Durant was ranked as the fastest growing rural city in Oklahoma in 2004, having the fastest growth rate outside of the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas. Today, the city is ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Less than ten miles (16 km) away, Lake Texoma has between 8-10 million tourists every year and is the 12th largest lake in the United States, and also one of the largest reservoirs in the country, contributing to Durant's economic and population growth.
Durant is home to Southeastern Oklahoma State University and also the Headquarters of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, though the historic capitol building is in Tuskahoma. Durant ranks as the second largest city within the Choctaw Nation, following McAlester, and ahead of Poteau. The city has officially been recognized as the Magnolia Capital of Oklahoma, and the SOSU campus is known as the "Campus of 1,000 Magnolias".
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.1 square miles (49.4 km²), of which, 19.0 square miles (49.3 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.16%) is water.
Durant is located in a region named Texoma, and also Texomaland, because of its short distance from Lake Texoma. Durant can also be classified as being in Southeastern Oklahoma, and/or South Central Oklahoma, and also Arbuckle Country. The city is approximately north of the Red River, which is the border between Oklahoma and Texas. Dallas is also about south of Durant, but, McKinney is closer to Durant which is where the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex actually begins.
Durant's first census was recorded in 1900, and the population was 2,969. The 2000 census reported Durant's population to be 13,549. In 2005, Durant's population grew to 14,795. The city's population in 2006 was 15,050.
There were 5,488 households out of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.8% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.7% were non-families. 32.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 18.1% from 18 to 24, 24.7% from 25 to 44, 17.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 90.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $25,328, and the median income for a family was $32,988. Males had a median income of $26,574 versus $19,676 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,849. About 17.2% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.8% of those under age 18 and 17.6% of those age 65 or over.
Pierre Durant, pronounced DuRant in French, and his four sons made the trudge down the Mississippi on the way to the southeastern part of the Choctaw Nation in 1832. The brothers, grown, with families of their own, established homesteads from the Arkansas line to Durant.
One son, Fisher, married to a full blood Choctaw, found a beautiful location for a home between Durant’s present Eight and Ninth Avenues. His son, Dixon Durant is recognized as the founder of Durant and is honored with his namesake. As an early day minister, businessman and civic leader, Dixon Durant is credited with pastorates in local Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Methodist churches; establishment of the first store selling general merchandise; and possibly influencing the 1872 erection of a Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy Railroad) siding at Durant, thus producing the initial impetus for establishing the community.
A post office for “Durant Station” was authorized in 1879, evidence that a village of some size had developed during the seven years since the coming of the railroad. A.E. Fulsom was post master. Discontinued in 1881, the post office re-established in 1882 with the address as “Durant, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory.” The word “station” was never again used as part of the official name for the community.
Durant is home to Southeastern Oklahoma State University, which has about 4,000 enrolled students.
Durant has an estimated student population of 3,400.
Durant High School was one of six schools nation-wide to earn the recognition as a "Great American High School" in 2002. Durant High School is located in the center of the town on a hilly terrain, creating beautiful views of the school and from the school. The high school has approximately 900 students, making it one of the largest high schools in Southeastern Oklahoma. Grades 9-12 attend Durant High School. The school offers numerous elective classes such as art, athletics, drama, agricultural education, Spanish and Choctaw, forensics, psychology, various health and medical classes (such as those that sponsor, HOSA), keyboarding and computer applications, business technology, information technology, choir, and also advanced placements for the basic classes.
On April 1, 2008, the vote to increase the city's sales tax 5/8 cent for 25 years in order to provide funding for Durant's new high school passed. The new high school will be built on the northside of Durant and will accommodate 1,200 students. It is expected to be completed in 2011 for the 2011-2012 school year. Grades 7 and 8 will then move to the current high school building, because of the aging and cramped middle school facility. The sales tax increase went into effect on July 1, 2008 and will end on ,or before, June 30, 2033.
Durant Middle School is located just outside of the downtown district, being built in 1919, it is the oldest school building in Durant. It originally housed the High School until the 1950s. Now grades 7-8 attend the Middle School with about 480 students.
Durant Intermediate School is located in the medical district in the northern section of Durant. In fact, the Intermediate School was formerly the Bryan Memorial Hospital before the construction of the Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma in 1987. Grades 4-6 attend the Intermediate School with about 670 students. The school recently converted a north wing which now houses the 4th graders, which was completed just before the 2006-2007 school year.
Three elementary schools are located in Durant; Washington Irving Elementary (515 students), Northwest Heights Elementary (580 students), and Robert E. Lee Elementary (250 students). George Washington Elementary formerly served as an elementary school before closing in 2003 due to funding problems. It is now used for additional office space and grant programs. Vision Academy relocated to the George Washington building which provided space for 4th grade classrooms at Durant Middle School. Grades Pre-K through 3rd attend the 3 remaining the elementary schools.
