The History of Blacks in tennis goes back nearly 130 years when Booker T. Washington launched the first Black collegiate team at Tuskegee Institute. Exactly one century ago, in 1919, Sylvester Smith won the men’s division of the ATA National Championships. The international flavor of Black tennis was realized when May Rae, a woman from Jamaica, West Indies claimed the women’s title that same year.
Just as we recognized a Jamaican woman in 1919, this year we recognize a Jamaican male champion in Richard Russell. His list of accomplishments is impressive, but none more than his Davis Cup victory over Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell.
This year the Black Tennis Hall of Fame has the honor of recognizing Chanda Rubin and her long-time coach Benny Sims. Chanda rose to #6 in the world under Benny’s tutelage and Benny, in his own right, developed a stellar career as the assistant coach at Harvard and later as head coach at the Longwood Cricket Club.
Also inducted will be Phillip Williamson. Phillip’s accomplishments on the tennis courts while representing Columbia University and competing many times in the U.S. Open makes him a very worthy candidate.
As in years past, the Black Tennis Hall of Fame, living up to its founding mission to recognize those that made major contributions to Black tennis in the years preceding integration, this year we are recognizing three Pioneers in our sport. Nathaniel and Franklyn Jackson and Theodore Thompson. This afternoon you will learn of their accomplishments during the early part of the 20th Century.
Finally, several years ago, the Black Tennis Hall of Fame created a new category of recognition that we call “Regional Legends.” This category was created to recognize individuals who changed the lives of our children and our sport in immeasurable ways. The individuals honored today are singularly responsible for enriching the lives of hundreds (maybe thousands) of youngsters. They deserve to be lifted up and recognized for their herculean efforts.