9 of the Greatest Sports Families from Chattanooga
Is athleticism nature or nurture? Hard work or good genes? The truth is, it’s never totally clear. But if one thing is clear, it’s that these nine families from the Chattanooga area certainly have it!
By Laura Childers
THE HEALYS – Bill, Rob, Chip, & Will (above)
The Healy football legacy dates back to the 1940s –when Baylor graduate Bill Healy not only fought with the 88th Calvary during WWII, but became a two-time All American guard at Georgia Tech. Following in their father’s footsteps, Bill’s sons Rob and Chip earned All-City honors in football at Baylor before going on to play in college: Rob, as a running back at Georgia Tech, and Chip, as an All-American linebacker at Vanderbilt. Chip followed his successful college career with two seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals. Now carrying the college football family into the third generation is Will Healy, a former quarterback for University of Richmond. Will currently serves as the receivers coach for the UTC Mocs.
THE CONNELLS – Gordon, Jan, sons Lee and Adam, and daughters April and Anna
Nobody wants to face one of the Connell men on the mat – the formidable father-sons trio of wrestlers has 18 Tennessee state championship titles between them. Gordon, Brainerd’s first ever state champion, has yet to be pinned even once. After a championship career at Pembroke College, he spent over 40 years coaching locally, meanwhile claiming a U.S. National Veterans Freestyle title and a World Veterans Freestyle title. He coached both his sons – Lee and Adam – to championship careers at McCallie, Lee earning two individual state titles and Adam, three. Adam is now beginning his college career wrestling at the U.S. Naval Academy. Mom Jan Connell played basketball for Berry and UTC (she was captain when the Mocs beat UT under Pat Summitt) and daughters April and Anna both ran track at GPS – April won the team state high jump at GPS, and Anna won the 4×400 and 4×800 state championships at GPS and went on to play at Tennessee Tech.
THE KELLEYS – Bud & son Scott
You can’t talk about handball in Chattanooga without hearing the name Kelley. Bud (now deceased) was one of the greatest handball players to ever come out of the Scenic City, having claimed more city championships than any other player as well as a Southeastern Masters title. He passed his no-holds-barred style of play to his son, Scott, whose long list of athletic achievements includes being a wrestling state champion at Baylor. Scott is best known for his domination on the handball court, though, having earned his stripes as a two-time National YMCA singles champ, a two-time National Masters singles champ, and a two-time Masters doubles champ.
THE OEHMIGS – Lew & son King
Hailing from Lookout Mountain, the Oehmig family is golf royalty in Chattanooga. Lew (now deceased) is credited with being the most decorated amateur golfer in Tennessee history. His countless victories include eight Tennessee State Amateur titles, seven Tennessee Senior Amateur titles, and three USGA Senior Amateur Championship titles. He was the captain of the winning USGA Walker Cup Team in 1977, and in 1994, was given the Bob Jones Award, the highest award given by the USGA. King inherited his father’s competitive drive, playing for Baylor and the University of Virginia before becoming one of Baylor’s most celebrated coaches with 21 team state championships to his name. He kept up his own career, too, playing in the British Amateur twice and advancing to the USGA Mid-Amateur round of 16.
THE WEBBS – Jack Sr., Jack, Scott, & Sue
The Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame claims four – yes, four – members of the Webb tennis tradition: Jack Sr., his sons Jack and Scott, and Scott’s wife Sue. Brothers Jack and Scott played together for the Blue Tornado at McCallie and then again for the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Scott was captain of the 1976 and 1977 McCallie State Championship teams, and Jack was captain of the 1978 and 1979 Kentucky tennis teams and also made the All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) team. Scott’s wife Sue was an NCAA D-II All-American at UTC in the 1980s. Since her college days, she has earned both national and international medals in the ITF World Team Championships, and last year Sue won a USTA doubles national championship. Between the four of them, the Webbs have won over 20 City tennis championships.
THE JACKSONS – Turner, Liz & daughters Lindsey and Brittany
Combine natural talent with hustle and you have the Jacksons, a family of powerful athletes. Turner Jackson was a two-time wrestling state champion before earning prestige at UTC as a two-time NCAA Division II national champion. Meanwhile, Liz Hannah, his wife, had an illustrious career in basketball at Bradley Central, Cleveland State (where she was a two-time junior college All-American), and Middle Tennessee State before playing against the Russians with the Tennessee All-Stars in ‘76. Daughters Brittany and Lindsey both played for Bradley Central before going on to successful college careers. Lindsey holds the record for most three pointers in a season and a career with the Tennessee Wesleyan Lady Bulldogs, and Brittany played in four straight Final Fours with the UT Lady Vols.
THE GUERRYS – Alex, Zan, Pem, John, & Pat
When it comes to tennis, the Guerry family is in a league of its own. The family story dates all the way back to 1914, the year patriarch Alex Guerry Sr. first introduced the sport at Baylor. His son, Alex, went on to become not only an award-winning player at Sewanee, but a fierce competitor in city, state, and national tournaments. Zan, Alex Jr.’s son, was an All-American at Baylor and Rice University before going on to win more than 25 national championships in singles and doubles and inductions into six halls of fame. Zan’s younger brother, Pem, achieved prominence too, first at Baylor and then at SMU competing for the Mustangs. And hold on to your hats, because there’s more. John Guerry, Alex Jr.’s younger brother, also won honors competing for Baylor and Sewanee, as well as his son, Pat. Finally, Zan’s son Jeff played at Pepperdine, representing the fourth generation of Guerry collegiate tennis players. In 2010, he and his dad won a national senior father-son crown.
THE LISTS – Mark, Bonny, daughters Bekah and Sarah, & son Luke
They aren’t just great swim coaches here locally. Mark and Bonny List are champion swimmers too, each one earning not only All-American honors at the University of North Carolina (where they met), but a host of national and international awards. Both active in competition, Mark won world titles several years ago and Bonny claimed a national title this past May in the 2.4 open water swim hosted here in Chattanooga. Baylor graduates Bekah and Sarah were both awarded scholarships and swam all four years in college – Bekah at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wa., and Sarah at UNC-Chapel Hill. Luke, who played four years under Coach King Oehmig at Baylor, was a four-year All-American golfer at Vanderbilt and competed in the Masters and three U.S. Opens by age 22. He is a PGA Tour/Web.com professional today.
THE VREDEVELDS – Roger, Sandy and son Nathan & daughter Kristen
If there’s one family that’s at home in water, it’s the Vredevelds. Roger, an All-American swimmer at Baylor and UNC Chapel Hill, continued his swimming career post-college by competing in the 1980 Olympic Trials and in the U.S. Masters National Championships. His son Nathan swam for Baylor before joining the Cavaliers at the University of Virginia. Then in 2012, he and little sister Kristen (then still at Baylor) made headlines when they both qualified to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Today Kristen continues to make a splash on the national stage competing for the University of California, Berkeley. She already has a gold medal to her name, too, from the FINA World Junior Championships in Lima, Peru. Oh, and their mom, Sandy? She was an all-star volleyball player at UNC where she was named MVP of the Atlantic Coast Conference.