, Southeastern Illinois College and Shawnee College are all
less than 45 minutes away.
Williamson County and all of southern Illinois is truly a sportsman’s dream. There are half a dozen lakes in the county and that many more within 50 miles. The county is home to the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and much of its land is included in the Shawnee National Forest. Outdoor sporting activities abound throughout the area.
Williamson County is also a tourist headquarters for the area. Twenty-one state parks and 13 federal recreation areas are located within easy driving distance. HerrinFesta Italiana, National Hunting and Fishing Days and scores of local festivals bring thousands of visitors annually to the region. Williamson County boasts half a dozen golf courses and three-dozen more can be found within 50 miles. Over 1500 motel rooms are located in the county and nearly 5000 are within an hour’s drive.
Williamson County lies in the heart of the southern Illinois region known as “Little Egypt,” an area stretching from Interstate 64 on the north to the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers on the south. The Mississippi marks the western boundary with Missouri, the Wabash provides the eastern border with Indiana and the Ohio separates the area from Kentucky on the south.
Nearly 500,000 people live in the 16 Illinois counties that lie within a 50-mile radius of Williamson County, the heaviest populated county at 66,357 residents. (The population swells to more than half a million when the Paducah, Kentucky and Cape Girardeau, Missouri areas, both less than 50 miles from Williamson County, are included in the economic trade region.)
The county is bisected east and west by Interstate 57 and north and south by Illinois Route 13, both 6-lane divided highways. St. Louis, Missouri is 120 miles northwest via Interstates 57 and 64, while Nashville, Tennessee is 170 miles southeast via Interstates 57 and 24. Ten of the major population centers in the Midwest—Chicago, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Evansville, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Milwaukee and Louisville—are all within a day’s drive of Williamson County.
Major towns located in Williamson County include Marion, Herrin, Carterville, Johnston City and several smaller communities. Williamson County is the population hub of southern Illinois, with over 62,000 citizens living within its 423 square miles. Half of those residents are in the 20-59 age group so important to providing a viable work force for industrial and manufacturing growth.
Nearly 6 out of 10 county residents can be found in the four largest communities. Marion’s more than 17,000 people make it the largest town in the county. Herrin’s population is over 11,000, Carterville is over 5,000 citizens and Johnston City has 3600 residents. Nearly 26,000 live in about a dozen other smaller communities and the county’s rural areas.
Approximately half of the residents are in the labor force and the unemployment rate usually tracks the state average. Median family income is $40,692 and the per capita income of $24,101 has shown growth in recent years. Manufacturing jobs employ over 12% of the workers in the county, health care and social assistance jobs employ 15% and jobs in the financial industry employ 6%. Eighty per cent of the residents have a high school diploma and 17.2% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. There are 25,358 housing units, 75% of which are owner-occupied.
The four largest communities—Marion, Herrin, Carterville and Johnston City—contribute financially to support the Redco organization. The chart below summarizes census data for the communities of Williamson County. Information about the county as a whole appears in the second column while the composite data about the smaller communities and the rural areas of the county appears in the last column.
Quality of Life
Founded in 1839, Williamson County now blends the charm and hospitality of small town life in the rural heartland of our country with the ambition and progressive attitudes of those in the urban and suburban centers of America. The county combines job opportunity and business growth with a populace that displays a strong sense of community and reflects the values of family life in a simpler time.