According to the 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the city's population was 36,721.
Florence is the largest and principal city of the Florence - Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Statistical Area known as "The Shoals" (which includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia metropolitan areas and Colbert and Lauderdale counties). Florence is considered the primary economic hub of northwestern Alabama.
Florence is the birthplace of W.C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues," as well as of pioneering record producer Sam Phillips, who discovered Elvis Presley. T.S. Stribling, a 20th-century author and Florence resident, wrote a prose trilogy about the city consisting of The Forge, The Store (which won the Pulitzer Prize), and Unfinished Cathedral. Dred Scott also once resided in Florence, where as a slave, he worked as a hostler at the Peter Blow Inn on Tennessee street. A plaque at the former site commemorates his time there. Bobby W. Miller, who marched with Dr. M.L. King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama in 1965, was credited later with ending segregated locker rooms at the Ford Motor Company Die Cast Plant in Sheffield, Alabama, where he was employed from 1962-1974. Miller was shot down twice in Vietnam and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal.Tom York lived in Florence and is a graduate of the University of North Alabama and spent eight years in radio in Florence (WLAY). In 1957, he joined WBRC-TV in Birmingham, Alabama as their sports director. He also originated the Tom York Morning Show (one of America's longest running one hour local talk shows) on the air for 32 years. He was awarded an Emmy by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1995.
Florence is renown for its annual tourism events, including W.C. Handy Music Festival in the summer, and the Renaissance Faire in the autumn. Florencian landmarks include the Rosenbaum House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home located in the Southeast.
The type of municipal government is mayor-council.
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 36,264 people, 15,820 households, and 9,555 families residing in the city. The population density was 561.6/km² (1,454.6/mi²). There were 17,707 housing units at an average density of 274.2/km² (710.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.39% White, 19.20% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.54% from other races, and 0.97% from two or more races. 1.34% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 15,820 households, out of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them: 43.6% were married couples living together, 14.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. Nearly 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20, and the average family size was 2.82.
In the city, the population was spread out with 21.4% under the age of 18, 13.7% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 84.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,330, and the median income for a family was $40,577. Males had a median income of $34,398 versus $21,385 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,464. About 14.4% of families and 20.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.9% of those under age 18 and 13.3% of those age 65 or over.
Situated in Florence, and founded in 1830 as LaGrange College, the University of North Alabama, a public, co-educational, higher education institution, is Alabama's oldest state-certified university.
Florence City Schools is the organization of the K-12 public school system. Florence High School (grades 10-12) is the main high school, with an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students. It was created by a merge between the previous Coffee High School and Henry A. Bradshaw High School. The merger also led to the creation of Florence Middle School (grades 7-8) and the Florence Freshman Center (grade 9). Florence City High School has a dress code that is considered to be relatively more strict, as compared to the previous two high schools which were merged.
There are four private schools in Florence: St. Joseph Regional Catholic School (K-8), Mars Hill Bible School, Shoals Christian School, and Florence Christian Academy. Those are multi-denominational, private K-12 schools.
Florence's McFarland Park is a resting point for riders in the annual Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride, which terminates in nearby Waterloo. The ride commemorates the final point at which area Cherokee Native Americans were shipped off to Oklahoma and the mid-west by the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
The Florence Indian Mound is the largest of its type in the Tennessee Valley Region. The mound, which measures 310Hx230Wx42D (feet) and named "Wawmanona" was built circa 500 A.D. and is thought to be locale for tribal ceremony and ritual. A museum is adjacent to the base.
Pope's Tavern, is a renowned historical stop and served as a hospital along the way of many skirmishing Civil War soldiers from the North and South, and is one of Florence's oldest standing structures.
The Mariott Shoals Hotel & Spa, a four-diamond facility, formerly the Florence Conference Center, also features a revolving restaurant atop the Renaissance Tower, both which are nearby the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and overlook the Tennessee River and Wilson Dam.
Florence Harbor Marina is situated on Pickwick lake adjacent to McFarland Park.
The Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts is the center for numerous cultural activities, exhibits and events, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and provides administrative offices for Florence's six museums.
Florence also has a Children's Museum.
Florence is home to one of the oldest Disc Golf courses in the State. It is at Veterans Park, and was established in 1983.
The recently completed and redesigned Florence/Lauderdale Public Library opened its doors in 2002.
The George Lindsey/UNA Film Festival has been ongoing for nine years, and is named in honor of George Lindsey, an actor who is most famous for his character portrayal of "Goober Pyle" on The Andy Griffith Show (television series). Mr. Lindsey is a UNA (then known as Florence State College) graduate.
Florence is also the current host of the NCAA Division II National Football Championship Game, an event operated by the Shoals National Championship Committee, the University of North Alabama, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.