Tennessee State’s 97-Year-Old Cheerleader

Recently, Tennessee State University, the historically Black educational institution in Nashville, held its homecoming weekend. At the football game that weekend, 97-year-old alumna Burnece Walker Brunson joined the cheerleading squad on the sidelines. “Cheering for your favorite players and entertaining your fans feels like you are also part of the game,” Brunson said.

Brunson was a member of the university cheerleading team from 1934 to 1935 when the institution was known as Tennessee A&I College. “We didn’t do all of those fancy stuff back then,” Brunson recalls. “We did some jumps here and there but we did not do all that tossing and throwing. It fulfilled my desire to stay physically active since there were not many sporting activities for girls during those days.”

Brunson is a native of Tennessee but grew up in Chicago. She turned to her home state for college in 1933 and joined the cheerleading team the next year. After obtaining her teaching certificate, she went back to Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree from Chicago Teacher’s College and a master’s degree from the National College of Education in Evansville, Illinois.

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