Prior to Tullahoma or the railroad, the area was settled by farmers. These farmers came mostly from Virginia and North Carolina. Early settlers were Moore, Deckerd, Anderson, Ragon, Montgomery, Ferrell, Stephenson, and Gunn. A spring known to the first settlers as Bottle Spring, and later as John Gunn's Spring is today Big Springs. This spring provided water for the steam locomotives[Historical & Biographical Sketches of Coffee County, TN].
In April 1861, Company B, 1st Regiment of Tennessee Volunteers formed Peter Turney's division in Tullahoma. The division joined Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The division fought in the battles of Bull Run, Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Petersburg, and surrendered to U.S. Grant at Appomattox. The town became highly significant during the Civil War, and served as the headquarters for the Confederate Army of Tennessee in 1863. The campaign of that year, which ultimately delivered control of Middle Tennessee to the Union and opened the door to Atlanta, is known as the Tullahoma Campaign.
Tullahoma was then still little more than a rough outpost, with no paved streets. 1863 was a wet year, and the place became known to the bedraggled troops of both sides as a place of endless mud. One witty officer on Confederate General William Hardee's staff is said to have written his own account of the origin of the name: "It is from two Greek words - 'Tulla' meaning mud, and 'Homa,' meaning more mud." The selection and use of Tullahoma as a headquarters by Confederate General Braxton Bragg has since been much criticized by military historians. Although the location was strategic with regard to the road and rail network, it had no strong natural defenses and little was done to fortify it during Bragg's occupation. Eventually the town was evacuated without a battle.
After the war, Tullahoma recovered slowly, but began to prosper from its vital railroad link. During this period, Tullahoma became renowned for its educational facilities, a rarity in the area at the time. At the turn of the 20th century, Tullahoma became a popular health destination, with many spas across town. Manufacturing grew up in the area, notably of shoes, clothing, and sporting goods. In 1924, the General Shoe Corporation was established there, which would eventually grow into Genesco Inc., a diversified apparel firm which is Tennessee's oldest listed firm on the New York Stock Exchange. From the early 1900s thru today, a variety of sports products have been manufactured in Tullahoma. Such products are baseballs, bats, and golf clubs by Campbell Mfg, Wilsons, Worth Sports, and Rawlings. In 1939, U.S. Highway 41A was built through town, giving Tullahoma access to Nashville and Chattanooga.
In the early to mid-20th century, the area benefited from considerable federal investment and development, from the Tennessee Valley Authority to the establishment of Camp Forrest, an infantry training center and later POW camp, and Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC), where the Air Force and NASA did early wind tunnel testing. Later the state located two significant institutions of higher learning there, Motlow State Community College, and the University of Tennessee's Space Institute.
Today manufacturing is a smaller part of the Tullahoma economy, but the town's growth has been steady, although slow, based on a mixture of education, services, tourism, and retail. The presence of AEDC and the Space Institute, combined with a convenient proximity to the aerospace center of Huntsville, Alabama, has bred a small but thriving aeronautical industry as well.
Tullahoma celebrated its 150th (sesquicentennial) anniversary on October 4th, 2002.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 22.3 square miles (57.8 km²), of which, 22.2 square miles (57.6 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (0.45%) is water.
There were 7,336 households out of which 32.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.9% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.3% were non-families. 27.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.94.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 23.0% from 45 to 64, and 16.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,119, and the median income for a family was $39,797. Males had a median income of $33,662 versus $20,962 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,002. About 14.2% of families and 17.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.0% of those under age 18 and 13.0% of those age 65 or over.
K-12 public education is provided through a city school system.
Tullahoma High School "Wildcat" athletic teams compete in the TSSAA in public school divisions. The Tullahoma Wildcat Football Team is currently in the 4A classification while all other team sports compete in 3A.
Tullahoma High School Alumni include former NFL QB Steve Matthews, former NFL LB Antonio London, Red Sox draft picks OF Tony Sheffield and 3B Sam Melton, 3rd Overall pick in the 2001 MLB draft Dewon Brazelton, former Giants minor leaguer Gary Phillips, former Mariners minor leaguer Marshall Nisbett, 2006 Dodgers 1st round draft pick Bryan Morris, Tennessee House of Representatives member Judd Matheny, actress Samantha Burton, star of The Sandlot 2, and singer/songwriter Jason Robison.
Professional wrestler Jimmy Valiant known as "The Boogie Woogie Man" and "Handsome" Jimmy Valiant and former Tennessee governor Isham G. Harris were both born "near" Tullahoma. Dewon Brazelton Was also born in Tullahoma.