Lon Varnell

1970 - 1979 Inductees
Year Honored:
Freed-Hardeman University, Bethel College, The University of the South/Sewanee


Lon Vernell (1913-1991), a native of Adamsville, Tennessee, was described in the February 1969 issue of “Sports Illustrated” as being a “coach, Methodist minister, coal mine operator, car dealer, political campaign manager, hardware store proprietor, and promoter of high class entertainment in the 49 states and Canada.” After lettering in three sports-basketball, football and baseball-in high school and at Freed-Hardeman College and Bethel College, Varnell went into coaching. Following seven years at McKenzie High School and six years at Bethel College, Varnell took his talents as a basketball coach to the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. During his 22 years at Sewanee, Varnell’s basketball teams, without the benefits of having scholarship players, established a commendable record. The University of the South basketball teams defeated many larger colleges and universities, including Georgia Tech, Florida State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Davidson. One of Coach Varnell’s most notable achievements during his tenure at Sewanee occurred in 1951, when his University of the South basketball team toured Europe and North Africa, winning 53 of 57 games played. This tour was a first in American intercollegiate sports, and concluded with Sewanee winning the World Tournament at Geneva, Switzerland. While coaching at Sewanee, Varnell also established himself as a leading promoter of athletic and entrainment events, being the first to bring the Harlem Globetrotters into the South for a 1949 Chattanooga engagement. Upon his retirement from coaching in 1970, he established Varnell Enterprises at Nashville, an agency that would be recognized as one of the top entertainment promoters in the country. Stating that victory is in the struggle, not in the gold medal that hangs around your neck, Varnell said that “you can make a success sure by effort, sacrifice, enthusiasm, unselfishness, and self-control. You are the master of your own destiny.” In the worlds of sports and entertainment, Lon Varnell was certainly a master of his own destiny and a victorious leader.

Credit 1:
Varnell, AR
Credit 2:
Varnell Enterprises

Thank You to
Our Sponsors

Pilot Tennessee Titans University of Tennessee Martin CC Millwright Tazikis Mediterranean Cafe Delta Dental TN
Adams and Reese LLP Powell Companies Secertary of State Tre Hargett University of Tennessee University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Cox Oil Little General Hamilton-Ryker Curb Motorsports