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Robert C. "Bob" Davis


In 2008, Davis made history as the first Executive Director of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. In this capacity, he has managed the day-to-day operations of this organization dedicated to recording and promoting tennis history. Born in New York City, Davis was a 2-time ATA National Champion. He won the Boys 18 ATA Junior National title in 1961. In addition, he won the ATA Men’s Doubles Championship with his brother in 1962, 2009 Black Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee Billy Davis. A Life member of the ATA, Davis competed in the U.S. National Championships at Forest Hills, was the USTA Mixed Doubles National Champion in 2006, and the ATA National 70's and over Men’s Doubles Champion in 2015 and 2016. Both 70's titles partnered with Hall of Famer John Wilkerson.


Off the court, Bob leased the largest private tennis club in New York State in the ’70s and managed his family-owned sleep-over tennis Academy in the 80′s. He then helped to create and was National Program Director for the Ashe/Bollettieri “Cities” Tennis Program (ABC) which later became the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation. As CEO, this program introduced tennis to more than 20,000 inner-city children and provided health screenings, tutoring and academic support to these children in 10 U.S. cities across America. Once the Safe Passage Foundation closed its doors, Bob created Black Dynamics, Inc., which offered scholarships to the most talented minority youth to the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy. The founding belief of Black Dynamics was that youngsters needed world class competition in order to reach world class performance. Two alumni of Black Dynamics represented the United States on the Federation Cup Team. Bob then created the Panda Foundation, Inc. (www.thepandafoundation.com). The Panda Foundation, modeled after the extremely successful Safe Passage Foundation, provides introductory tennis instruction to more than 500 urban youth each year. These under-served youth also receive dental and health related services as well as mentoring by local professionals. All Panda programs are free to the children. Bob also coaches professional players and served as the coach of the Jamaican Davis Cup Team in 2013.





Dr. Hubert A. Eaton, Sr.


In 1932, at the age of 15, Eaton made history by being the first African American to win the North Carolina Interscholastic Tennis Championships. In 1933, he proved he was one of the best black junior players in the country by winning the Boys 18 ATA National Championship. Eaton added to his legendary status by becoming the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association (which is now called the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association or “CIAA”) Singles Champion in 1936. Eaton and George Stewart won the ATA Men’s Doubles Championship in 1948, 1949, 1951 and 1956. In 1946, Dr. Eaton took Althea Gibson into his home, providing the structure and discipline that allowed her to attend and graduate from High School. He provided tennis instruction on his home tennis court and, along with Dr. Robert Johnson, directed her early ATA career. Eaton was a successful ATA President during a critical period in the organization’s development. He served in this role from 1960 to 1970 and helped the organization maintain relevance at a time when tennis was becoming integrated.

Eaton was an excellent student. He graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in 1937 and wanted to go to medical school in North Carolina to continue his education. Unfortunately, African Americans were not admitted to any of North Carolina’s medical schools. He therefore attended the University of Michigan and earned his M.D. in 1942. Eaton actively fought for integration both on and off of the tennis court. In his native Wilmington, N.C., Dr. Eaton led efforts to desegregate Wilmington College (forerunner of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington), the YMCA, the Municipal Golf Course and the County Library System. He served on the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, serving as chairman in 1981. Dr. Eaton ran for a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Education in 1952, 1954 and 1956. He lost those races but made history by becoming the first African America to run for public office in New Hanover County since the 1890s. Dr. Eaton was a leading local civil rights activist and sued New Hanover County to provide equal funding for black public schools. This successful litigation led to the eventual desegregation of the County School System. In 1984, Eaton was inducted into the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a tremendous tennis player and outstanding leader.








Lendward "Lenny" Simpson


In 1964, Simpson made history by becoming the first African American to win the USLTA Eastern Boy’s 14 singles title at Forest Hills. This was a particularly significant achievement because he defeated future pro tennis legend Dick Stockton in the finals. This extraordinary accomplishment enabled Simpson, ate the age of 15, to become the youngest male to ever compete in the US National Championships at Forest Hills in 1964. He also played in the US National Championships in 1965 and 1966. In 1967, he continued his extraordinary junior career by winning the ATA National Boys Singles and Doubles Championships. Simpson was able to use his exceptional tennis talents to enhance his education. He attended Cheshire Academy on a tennis scholarship and played #1 singles and, because of his extraordinary tennis accomplishments, was the first person inducted into their athletic hall of fame. In 1967, Simpson won the National Prep School Championship. He was one of the best players in the country throughout his junior career as evidenced by his being ranked in the top 10 nationally in the USLTA in every junior age group in both singles and doubles.

While at Eastern Tennessee State University, Lenny played #1 singles for three years and was ranked #1 in the Ohio Valley Conference for three consecutive years. In 1964 and 1965 Simpson and Luis Glass won the ATA Men’s Doubles Championship. In addition, Simpson and 2009 Black Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee Bonnie Logan won the ATA National Mixed Doubles Championship four consecutive times from 1967-1970.

