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Bedford County was created in 1753 from parts of Lunenburg County, and several changes in alignment were made until the present borders were established in 1786. The county was named in honor of John Russell, an English statesman and fourth Duke of Bedford.
The town of Bedford became an independent city in 1968, and remained the county seat. On September 14, 2011, the Bedford City Council voted to transition into a town, ending its independent city status. The supervisors of Bedford County also voted to accept the town of Bedford as part of the county when it loses city status. The town of Bedford once more became part of Bedford County on July 1, 2013.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 769 square miles (1,990 km2), of which 753 square miles (1,950 km2) is land and 16 square miles (41 km2) (2.1%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 60,371 people, 23,838 households, and 18,164 families residing in the county. The population density was 80 people per square mile (31/km²). There were 26,841 housing units at an average density of 36 per square mile (14/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 92.18% White, 6.24% Black or African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.20% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. 0.74% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 28.2% were of American, 15.6% English, 11.0% German and 9.6% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 23,838 households out of which 32.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.40% were married couples living together, 7.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.80% were non-families. 20.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 2.89.
In the county, the population's age distribution was: 24.00% under the age of 18, 5.80% from 18 to 24, 29.90% from 25 to 44, 27.50% from 45 to 64, and 12.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 99.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.50 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $43,136, and the median income for a family was $49,303. Males had a median income of $35,117 versus $23,906 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,582. About 5.20% of families and 7.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.30% of those under age 18 and 10.50% of those age 65 or over.
As of 2017, the largest self-reported ancestry groups were:
Bedford County is represented by Republicans David R. Suetterlein (19th District) and Stephen D. "Steve" Newman (23rd District) in the Virginia Senate; Republicans Terry L. Austin (19th District), Kathy J. Byron (22nd District) and Wendell S. Walker (23rd District) in the Virginia House of Delegates; and Republicans Denver Riggleman (VA 5th District) and Ben Cline (VA 6th District) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Historically, Bedford County was an agricultural economy. While agriculture is still an important factor in the county's economy, Bedford County has significant residential development to serve Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Smith Mountain Lake. Tourism and retail are also becoming more significant with some new industry near Forest and New London.
Bedford voted for George Wallace, an Independent for President in 1968.
Colonel Chaffin (1826 - April 1873), little person who toured the United States and was billed as the "Virginia Dwarf".
Erik Estrada (born March 16, 1949), an American actor, voice actor, and subsequent Bedford County deputy sheriff, known for his co-starring lead role in the police drama television series, CHiPs, which ran from 1977 to 1983.
Carl Overstreet, (1929-2015) first U2 pilot to fly over Soviet Air Space
^Salmon, edited by Emily J.; Campbell, Jr, Edward D.C. (1994). The Hornbook of Virginia History : a ready-reference guide to the Old Dominion's people, places, and past (4th ed.). Richmond: Library of Virginia. ISBN0884901777.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)