BTHOF 2008 Inductees

Black Tennis Hall of Fame Inductees
The Inaugural Class of 2008

When tennis first arrived in the United States it was played at exclusive private clubs that only allowed White Protestant members. These clubs operated “White Only” private and United States National Lawn Tennis Association (USNLTA) tennis tournaments and events that excluded black players. However, the creation of modified (and eventually public) tennis courts in black neighborhoods led to the growing popularity of the sport among many of the most influential people in the black community. These individuals loved the sport so much they created black tennis clubs and tournaments (open to both black and white players) in black communities across the United States. Since black players were not allowed to play in the USNLTA tournaments they had to create their own organization.

Members of the Association Tennis Club in Washington, DC and the Monumental Tennis Club of Baltimore conceived the idea of a national tennis organization of African Americans. Meeting on Thanksgiving Day, 1916 at the YMCA in Washington, DC, members from the major black tennis clubs founded the American Tennis Association. H. Stanton McCard was elected the first president. The ATA was founded to serve as the governing body of black tennis in the United States. Their primary focus was on organizing an annual ATA National Championship as well as a series of tennis tournaments in black communities in and between New York and Los Angeles. The ATA was inducted into the inaugural class of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame for being the first black sports organization in America, the oldest operating black sports organization in the US, and, the launching pad for most of the best African American tennis players in history.

Player

Arthur Ashe

– Arthur Ashe: Ashe was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 10, 1943 to Arthur Robert Ashe, Sr. and Mattie Cordell Ashe. He won the ATA National Boys 12 singles title in 1955, the ATA National Boys 16 Singles title in 1957, 1958 and 1959, the ATA National Boys 18 Singles title in 1960, and, the ATA Men’s Singles title from 1960 to 1963. Ashe won the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) boys National Interscholastic Singles Championship in 1961. He was awarded a full scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1962. In 1965, Ashe won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Singles National Championship and led the UCLA team to the National Collegiate Team Championship. After graduating from UCLA with a Business Administration degree in 1966, he served in the U.S. Army for three years.

He was the first African American man to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament and be recognized as one of the best tennis players in the world. In 1968, Ashe won the Men’s Singles Championship at the very first U.S. Open. In 1970, he became the first African American man to win the Men’s Singles division of Australian Open. In 1975, he became the first African American man to win the Wimbledon Men’s Singles title. His life is celebrated more than many other outstanding athletes because of his commitment to making a difference in the world. Ashe’s commitment to social justice and health and humanitarian issues left a mark on the world as indelible as his tennis was on the court. He was a natural leader who was a member of the board of directors of Aetna, the chairman of the board of the Black Tennis & Sports Foundation (the leading advocate for Black sports interests), and, the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation, which introduced tennis, health and mentorship to more than 20,000 inner-city youngsters. In addition to being inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008, Ashe was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame in 1988.

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Ashe

 


 

Player

Althea Gibson: Althea Gibson was born in Silver, Clarendon County, South Carolina on August 25, 1927 to Daniel and Annie Bell Gibson. Her parents were sharecroppers on a South Carolina cotton farm until, in 1930, the Great Depression influenced them to move to 143rd street in the section of New York City called “Harlem.” She was an active participant in the local Police Athletic League (PAL) program as a child. She learned paddle tennis in this program and became the New York City women’s paddle tennis champion in 1939 at age 12. People from her the Harlem neighborhood where she lived were so impressed by her paddle tennis skills that, in 1940, they paid for a membership and tennis lessons at the prestigious Cosmopolitan Tennis club in Harlem. Her tennis skills advanced rapidly and, in 1941, she won the ATA New York State Girls Singles Championship. In 1944 and 1945 she won the ATA Girls 18 National Championships. In 1946, she lost in the Women’s Singles Final of the ATA National Championships. However, this loss motivated her to work harder on improving her tennis game.

This intense focus on improving her tennis skills helped Gibson win the ATA Women’s Singles Champion every year from 1947 to 1956.  She was also the Mixed Doubles Champion with Dr. R. Walter Johnson in 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955. “Althea,” as she was affectionately known in the black tennis community, was the first to break the color barrier of the USLTA in 1950 and played in the U.S. National Tennis Championship in Forest Hills. She became the first African-American player to play in Wimbledon in 1951. She won the French Open Championship in 1956. Gibson won the U.S. National Championship and Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958. These victories were especially historic because the winner’s trophy was presented to her by Queen Elizabeth. She retired from Tennis in 1958 and played for a while with the Harlem Globetrotters. Gibson was selected as “Female Athlete of the Year” in the year 1957, the first Black ever to receive this honor.  In 1958, Gibson wrote her autobiography “I always wanted to be somebody.” She also broke the color barrier in golf, launching her golf career in 1964 and joining the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). In addition to being inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008, Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971 and the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame in 1988.

sydandal57

Althea and her coach Sydney Llewellyn

 


 

Player

Lucy Diggs Slowe: Born in Berryville, Virginia on July 4, 1885, Slowe made history as the winner of the first ATA National Women’s Singles Championship in 1917. This victory made her the first African American woman to win a major sports title. On January 15, 1908 Slowe and nine other woman founded the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. This organization has become one of the most influential association of black woman in the world. In 1919, she worked with District of Columba officials to create the first junior high school in the system. Slowe served as principal of this school for three years. In 1922, she became the first Dean of Women at Howard University. In 1923, Slowe became the founder and president of the National Association of College Women. In 1929, she founded the Association of Deans of Women and Advisors to Girls in Negro Schools (NAWDACS).

