by Mike Organ for The Tennessean
When it comes to Tennessee State, Burnece Walker Brunson has seen it all.
From when the football team played in leather helmets to when the basketball team played games at Washington Junior High and even to when the school had a different name — Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College.
Not only was Brunson one of TSU’s first cheerleaders, but she also shares a birthday with the school’s alumni association, which began in 1915, three years after the school opened.
That’s right, the alumni association is celebrating its 100th birthday with this weekend’s homecoming festivities, and Brunson, a native of Mt. Pleasant who celebrated her 100th birthday in March, is a big part of it.
Decked out in her cheerleading outfit, she joined many of the school’s other cheerleading alumni and shook her pompoms Friday at a pep rally at Hale Stadium in advance of Saturday’s football game against Eastern Illinois at Nissan Stadium.
Brunson also was part of the homecoming parade on Jefferson Street, which led to the school where she was a cheerleader from 1934-35.
“I like being involved with everything that’s going on; if the cheerleaders are there, I want to be there,” Brunson said.
She also plans, as she has done for each of the past 12 years, to join the other alumni cheerleaders on the sideline for Saturday’s game to cheer on the Tigers.
“Once you’re a cheerleader, you’re always a cheerleader,” Brunson said. “I have just as much enthusiasm as I ever did. I just can’t show it like I once could.”
During Brunson’s time as a cheerleader, social security was established, the board game Monopoly was created, The Master’s golf tournament was played for the first time and construction was approved for the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Brunson said cheerleading today, as most things, is far different than when she was in school.
“We didn’t do any of what they do today,” Brunson said. “The most we did was probably a flip. I am more than amazed at how far cheerleading has come. As long as it’s clean, I like what they’re doing today.”
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