Bearette icon will be greatly missed

By JOE CANNON; and GARY OWENBY
Posted 8/10/19

The Bradley County sports community is mourning the loss of a local legend today with the passing of Bearette great "Liz" (Hannah) Jackson.The matriarch of one of the most successful sports families …

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Bearette icon will be greatly missed

Posted

The Bradley County sports community is mourning the loss of a local legend today with the passing of Bearette great "Liz" (Hannah) Jackson.

The matriarch of one of the most successful sports families in Bradley Central High School's century-plus history, she succumbed to a prolonged illness Saturday afternoon.

A fixture at Bradley Central as an athlete, teacher, mom and fan for five decades, her smile and friendly personality will be greatly missed by the Bear Nation.

Liz was married to BCHS Athletics Director Turner Jackson, a two-time Alabama high school state wrestling champ, two-time NCAA D-II National Champion at UT-Chattanooga and member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. The pair met while he was directing the Bear wrestlers from 1979-93.

Liz's very successful hoops path began before getting to Bradley as she played for another elite coach in Sam Ledford at Michigan Avenue Elementary School.

A four-year starter for legendary coach Jim Smiddy's Bearettes, she was one of the most prolific scorers in the storied program's illustrious history.

Her 2,693 points is still second on the all-time Bearette scoring list some 45 years after her graduation in 1974. This feat is even more impressive when you take into consideration that none of her baskets came via the 3-point shot, which didn’t go into effect until the 1988-89 season. 

Liz's point total is surpassed only by Data Caldwell (BCHS Class of 1976) with 3,011 points. Both players played during the six-on-six era of girls' basketball, when only forwards were allowed to shoot the ball and score points.

Her prep career was highlighted with the Bearettes's third TSSAA State Championship in 1973, when she hit her famous "hootenanny" shot to edge Warren County 43-41 in the state title game in her junior season.

She wrapped up her prep career by leading the Bearettes back to the state tournament the following year,  but it ended with a 57-54 loss to McNairy Central in the first game.

Another highlight came when she recorded a career-high 56 points, personally outscoring the Cleveland High Raiderettes (as they were known at the time) on Feb. 12, 1974, in a 76-52 win.

Her 24 points per game average during her career is second only to Jody Adams-Birch, who averaged 25.8 points per game during her three-year Bearette career.

Liz topped the 40-point mark on nine different occasions while wearing the Black-and-Gold, plus she was named to the All-State teams twice. 

She was a member of the Bearettes when they christened the "Bradley Fieldhouse" in the first game played there on Jan. 6, 1973. Liz scored 44 points that night as the Bearettes knocked off East Ridge 66-60. The fieldhouse was renamed "Jim Smiddy Arena" in April of 1990.

Her retired No. 25 jersey hangs in the rafters of the school's gymnasium, along a similar numbered jersey of her older sister, Rita Hannah, who was also a two-time all-state honoree and on Smiddy's state title team in 1970.

The number was brought out of retirement to allow Jackson's daughters Brittany and Lindsey to both wear it. 

Brittany went on to play for the Tennessee Lady Vols of legendary coach Pat Summitt, where she was on the 2003 and 2004 National Champions teams. Surpassing the 1,000-point mark, Lindsey had a strong collegiate career at Tennessee Wesleyan in Athens.

Liz was also well-known in the collegiate ranks, where she was named to the Junior College All-American team twice and has her number retired as a member of the Cleveland State Lady Cougars. She was the first player signed by TCCAA Hall of Fame coach Hugh Walker when the program was started in 1974.

She finished up her college career at Middle Tennessee State University, where she was named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference team in both her junior and senior seasons.

Liz still holds the OVC record most shots in a game (33) against Western Kentucky and is also number two on the list with 30 against Tennessee Tech.

She was invited to the Olympic trials in Knoxville in 1976 and played in an exhibition game against the Russian Olympic Team. She was also drafted by the Chicago Hustle of the Women's Professional Basketball League in 1978.

Continuing her love for the game, she has also participated with the Tennessee Flash in the Senior Olympics. After medaling at the state tournament, Liz was unable to play in the nationals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, due to breaking her foot in June. "She loved her basketball family," husband Turner Jackson stated.

Liz taught wellness classes at Bradley Central for 30 years before officially retiring in 2014. She and Turner, who also "retired" that year, continued to co-teach at BCHS, each instructing two periods a day, until a couple of years ago.

In 2006, she was inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame. She was inducted into both the Bearette Hall of Fame and local Old Timers Hall of Fame in 2010.

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