Alfred Beckley (1802-1888) said he gave Raleigh County its name in honor of Sir Walter Raleigh (1552?-1618), the “enterprising and far-seeing patron of the earliest attempts to colonize our old Mother State of Virginia,” according to “Raleigh County: West Virginia” by Jim Wood.
As of the census of 2000, there were 79,220 people, 31,793 households, and 22,096 families residing in the county. The population density was 130 people per square mile (50/km²). There were 35,678 housing units at an average density of 59 per square mile (23/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 89.63% White, 8.52% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.72% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 0.80% from two or more races. 0.92% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. This number is around 0.3% based on a 2006 Census Estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau
There were 31,793 households out of which 28.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.30% were married couples living together, 11.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.50% were non-families. 27.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 2.88.
In the county, the population was spread out with 21.50% under the age of 18, 8.70% from 18 to 24, 28.60% from 25 to 44, 25.70% from 45 to 64, and 15.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 96.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $28,181, and the median income for a family was $35,315. Males had a median income of $33,000 versus $20,672 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,233. About 14.60% of families and 18.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.70% of those under age 18 and 10.50% of those age 65 or over.