Lucy Diggs Slowe

Born on July 4. 1885


 

Player

Tally Holmes: In 1917, Tally Holmes made history at the historic Druid Hill Park, in Baltimore, MD by becoming the first ATA National Men’s Singles Champion. He followed that title with ATA Men’s Singles Championships in 1918 and 1921. In addition, he was a finalist in the Men’s Singles Championship in 1920, losing to B.M. Clark, a Jamaican who was the first Black to play at Wimbledon. Holmes also won the ATA Men’s Doubles Championship in 1917, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1924, 1925 and 1927.

Tally Holmes

Tally Holmes


Contributor

Rev. W.W. Walker: Rev. Walker is credited with being an early pioneer in the growth of tennis in the black community. As a member of the Chautauqua Tennis Club in 1898, he was the founder of the first inter-state black tournament. This seminal event was held in Philadelphia and attracted the best black tennis players in the area. The event’s first champion was Thomas Jefferson of Lincoln University. In the second year of the tournament in 1899, Rev. Walker defeated Henry Freeman of Washington, D.C. for the championship after a closely contested battle.Rev. Walker, continued his leadership in the sport and became known as one of the first black tennis historians. In the 1931 program of the American Tennis Association, he describes three distinct periods in the evolution of black tennis. Walker states that the first major innovation among black tennis players was the “the chop and net game.” He confidently explains that he introduced this tennis style and that it dominated play in the earliest days of black tennis (from 1899 to 1900). Walker goes on to say that players from the West Coast demonstrated less conservative style rare in the East Coast. He states that the top West Coast players had a bolder more “convincing” aggressive style of play. Walker credits Edgar G. Brown with introducing this style of play consisting of a “top-spin and base line game.”  The third period in tennis was introduced by a group of talented young players in the early 1900s who perfected the aggressive top-spin and baseline style. However, they also had strong volleys. This “modern” player was equally at home on the base line or at the net. Walker was inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame for his leadership in establishing the first major black tennis tournament and role as the first black tennis historian.

 

Contributor

Dr. R. Walter Johnson: Dr. Johnson (who was affectionately known as “Dr. J”) was the legendary coach of International Tennis Hall of Fame and Black Tennis Hall of Fame Inductees Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. In addition to coaching the two best black tennis players in history, Dr. J taught many of the most promising junior players on the American Tennis Association (ATA) tennis circuit at his home in Lynchburg, Virginia. In addition to teaching players conditioning and strategy, he taught his players how to deal with racism, bad line calls and to always maintain their dignity and composure. He was recognized in the black community as the “Father of the ATA Junior Development Program.”

Dr. J’s coaching on tennis, racism and life helped Ashe and Gibson combine to win 8 Grand Slam singles titles (Gibson 5, Ashe 3); 7 Grand Slam doubles titles (Gibson 5, Ashe 2); and, 1 Grand Slam Mixed Doubles title (Gibson 1). In addition to being a great coach, he was a gifted doubles player. He and partner Althea Gibson won the ATA National Mixed Doubles Championships in 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955.  In addition to being inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008, Dr. Johnson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.

Dr.-J-213x300

 

Contributor

H. Stanton McCard: In 1916, Dr. McCard made history as the first president of the newly formed American Tennis Association. He was a passionate tennis player, physician and surgeon and a leader in the Baltimore’s black medical community.   McCard was selected as the first president of the ATA because of his reputation as outstanding physician and the respect he had in and beyond Baltimore. The founding presidents of organizations are charged with the task of leading the development of the organization’s initial mission, vision, values and strategic plan. In addition, they are ultimately responsible for developing a marketing plan for the organization and managing the egos of the people who want to be the next president. McCard was selected for induction into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame because his initial leadership of the ATA laid the groundwork for the success of the organization for many decades into the future.

 

 

Contributor

The American Tennis Association – for being the first black sports organization in America and the launching pad for many of the best black tennis players in history. Members of the Association Tennis Club in Washington, DC and the Monumental Tennis Club of Baltimore conceived the idea of a national tennis organization of African Americans. Meeting on Thanksgiving Day, 1916 at the YMCA in Washington, DC, members from the major black tennis clubs founded the American Tennis Association, the oldest continually active African American sports organization.

 

Contributor

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