UT Knoxville, ’41
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus‘ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.
One of America’s best-known sportscasters got his start as a Tennessee football play-by-play announcer during the era of legendary Gen. Robert R. Neyland. The football stadium eventually bore the coach’s name, and the baseball stadium just blocks away bears the name of broadcaster Lindsey Nelson.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Nelson became known as one of the most versatile sports broadcasters of his time—and for a collection of loud and colorful plaid sport coats. Early in his 17 years with the New York Mets, Nelson got the idea to wear the jackets as a gimmick. They became his signature.
He covered almost every major sporting event in his career, including a baseball All-Star game, two World Series, 19 years of NFL football, five years of NBA basketball, 26 Cotton Bowl games, 13 years of Notre Dame University football and the Masters golf tournament.
A native of Columbia, Tennessee, he entered World War II as a new UT graduate and U.S. Army second lieutenant. He earned seven battle campaign
stars and a Bronze Star.
After the war, Nelson worked briefly for The Knoxville Journal and The Knoxville News-Sentinel and began broadcasting high school football games. By 1949, he had founded the Vol Network. His first nationwide broadcast came with the Tennessee-Kentucky game in 1950 when flamboyant Texas promoter Gordon McLendon offered Nelson $500 for game rights and asked him to call it.
McLendon lured Nelson away to Dallas, where he spring-boarded to NBC Sports in New York City.
Before his death in 1995, Nelson had retired to Knoxville, where he generously supported community organizations and sporting events.