07 Jan The Man who Helped Break the Color Barrier in Tennis: Recognizing Dr. “Whirlwind” Johnson
Decades ago at 1442 Pierce Street in Lynchburg, VA, a physician was quietly making history in the two-story house and adjoining tennis court. The man was Dr. R. Walter Johnson, nicknamed “Whirlwind” from his career as a college running back, and on that court he introduced many African-American youths to tennis.
Althea Gibson, one of his students, would become the first black person to win a Grand Slam tournament when she triumphed at the French Open in 1956 (she would later go on to win both Wimbledon and the US National Championships two times each). In 1953, he took on Arthur Ashe as a pupil and became his lifelong coach.
However Dr. Johnson’s goal was not to create champions, his true passion was to share the sport of tennis—and the valuable life lessons it teaches—with the African-American community. He advanced this as a leader in the American Tennis Association (the black counterpart to the precursor to the USTA, which was whites-only at the time), founding the Junior Development Program, and by encouraging black colleges and universities to develop tennis teams.
Read the full blog post here: http://www.arthurashe.org/blog/the-man-who-helped-break-the-color-barrier-in-tennis-recognizing-dr-whirlwind-johnson