06 Jul Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, the ‘godfather’ of Black tennis
As Wimbledon gets underway in London, tennis will be a dominate discussion for several weeks. The world may have its eyes on the tournament, but it reminds us in the states of Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, the putative godfather of Black tennis.
The “godfather” appellation is derived mainly from his tutoring of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. But there were many others, and the esteemed doctor also acquired acclaim as the first African-American physician to receive an obstetrical license to practice at the Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia.
Born April 16, 1899, in Norfolk, Va., Johnson attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where on the gridiron his nickname “Whirlwind” earned him All-American status at historically Black colleges and universities. He graduated in 1924. For four seasons, he was a football coach in Virginia and Texas before entering Meharry Medical College in Nashville.
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