Clarksville Connections

Clarksville Connections is an ongoing project to share the stories of historically significant people who have a Clarksville connection. We are working diligently to share content to the site so please visit often for updates. We also invite your input. Please email your information and ideas to


Wilma Rudolph
Olympic Gold Medalist

Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940 in a region of Tennessee known, at the time, as St. Bethlehem, which later became a part of Clarksville. Rudolph was born into a large family, being the 20th of her father’s 22 children. After a bout with pneumonia and polio at age eight, doctors told her she would never walk again. A mere eight years later, at age 16, she earned a bronze medal in the 1956 Olympic Games in the women's 400-meter relay and would soon be known as the fastest woman in the world.

Mason Rudolph
Professional Golfer

Considered to be one of Clarksville’s most iconic sports figures, native son Mason Rudolph won five times on the PGA Tour during his 23-year career.  At age 16, he was one of the youngest ever to quality for the U.S. Open.

Pat Head Summitt
NCAA Basketball Coaching Legend

From the Summer Olympics to the SEC and NCAA, Pat Head Summitt is a name every basketball fan knows and knows well. This Clarksville native was the fiercest of competitors. When offered the job to coach the UT Women's Basketball team shortly after finishing college herself, she had never led a single practice. After 38 seasons with the Lady Vols, she garnered a record 1,098 wins and 8 national championships. Her program maintained a 100-percent graduation rate for players who completed their eligibility at Tennessee.

Steve Wylie
Professional Baseball Player

Steve Wylie began his baseball career as a teenager pitching for the semi-pro Clarksville Stars from 1927-1930. At 33 in 1944, he began his Negro League career with the Memphis Red Sox and soon found himself in the uniform of the fabled Kansas City Monarchs and a teammate of Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson. By 1948, he had become recognized as one of the great “money players” on the tournament trail in Western Canada. 

Horace "Hod" Lisenbee
MLB player

Horace "Hod" Lisenbee first picked up a baseball as a 21-year-old high schooler who had worked at a tobacco farm in Clarksville, Tennessee for the 9 years prior. Over the next three decades, he pitched with a variety of both minor and major league teams and eventually retired at the age of 51, which made him the last player born in the 1800s to appear in a major-league game.

Howard White "Smiley" Johnson
NFL player, USMC 1st Lt.

Howard "Smiley" Johnson, an orphan who grew up in Clarksville, Tennessee, was known for his outstanding play in basketball, baseball, wresting, and football. He played for the NFL Green Bay Packers from 1940-1941, until the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, at which point he joined the United States Marine Corp and fought until his death at Iwo Jima in 1945.

Jeff Purvis
NASCAR driver
b. 1959

Jeff Purvis was born in Clarksville on February 19, 1959. His NASCAR career began in 1990 and only slowed down after the events of his first and second crashes, both of which resulted in serious neck injuries. Now he lives in Clarksville, where he is the part-owner of a scrap metal business. 

Charles Richard "Bubba" Wells
NBA player, Harlem Globetrotter
b. 1974

Bubba Wells played basketball throughout his college career at Austin Peay State University, where he gained recognition in his senior year that took him all the way to the NBA and, later, the Harlem Globetrotters. He has been coaching football since his retirement, first at APSU and then at SIUE.


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