The Jackson family in Cleveland, Tennessee has been one of the premier sports families in the area for decades but the Jacksons have lost their matriarch. Liz Hannah Jackson passed away on Saturday after a brief illness. Liz was a legendary figure in Bradley County sports history, playing basketball for the late Jim Smiddy and still ranking second on the school's all-time scoring list, 45 years after graduating in 1974. She played junior college basketball at Cleveland State, then transferred to Middle Tennessee State University where she was a two-time all-OVC performer.
Perhaps Liz Jackson's greatest accomplishment, however, was as a wife and mother. She and her husband, Turner Jackson, a two-time All American wrestler at UTC, raised two daughters.
Lindsey, who played college hoops at Tennessee Wesleyan, and Brittany, who helped the late coach Pat Summitt win two of her eight National Titles at Tennessee, each wore their mom's number 25 when they played at Bradley Central.
Obviously, the sports genes were superior in the Jackson family. All four members were highly successful college athletes, but for Liz a great deal of respect came from her teaching career at Bradley. Over the past couple of days on social media, tributes have been pouring in praising Liz for her dedication and willingness to help others. She taught wellness at Bradley Central and was a mentor to many students, who say they may not have made it at all were it not for Liz Jackson.
I met Liz when Brittany was playing AAU basketball while in high school. The team was one of hundreds that were playing a huge tournament in Chattanooga. Obviously Brittany was one of the more high profile players in the event, but it was Liz who dealt with all the players on the team as a "second mom", making sure they had everything they needed to be able to compete. Between games, they all flocked to her for advice, encouragement and maybe a snack to keep their energy up. That's the kind of person she was and that's what everyone will miss most about her.
Losing a wife and mother is one of the very toughest things anyone ever has to deal with. I pray for strength and courage for Turner, Lindsey and my buddy Brittany in this extremely hard time. I hope you will too.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org