When asked about her style as a basketball player, Jean Henry Zachary says that “I was scrappy”. Webster defines ‘scrappy’ as ‘aggressive and determined in spirit’. Without question, Jean was definitely aggressive, determined in spirit and much more during her basketball career at Fannin County High School in Morganton from 1945 through 1948. As a matter of fact, the excellence of her performance throughout that three year period has landed her a membership card in the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.
Until Johnny Farmer established the modern day Fannin County girls as a powerhouse, the Morganton girls of the mid and late 1940s were as close to being a sports dynasty as the county has seen. The Morganton girls made it to the finals of the Class B state tournament in 1945-46 and 1946-47 and narrowly missed a third appearance when they lost in the District finals in 1947-48. Those were the days when girls basketball games were contested between two teams with 6 players each, three offensive and three defensive, on the court at any one time. Jean Zachary was a defensive player throughout her career and she excelled in that role.
Jean was a starting guard in each of her three seasons at Morganton. On an individual level, she was named to the girls All-State Class B basketball team for her performance as a junior in 1946-47. The next season she was named to the all Bi-State tournament team. Opposing teams found it very difficult to score when up against Jean and her running mate at a guard position, Blanche Smith Ganues, for three years.
Jean grew up on a farm in the Morganton/Mineral Bluff area. Her parents were Clyde and Mary Virginia Henry. Clyde Henry was a larger-than-life individual and Jean has inherited many of his strongest characteristics. During his life, Clyde was a farmer, businessman, educator, coach, politician and public servant. He passed along many of his talents to his daughter, especially his business savvy. When talking about her father, Jean refers to Clyde as ‘her buddy’ who sought her input in many of the farm affairs. He was also Jean’s coach at Fannin County High throughout her career.
After graduation from high school, Jean was admitted to the prestigious Berry College in Rome, Georgia. After about two years, she decided to trade academia for the real world and headed to Cincinnati to stay with her aunt. While there she worked for Parke Davis and completed a secretarial training program at Miller’s School of Business.
The lure of the mountains and home brought Jean back to Fannin County where she obtained an executive secretarial position working for R.R. Burns at the Tennessee Copper Company. She enjoyed her time at TCC and played a little basketball for the company-sponsored basketball team. A sharp, young single beauty, Jean enjoyed her social life and found herself in the Arrow Restaurant one afternoon after work with some of her co-workers. Another customer there that day was a young local doctor named Warner C. Zachary, a native of Knoxville who had recently set up his practice in Copperhill.
Although Dr. Zachary neither confirms nor denies it, he reportedly asked some of his companions about the beautiful blonde girl sitting in a booth across the room. After learning Jean’s name, he is purported to have uttered the prophetic comment “I am going to marry that girl”. The two were married at the First Baptist Church in McCaysville on December 4, 1954.
The handsome couple set about the business of raising a family and their firstborn son, Charles, made his debut in 1956. The Zacharys would produce four more children, Becky, Karen, Julie and William (better known as Hank). The family moved to a beautiful home overlooking Blue Ridge Lake in 1965 and Jean and Dr. Zachary remain there today.
The Zachary children and grandchildren all appear to have inherited the very best of the talents of their parents, and grandparents as well. Athleticism as well as academic and professional success run throughout the family. The family suffered a tragic shock in July, 1976 when eldest son Charles was killed in an automobile accident in Knoxville. He was only 20 and was attended the University of Tennessee at the time.
Although shaken by the death of Charles, the family rallied around each other and remain remarkably close to this day. The influence of Jean and Dr. W.C. Zachary upon the lives of their children and grandchildren was probably best stated by Karen in her Fannin County High School yearbook when she expressed her ‘Ambition’ as: “To find a man like my father and to become a woman like my mother”.
In December, 2016, the Zacharys will celebrate their 62nd anniversary.
In joining the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame, Jean Henry Zachary will complete something of a hat trick in local athletics. Her 1945-46 Fannin County High School girls basketball team was inducted as the Hall’s first team honored in 2013 and her father, Clyde Henry, was inducted as a member of the Class of 2014.