Despite Surges in Auburn, ‘Everybody Knows Everybody.’ Untrue.

Greg Markley


The U.S. Census Bureau recently released population numbers for the states and cities. Huntsville is now Alabama’s largest city, with more than 215,000 citizens. But Birmingham keeps its title as the largest metropolitan area in this state. Remember: this is an opinion column, not a news story. So I use quotes and humor since most non-engineers get turned off by too many statistics.

Unofficially nicknamed “The Loveliest Village on the Plains,” Auburn is a village only in reminiscences. It had 76,143 people as of the 2020 Census. It grew more than 42% between 2010 and 2020. Since I moved here in June 1996 , the city doubled in size. Opelika is on the move, as well, with a populace of 31,000 that increases daily. Its motto is “Rich in Heritage With a Vision for the Future.”

“Considering the thousands of individuals any one person meets just during their adolescence alone, the average person may well meet upwards of 10,000 people in a  lifetime,” according to “Nonetheless, calculating how many people the average person physically meets in a lifetime is a somewhat impossible statistic.” This is an answer to: “How many people will the average person physically meet in their lifetime?”

I looked that question up because I run into many people who say ‘Everybody knows everybody’ in the city they live in, whether Opelika or Auburn.

If these people really believe they know 76,000+ people in Auburn, seven times the normal number of people an individual meets in a lifetime, they must have hectic days.  No wonder they go to Starbucks so much.

What a student who lives in Opelika, for example, probably means is that he or she knows everyone in their own circle. Even then, not everybody meets everybody say, who are fellow students in an academic department. For instance, graduate students pursuing a doctorate are in an archives or a practicum sector where they won’t get to know every student in the similar major.

A lady once told me that her city, I think it was Dothan, was getting a second Walmart. It was her anecdotal way of saying her city was progressing. The reverse is saying ‘Everybody knows everybody’ to mean they live in a “village” atmosphere although it looks like a city. One year, Auburn won awards for both Best College Town and Best Small City. (Yet, as a political scientist myself I know different groups have different criteria for their awards.)

Of the top seven most populated cities in Alabama, Huntsville had nearly 20% growth in population from 2010 to 2020. The next three had negative growth: Birmingham at -5.4%, Montgomery at -2.5% and Mobile with -4.1%. Huntsville had a 215,000 population in the Census, while Birmingham had some 201,000. Montgomery recorded 201,000 and Mobile 187,000.

Fifth-place city Tuscaloosa had 10.16% growth and sixth place Hoover had 13.5%. The seventh most populated city in Alabama, noted the 2020 Census, was Auburn, with a superb growth of 42.6%. Opelika recorded a very good growth of 16.7%, for a population nearing 31,000.

As reported earlier, Alabama’s herculean efforts to maintain all seven congressional seats were successful. The results of the 2020 census determine the number of seats for each state in the U.S. House and also the number of electors for each state in the Electoral College, for elections from 2022 to 2030.

“The first census in 1790 asked just six questions: the name of the head of the household, the number of free white males older than 16, the number of free white males younger than 16, the number of free white females, the number of other free persons and the number of slaves,” said Tom G. Palmer, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Many people say that more than those initial questions are needed in today’s complex world.

With the 2020 Census results, California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will each lose one seat. That is the first time California lost a House seat. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain one seat. Again on a roll, Texas will gain two seats.

A major development nationally is that the Sunbelt city of Phoenix toppled Philadelphia for fifth most populated city in the United States. The Arizona capital has 1,608,139 residents to 1,603,797 for Philadelphia.

Perhaps “Brotherly Love” will not be seen among many Philly people when this news is disseminated. The consolation is that with Phoenix’s large population it is unlikely that ‘Everybody will know everybody.’”

Greg Markley first moved to Lee County in 1996. He has Masters’ in education and history. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer for 12 years.      


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