Jerry Summers: The Cotton Ball (1933-)

Saturday, November 30, 2019 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

In 1933, Zella Armstrong was the prime force in creating the yearly Cotton Ball in Chattanooga which became the premier “coming out” of young ladies primarily from Hamilton County and surrounding communities. 

It was a lavish week-long celebration with many teas, parties, and luncheons presented by the parents and others of the debutantes from many of the Chattanooga area's most prominent families.  The selection and announcement of a young queen and successful older king was the highlight of the event that took place usually at the Memorial Auditorium amongst elegant surroundings carefully orchestrated by the event founder, Miss Armstrong.  Lovely ladies in beautiful gowns and dashing young men in coat and tail tuxedos were presented to the adoring audience of proud parents and friends amidst a backdrop of pageantry reminiscent of the splendor of the Old South.

Zella Armstrong was a spinster from a Southern family dating back to the Civil War when her father, John M. Armstrong, in June 1862 was a young lieutenant in the Confederate Army who commanded the cannon that returned fire when Federal troops first shelled Chattanooga.  Born around 1872 (she never revealed her age) her love of history, tradition and the South aspired Zella to become the originator of the first Cotton Ball in 1933.

A published author and one of the earliest female reporters, she was one of the founders and a former president of the Tennessee Women’s Press Club.  Her list of occupations included editor, poet, author of numerous genealogical sketches and papers, several volumes of Notable Southern Families, play writing, and she was the Hamilton County Historian appointed by County Judge Will Cummings.

In 1940, Chattanooga Mayor Ed Bass presented Miss Armstrong with a silver medal identifying her as “Chattanooga’s Number 1 Woman Citizen” in recognition of her “loving her city, state, her nation and her Southland, with fervor and a constancy that few could boast.”

The overwhelming majority of debutantes that were fortunate enough to be presented as Queen or members of the Court credit Zella Armstrong with instilling the same qualities of service and philanthropy that helped them to grow into productive parents and members of the community.  The same has to be true of the Kings and young men who escorted the ladies on the night of the coronation.  Most of them have also served as leaders in the city, county, state and nation.

When she died on April 12, 1965, while confined to a nursing home she still directed the operation of the Lookout, a journal of social and historical items that for years appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on a weekly basis.

Her legacy continues today with the annual Cotton Ball continuing its tradition of recognition and selection of outstanding young ladies to be presented at the gala event who mostly grow into the leaders of philanthropy in our community.

* * *

Jerry Summers can be reached at jsummers@summersfirm.com

 

Queen of the Cotton Ball
Queen of the Cotton Ball

Food And Funds Drive Set For April 4-5

Girl Scout Cookies Available For Order Online, For Delivery Or Donation

CDOT Announces Upcoming Road Closures


The Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation is assisting the Samaritan Center in a food and funds drive called Together, we CAN make it through this. It will be accepting canned and dry food stuffs, ... (click for more)

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) has disrupted the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Public cookie booths were suspended halfway through the booth sales. This disruption means that troops across the 46-county ... (click for more)

The Chattanooga Department of Transportation announces the following road closures: E. 3rd Street at Erlanger Medical Center On Saturday, E. 3rd Street between Hampton Street and Wiehl ... (click for more)




Happenings

Food And Funds Drive Set For April 4-5

The Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation is assisting the Samaritan Center in a food and funds drive called Together, we CAN make it through this. It will be accepting canned and dry food stuffs, toiletries, cash and checks written to the Samaritan Center out in front of The Commons, under the sign that says “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People” as folks drive by on Saturday ... (click for more)

Girl Scout Cookies Available For Order Online, For Delivery Or Donation

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) has disrupted the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Public cookie booths were suspended halfway through the booth sales. This disruption means that troops across the 46-county footprint have nearly 300,000 boxes of cookies on hand that need to find a home. The cookie program allows troops to raise funds for their troop activities, outdoor adventures and community ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Georgia Coronavirus Deaths Now At 79, Total Cases Is 2,446

Georgia state health officials said Saturday that 79 people in the state have died of the coronavirus. That total is up from 38 on Tuesday. The cases have climbed to 2,446 - up from 1,387 on Wednesday with a rapid spread around the Atlanta area. The Tuesday report showed 1,026 cases. It was at 800 on Monday. Officials said 660 have been hospitalized, which is 27 percent of ... (click for more)

McKamey Animal Center Grateful For Local Community Stepping Forward

McKamey Animal Center reported an enormous outpouring of foster and adoption support and is now asking those interested in fostering to be patient. "Thanks to our community's outstanding response, we’ve placed almost every adoptable pet into a home," said Jamie McAloon, executive director. "We are now in a safe zone and will be postponing any foster care appointments until April ... (click for more)

Opinion

Focus On Treating COVID-19, Not The Blame

Our novice senator needs a lesson in first responder process. The house is on fire and she has run off to find who brought the matches. There will be plenty of time to do this hunt of witches. Now is the time to focus on what the whole of Tennessee needs from the good senator. That being hospitals, care facilities and health departments having the tools and supplies they need ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: And Now Horror Begins

CNN’s famed newsman Wolf Blitzer repeatedly hammered New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell in a live interview on Thursday for not cancelling this year’s Marti Gras carnival. It is widely believed that Mardi Gras, which brings an estimated 1.4 million revelers into the city, will be the reason that Louisiana will soon become the new epicenter for the deadly and very swift coronavirus. ... (click for more)