Lon S. Varnell, 77, who promoted Bill Cosby, Lawrence Welk, Elvis Presley and Liberace, died Feb. 17 in Nashville of cancer.
Varnell, born in Adamsville, Tenn., spent the first half of his career coaching college basketball at Bethel College, Southern Methodist U. and the U. of Kentucky, under the famed Adolph Rupp. He later became head coach at the U. of the South in 1948.
He faced the issue of segregation head-on by bringing the Harlem Globetrotters (then known as the Harlem Magicians) to play in front of the first integrated audience in Atlanta in 1955.
After retiring from coaching in 1970, Varnell began promoting entertainers. In addition to those mentioned above, his roster included the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, the Carpenters, Elton John, Sonny & Cher, the Oak Ridge Boys, Neil Diamond and the Statler Brothers.
Survived by his wife, Kathryn, three sons and a daughter.