We say Goodbye to Macon County Legend Nera White
Macon County native Nera White passed away this past week at Sumner Regional Medical Center due to complications from pneumonia.
White, 80, was regarded by many as the best athlete ever to come from Macon County and a pioneer of womens basketball.
White was a prep standout at Macon County High School graduating in 1954. She was co-captain of the basketball team from 52’ to 54’ and was voted ‘Most Athletic’ her Junior and Senior Year. She was a four year starter at forward back when the women’s game was six on six and a half court game. She was a two time 20th District MVP and led the 1953 MCHS women’s team to the first ever district title. Following high school she attended George Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University). Since Peabody did not have a women’s basketball team, she played AAU with the Nashville Business College.
While playing AAU basketball she was named AAU All-American 15 years in a row from 1955 to 1969. She led Nashville Business College to 10 championships, eight of them consecutive titles. During this period she was named Most Outstanding Player in the AAU national tournament nine times. She led the women’s US national team to victory in 1957 in a championship game over the undefeated Soviet Union. This was regarded as the very first major championship athletic event featuring both countries and White was named MVP of the tournament.
After her retirement in 1969 White received numerous accolades. She was inducted into the Helms Women’s Hall of Fame, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1967, and was the first woman inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1999 she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and was at one time regarded as one of the greatest women ever to play the game. In 2000 Sports Illustrated for Women rated Nera White as #51 on its list of the 20th century’s greatest sportswomen. She was listed as the sixth highest female basketball player on that list behind much more modern women who played full court basketball.
White was a distinguished softball player in what she considered her better sport. She played both fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball and was named an All-American in that sport 15 times. She played in her final game in Nashville at the age of 50 in a national tournament as a designated hitter.
In 1986 the gym at Macon County High School was named in her honor. In 1992 the main road leading north out of Lafayette, and to her family farm, (TN State Route Highway 10 N) was renamed the ‘Nera White Highway.’ In an interview she gave to a family friend for the local cable channel, she regarded the local accolades that she received as her most prized ones. Many folks think those honors weren’t enough.
Nera Dyson White was born on November 15th 1935 to the late Horace O. and Lois (Fishburn) White. She is survived by son Jeff (Brandy) White, granddaughters Kayla and Zoey White, brother Davis (Brenda) White, sister June (Henry) Fisher, nieces Ashley White and Julie (Dan) Murrey, nephews Daniel White, Jon (Amanda) White, James (Shelly) White, Tommy (Annette) Fisher, and many nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews, and lots of special friends.
Arrangements are being conducted by the Alexander Funeral Home for a memorial service on Saturday April 30th at 2 pm at the Macon County High School Gymnasium bearing her name. The family will receive visitors from 12:30 until service time. Memorial contributions in the form of donations can be made to the Nera White Outstanding Athlete Scholarship Fund and can be made at Citizens Bank in Lafayette or Alexander Funeral Home in Lafayette.
(Photos courtesy of Barry Hiett, North Central Telephone)