MOST Memorable Moments: Tennis
The American Tennis Association was the first black sports organization in America and launched the careers 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 at a 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. Founder, H. Stanton McCard was elected the first president.
“Peat” and “Repeat”…the Peters Sisters
Matilda & Romania Peters
The Peters sisters began playing tennis for fun at the early age of eight and ten years old and developed into a pair of heralded tennis champions from the 1930s until 1953.
Their legacy began at Tuskegee Institute under legendary head coach Cleve Abbott.
Known for their slice serves, strong backhands and quick chop shots, they dominated the American Tennis Association (ATA) which was created in 1916 to organize Negro Tennis Clubs across the country, and to provide competitions for black players.
They had a 14 year reign in the ATA including 14 doubles championships, a record still unbroken.
Matilda was a two-time singles champion in 1944 and 1946 when she defeated the future star Althea Gibson in their only match.
They were inducted into the:
Tuskegee Hall of Fame, 1977
US Tennis Association Hall of Fame, 2003
The Queen of Wimbledon
Althea Gibson, Florida A&M grad, was the black woman to compete on the world tennis tour and the first to win a Grand Slam title in 1956.
Gibson was ranked in the Top Ten in the world from 1956-58 and no. 1 in 1957 and ‘58 by the United States Tennis Association.
Althea shocked the world when she swept her way to the 1957 Wimbledon Women’s Single Champion and repeated in1958.
After retiring from the courts, she took up golfing and showed her versatility by competing in the Ladies Professional GolfAssociation tour.
She was inducted into the:
International Tennis Hall of Fame, 1971
US Open Court of Champions, 1994
Florida A&M Hall of Fame, 9994
SIAC Hall of Fame, 1994
Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey, 1994
New Jersey Hall of Fame, 2009
Dr. Robert Johnson:
Godfather" of Black Tennis
Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, tennis coach and mentor of the first African-American Wimbledon champions Althea Gibson and the great Arthur Ashe.
For more than two decades, Dr. Johnson trained, coached, and mentored African Americans from his personal courts in Lynchburg, Virginia. He established a Junior Development program for the American Tennis Association (ATA), worked tirelessly behind the scenes to provide opportunities for all competitors. He teamed with protégé Althea Gibson to win 7 ATA National Mixed Doubles titles.
Hee served as Tournament Director of the Central Inter-Collegiate Athletic Championships Association.
Dr. Johnson was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1972, the Mid-Atlantic Tennis Hall of Fame in 1988, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.
McDaniel Broke Barriers on the Court
Although he never got a chance to play in the US Lawn Tennis Association, Jimmy McDaniels was the top rank Black player in 1939 and dominated black college tennis and the ATA.
In 1940, he defended his ATA national title by beating Xavier teammate Dick Cohen at the tournament final at Wilberforce University in Ohio.
The highlight of his career came when he challenged Don Budge, the top white men’s tennis player of the pre-WWII era and one of the best of all time. On July 29, 1940, McDaniel and Don Budge squared off in front of 2,000 spectators at Harlem’s Cosmopolitan Tennis Club.
He lost in straight sets but won the respect of the world champion.
The “Queen of Tennis”
Ora Mae Washington deserve special recognition as she was one of the early dominant women players in the country. Rumor has it that Helen Moody, the top white player in the US Lawn Tennis Association refused to play her for fear she might lose to a “Black” woman.
Ora Mae won the ATA National Singles Titles in 1929 and 1937. She also was ATA National Doubles Champion for 12 consecutive years.
She was also inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and her alma mater, Temple University Hall of Fame in 1980.
One of the Best
Bonnie Logan was a product of the Durham/Hayti community where tennis was a part of the sports culture. She later won the Girl’s 14 & Under Championship in consecutive years and the Maryland’s Girl’s 18 & Under Championship.
She became the top player on the Morgan State women’s tennis team and no. 2 in the CIAA Tennis Championships.
Bonnie dominated the American Tennis Association during the 1960s and competed against the other top players like Althea Gibson. She captured seven Consecutive ATA Women’s Singles Titles and became the first African-American woman to play in a Virginia Slims Tournament. Bonnie was inducted into the 2009 class of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame, and the Morgan State University Varsity M Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983.
A True Pioneer
In the early part of the twentieth century (the 1910s and 1920s, Tally Holmes (and Lucy Stone) became the first African Americans to win a tennis championship.
He became one of the founding members of the American Tennis Association. Tally won the first ATA National Men’s Singles title in 1917 and singles titles in 1918 and 1921, along with ATA Men’s Doubles title in 1917, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1924, 1925, and 1927.
Holmes was the finalist in the 1920 Nationals, losing to B.M. Clark, a Jamaican and the first Black to play at the All England Championships at Wimbledon.
Billy Davis got his firsst tast of big time tennis when he was 10 years old. He served as a ball boy for the historic match between Don Budge and Jimmie McDaniel.He was a high school star as he won the Boys 15 singles in 1945, the Jr. Boys 18 Doubles in 1945, the Boys 18 singles in 1948.
He played tennis in college at Tennessee A&I Tigers.
He joined the ATA and went on to win 11 ATA National titles in nearly 30 years of competition. Billy won the Men’s singles titles in 1958, 1959, 1963, 1966, and 1967.
He won ATA National Men’s Doubles titles in 1954 and 1962 and finally the ATA National Men’s 45 Singles title in 1978.
ATA Doubles Champion
A teammate of Jimmie McDaniel at Xavier, Dick was a two-time ATA National Doubles champion in 1939 and 1941.
He was most noted for the historic doubles match in 1940 when he and McDaniel competed against Don Budge and Dr. Reginald Weir at the prestigious Cosmopolitan Tennis Club
It was the first interracial match in tennis history. Cohen went on to graduate from medical school.
The Tuskegee Hall of Famer won 12 national championships before starting the women’s basketball program at Federal City College in 1969.
Known as the “Father of Topspin” Brown helped bring tennis to a new level in 1931.
He is credited with creating the top-spin and baseline game.
Lucy Slowe Diggs
Slowe won the first ATA National Women’s Championship in 1917.
The founder and President of the National Association of College Women and founder of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and Dean of Women at Howard University in 1922.
Dr. Robert Screen
The winningest tennis coach in NCAA Division I history, he is the only African-American coach to win an NCAA tennis national championship, leading the Pirates’ men’s team to the 1976 and 1989 titles.
He was the American Tennis Association (ATA) national champion in 1931, 1932, 1933, 1937, and 1942.
His attempt to play at a US Lawn Tennis Association event paved the way for Althea Gibson to be accepted into the national event.
Rev. W.W. Walker
A pioneer in tennis.
As a member of the Chautauqua Tennis Club in 1898, he was the prime mover in sponsoring the first inter-state tournament which was held in Philadelphia.
He developed “the chop and net game,” a style that dominated the play of the game from 1899 to 1900.