When superstar singer and Tennessee native Justin Timberlake purchased a special needs van for Morristown resident Jake Stitt and his family this week that was not the first time that the singer had a connection with the Lakeway Area.
Turns out his “first” crush lived in Morristown.
Tracilla Carroll (known as Traci Davis) was a student at Carson-Newman College with Justin’s uncle, James Timberlake. The pair dated for a year during college.
“A lot of people don’t realize that he had a connection with Morristown before his donation,” Carroll said. “He would stay at my parents’ house several times when his family would visit the area.”
At the time, Justin had two uncles, James and John, who are his dad’s brothers and an aunt. The brothers came to C-N and were members of the “Seed Company” singing group with Carroll that traveled to area churches singing Contemporary Christian music.
“We went around to different churches singing Contemporary Christian songs,” Carroll said. “The group also did drama and spoke to different groups. In between songs, a student leader would speak.”
When James would return to Millington, a town located near Memphis during those summers at C-N. Carroll would help out James’ parents. Rev. Charles Timberlake was pastor at Shelby Forest Baptist Church in Millington and would be performing pastoral duties during the daytime hours. His wife, Bobbye, was employed in management with a major hospital in the area. Justin needed a babysitter.
“I would stay home with Justin and take care of him. We would hang out together all day,” Carroll said. “His favorite movies were ‘The Last Unicorn,’ ‘The Care Bears Movie’ and ‘The Never Ending Story.’”
Carroll said that Justin had “the most amazing sense of rhythm and pitch. He could sing on pitch and in rhythm at age 3.”
Carroll said that ‘The Last Unicorn’ it had some high-level musical quality that Justin sang to.
When James, or Jim as Carroll called him, came home, Jim would hug and kiss Carroll. This made young Justin jealous.
While Jim was changing from a hard day in construction, Justin would “glue himself” to Carroll’s side.
“When Jim came back and sat with me, Justin would squeeze himself in between us,” she said.
In fact, when a news outlet asked Justin, later to be in the boy band ‘N Sync, who his first crush was, he didn’t hold anything back.
“I was his first crush,” Carroll said.
In addition to their experience in the “Seed Company,” Papa Timberlake and the brothers had a singing quartet for years.
James Timberlake was the acting member of the family, Carroll recalled.
“He was a really big actor and did the lead in musicals,” she said.
James and Carroll had talked briefly of future plans and that if they got married, Justin was going to be the ring bearer.
Fast forward 5 years later when Carroll decided to marry another man. There were no boys on either side of the family who could be a ring bearer. Her husband-to-be’s 10-year-old niece was going to the flower girl. That left Carroll to get an older boy to be the ring bearer. Then she thought of Justin.
“I had always planned on Justin being my ring-bearer,” Carroll said. “John Timberlake was going to be singing in the wedding, but he got a promotion in the Philadelphia Phillies front office and he couldn’t attend.”
The Timberlake family came to Carroll’s aid as Justin’s father, Randy, and Justin’s grandmother, Bobbye, ended up singing at the wedding.
The wedding was Aug. 13, 1988 at Buffalo Trail Baptist Church and was attended by 400 people. Justin stayed with Carroll’s parents, Jimmy and Madge Davis, at their residence. Jimmy is a long-time barber with Utopia West while Madge works part-time at Kelly’s Kids.
Justin made it to the big time as part of “Star Search,” performed with N’Sync and embarked on a solo singing career. He has also done voiceovers on “The Trollies” and “Shrek: Happily Ever After,” as well as comedy performances on “Saturday Night Live.”