9 March 1910Ashland, Mississippi, United States


4 May 2021Memphis, Tennessee, United States



Brunette Nelms

Brunette Nelms (née Willie Faye Crawford) was an American supercentenarian whose age has been validated by LongeviQuest. At the time of death, she was the oldest known person living in the U.S. state of Tennessee.

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Nelms was born as Willie Faye Crawford in Ashland, Mississippi, USA, on 9 March 1910. Her parents were John William Crawford (1868–1937) and Mary Louella Casey (1879–1966). Besides her twin sister, Ellie Mae “Blondie” (died on 30 September 2001), she had five more siblings: Otis, George, Ruth, John William, and George Casey.

After graduating from Ashland High School, she went to Mississippi State College for Women (now MUW) in 1928. She was majoring in Physical Education but dropped out of college during the Great Depression. She worked as a teacher during the year to pay for summer classes at the University of Alabama, where she finally graduated in 1937. She continued to work as a teacher for the next 40 years.

While her first name was Willie Faye, she was known as “Brunette”, and her twin sister as “Blondie”. At some point, the sisters were told by their employer that if they were going to continue to go by their nicknames, they would need to have their names changed legally, which is what they did eventually.

On 11 September 1937, she married Walter Claiborne Nelms. The couple had two daughters: Nancy Gates and Mary Lou Lake. They lived in multiple towns across Mississippi.

Her husband passed away in March 1999, after almost 62 years of marriage. Upon his death, she moved to Memphis to be near her daughter, Nancy.

At the age of 106, she was still able to play piano, and to participate in Tai Chi, yoga and weight training, as well as to attend church at Cherry Road Baptist Church.

Nelms passed away in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, on 4 May 2021, at the age of 111. She was survived by her two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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At the time of death, she was the oldest known person living in the U.S. state of Tennessee.

Her age was validated by LongeviQuest on 26 July 2023.

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* “106-year-old says being active is the key to living” – WMC Action News 5, 9 March 2016

* “OBITUARY Brunette Crawford Nelms” – Dignity Memorial