Durant also has a private school, Victory Life Academy, which has an enrollment of about 250 students. It serves grades Pre-K through 12. Silo Public Schools has a Durant, Oklahoma 74701 address.
By 1894, Calvin Institute, one of a few schools for Indian youths, was established in Durant. Though this school was to change its name twice more, by 1899 it had already attracted an enrollment of 300. The school eventually became known as Oklahoma Presbyterian College. This was accomplished shortly after Oklahoma was admitted to the Union as a State. The support for the school came from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the federal government, and several denominational missionary boards. Because of financial difficulties, the school was closed as a learning institution in the late 1960s.
Chief Clark David Gardner, in 1975, wished to establish the Choctaw Nation administrative offices at the old Presbyterian College Building.
In 1976, in cooperation with the Durant Chamber of Commerce and the owners of the buildings, the Red River Valley Historical Association, title was transferred into the federal government. Impressive ceremonies were held August 17, 1976, commemorating the title transfer. Reacquisition of this building allowed centralization of government which permits more effective utilization of personnel in administering current programs and developing future programs. The buildings has been renovated, and administration of many Choctaw programs are headquartered there.
Calvin Institute was originally the North Building of the Choctaw Nation Headquarters. The establishment of Oklahoma Presbyterian College lead to the construction of the current South Building of the CNHQ. After Choctaw Nation had acquired the former OPC buildings, Choctaw Nation built a third structure, the Financial Building, to accommodate growth. The Nation and has since then built several other structures behind the main buildings to accommodate even more growth, creating today's complex.
Though the Capitol of the Choctaw Nation is recognized as being Tuskahoma, the administrative offices remain at the old Presbyterian College, formerly the old Calvin Institute. The Choctaws have strong ties with the school, being a part of their culture, history and religion, having served as one of the early educational institutions for their people.
Durant is a progressive community with a thriving, diversified local economy, and currently leads the state in economic development. One of the city's strongest industries is tourism; attractions include Lake Texoma, Lake Durant, the Choctaw Casino Resort, Choctaw Casino Bingo, Fort Washita, the Three Valley Museum, the annual Magnolia Festival held in downtown, and the World's Largest Peanut. Manufacturing and distribution are growing industries that are occurring in Durant with several factories of such industries being constructed and planned.
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has a huge impact on Durant's economy, especially the two casinos that bring in millions of dollars everyday, which is then used for education. The Choctaw Casino Resort and the Choctaw Casino Bingo, located between Durant and Calera along U.S. 69/75, is a thriving area with economic success.
Another important part of Durant's economy is the city's Historic Central Business District and the Retail District. In the past few years, Downtown Durant has seen growth, renewal projects such as streetscaping, and new businesses arriving. Durant is part of the Main Street Program. The Retail District has seen tremendous growth and continues to see growth. The district is west of Downtown, at the intersection of U.S. 69/75 and U.S. 70, and is Durant's fastest growing area.
Cardinal Glass Industries has a float glass manufacturing facility in western Durant. It became operational in July of 2004. This plant is number twenty for Cardinal Glass Industries. This is the largest single investment, ever made, in Durant and Bryan County, an investment of $122,000,000.
Big Lots has a . distribution center in the southern part of Durant, it became operational in January of 2004. This represents the second largest investment ever for Durant, and the county, of $80,000,000.
The city has numerous shopping centers scattered throughout and many major retailers including:
and many others.
Major restaurant chains in the city include:
Busy streets also criss-cross Durant, the busiest being Main Street, which is also U.S. 70. First Avenue is also a major street that carries traffic northward away from Downtown, or southward toward Downtown. Other busy streets include Ninth Avenue, University Boulevard, Washington Avenue, Radio Road, and University Place, all of which have seen increased traffic in recent years.
There are three exits in Durant from U.S. 69/75 which are at First Avenue, Washington Avenue, and Main Street; construction of exit/entrance ramps is under way at University Boulevard, as of March 2008, the exit off of northbound 69/75 is the only one complete. There are also traffic lights at the intersection of U.S. 69/75 and Choctaw Road south of Durant, where the Choctaw Casino Bingo and Resort is located.
Eaker Field, the town's airport and home to Southeastern Oklahoma State University's Aviation Sciences Institute, was a U.S. Navy auxiliary airfield during World War II. It is named after U.S. Army Air Force General Ira C. Eaker, early commander of the legendary Eighth Air Force in wartime England, who graduated from the university (then known as Southeastern State Teacher's College) in 1917.
The city of Durant, as is Bryan County, Southeastern Oklahoma and North Texas, is served by the Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma. Built in 1987, MCSO replaced the Bryan Memorial Hospital. MCSO is at the heart of Durant's medical district, along with the Durant Medical Complex, Choctaw/Chickasaw Indian Clinic, and numerous other medical establishments.