Born: July 16, 1928
in St. Louis, MO
Died: July 6, 2017
The descriptions used to define a contributor don’t come close to paying proper homage to the impact these individuals make to an organization. In the case of Nancy Jeffett, her dedication to the growth of the sport for more than 30 years quantifies her as one of the most prominent women in tennis history, and far greater than a person who brought about a “result” and “acted as a factor.”
In 1968, Jeffett joined forces with legendary nine-time major champion Maureen Connolly to co-found the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation. Following Connolly’s death in 1966, Jeffett spearheaded an organization that conducts a dozen tournaments a year and has contributed more than $4 million for player development, from the grass roots game to the professional level. Her prowess behind-the-scenes led her to become a longtime chair of both the U.S. Wightman Cup (1978-90) and Federation Cup (1981-1990).
Without a firm grounding in tennis from the outset, it’s unlikely that Jeffett could have carved out such an illustrious administrative and philanthropic career. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Jeffett was an accomplished all-court player who rose to No. 10 nationally in the USLTA Girls’ 18 division in 1946. She parlayed that success into becoming the USLTA/Missouri Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles champion in 1948.
Jeffett began carving out her tennis niche in 1954 when she founded the Tyler (Texas) Tennis Association and later became the Chairman of the Texas Tennis Junior Development Program (1960-82). Jeffett is celebrated annually since 1995 with the presentation of the Dallas Tennis Association Nancy Jeffett Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1969, Jeffett staged the first Maureen Connolly Brinker Memorial Tournament. She made a financial commitment to establish the tournament, and became one of the first promoters of women's pro tennis. In 1972, the tournament made tennis history as the first women's professional event that was televised and awarded prize money to its winners. That tournament later became the Virginia Slims of Dallas, one of the most popular and important tournaments in the early years of the WTA Tour.
Jeffett was the backbone of the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation’s (MCBTF) Road to the Little Mo Nationals, a year-long circuit of sectional, regional, and national tournaments for boys and girls ages 8 to 11. Additionally, the MCBTF conducts three Little Mo International Open tournaments for boys and girls ages 8 to 12.
The cornerstone of Jeffett’s tennis efforts was for trailblazing opportunities for promising players. She founded the MCB Outstanding Junior Girl Award, presented by the USTA (1969-present); the Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy (United States vs. Great Britain, ladies 19 and under competition) in 1973 to the present; the ITF Connolly Continental Cup (United States vs. all nations, ladies 14, 16, 18) in 1976 to the present. She also founded the Bonne Bell-Maureen Connolly Brinker Cup, a competition between the U.S. and Australia for ladies ages 14, 16 and 18 that ran from 1977 to 1991.
In addition to her work with MCBTF and the Virginia Slims, Jeffett served the sport in numerous capacities, including as an active member of the USTA Executive Committee (1973-1994) and on the ITF Fed Cup Committee (1988-1996).
Jeffett earned the USTA Service Bowl Award in 1970 and Service to Tennis Awards from World Championship Tennis (1983), the International Tennis Federation (1994), and the Virginia Slims (1996). She was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame in 1983 and then later into the St. Louis Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999.