In 1974, Simpson made history once again by becoming the first African American to play World Team Tennis, signing with the Detroit Loves. He was inducted into the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. Simpson continues to give back to the tennis community and support future tennis champions. The not-for-profit tennis program that Simpson currently leads serves more than 200 children per week in the Wilmington, North Carolina community.

Lenny passed away  at 74 years of age on February 9, 2024.





Edgar G. Brown


Brown was an extraordinary tennis player who was the ATA Men’s Singles Champion in 1922, 1923, 1928 and 1929. He was also one of the earliest practitioners of topspin, which dominates modern tennis. Brown also has the dubious distinction in the ATA of receiving a one year suspension for refusing to play due to darkness. He believed that continuing to play as the sunlight began to fade hindered play and, further, could result in serious injury. So he refused to play a match and was suspended for a year.

Brown was one of the leading tennis activists of his day. He felt strongly that black players should not be content with winning ATA championships. Brown openly expressed his belief that there should be a strong societal push to allow black players to enter white only tournaments like the US Nationals at Forest Hills and Wimbledon. Unfortunately, he was not successful in convincing the white governing bodies to integrate these tournaments when he was a player. However, he became a legend of black tennis because of his extraordinary talents on the court and his fight to eliminate tennis segregation off of the court.



Mary Etta Fine and Eva Belle Bracy

Mary Etta was born in Kansas City, Kansas in 1924. Two years later her sister Eva Belle was born. Their older brother, Leo, introduced both girls to tennis. The sisters were extraordinary players who won the ATA National Women’s Doubles championship in 1955, 1957 and 1958. Mary Etta also won the ATA Mixed Doubles National Championship in 1951 with her brother and mentor Leo and the ATA Women’s Singles Championship in 1958. During the height of her tennis career, Mary Etta became Althea Gibson’s dear friend and fiercest rival.


Both sisters graduated from college with degrees in education and became school teachers in the Kansas City area. Eva Belle Bracy started playing tennis at the age of 14. She was fortunate to have sister, Mary Etta, and brother, Leo as hitting and training partners. She was a spirited and determined athlete, however, and played several other sports. In addition to the National titles that she earned with her sister, Eva’s son Theron played college tennis on scholarship at Kansas City Kansas Community College and Baker University.





Richard Hudlin


Richard made history by playing tennis for the University of Chicago from 1926 to 1928. He served as captain of the 1928 team, establishing himself as the first African-American to serve as captain of a tennis team at a “Big Ten” college. This accomplishment is made even more remarkable when one realizes that Richard was the only Black man on the team from 1926-1928. But, he didn’t stop there. In 1945 he filed a lawsuit against the Muny Tennis Association of St. Louis to open public tennis facilities to all players, most particularly to players of color. He won the legal battle, thus enabling Blacks to participate in tournaments at St. Louis municipal facilities. Champions Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe spent time with Mr. Hudlin in St. Louis honing their skills at the Armory tennis courts. On the slick, lightening-fast wood surface, Arthur was transformed from a back-court player into a serve-volley specialist, a game that would serve him well during his professional career.


Arthur completed his final year of High School at Sumner High under Mr. Hudlin’s tutelage. Mr. Hudlin spent 36 years as the coach at Sumner High School. In addition, he served as the president of the Muny Tennis Association and was the first black member of the St. Louis District Tennis Association. In addition to coaching Ashe and Gibson, Hudlin coached Bruce Foxworth and Juan Farrow. He was both a champion as well as a champion maker. Hudlin was a teacher, leader, mentor, supporter, donator and defender. He passed away in 1976, living long enough to see both Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe win the U.S. Open and the prestigious Wimbledon titles. In 1992, Hudlin was inducted into the St. Louis Tennis Hall of Fame. In 2015, he was inducted into the USTA Missouri Valley Tennis Association Tennis Hall of Fame.





Henry Talbert


Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world because of incredibly talented athletes and extraordinary administrators. Unfortunately, tennis fans rarely recognize those individuals who, behind the scenes, do the hard work that enable talented tennis players to become legends. Henry Talbert is one of those individuals who, quietly behind the scenes, helped to diversify the leadership of the sport and grow the game. After graduating from UCLA and serving in Vietnam, he became the National Urban League’s Director of Veterans Affairs. A life-long tennis player with a game developed on the public park courts in Los Angeles and at Dorsey High School, Talbert began his legendary service to the USTA in 1974. He made history by becoming the first African-American to be a USTA administrator on the national level.


Talbert demonstrated his extraordinary leadership skills by developing and running successful national tennis programs in the USTA’s headquarters in New York City, Princeton and White Plains. He felt a calling to leave the USTA national office and become the Executive Director of the USTA Southern California Section in 1997. He held that position until he retired in 2013. 2002 ITHF Inductee Pam Shriver, who is part of the broadcasting team for the Australian Open television, said from Melbourne, “I feel fortunate to have known Henry for decades from east coast to west coast. Henry’s love of tennis was only surpassed by his love of family and friends.”


Talbert set a moral, ethical and quality standard that tennis leaders, along with everyone in the game, should aspire to achieve. He was a caring and loving individual who opened doors of opportunity for most of today’s new crop of US tennis administrators and mentored every African American who held leadership positions in the USTA. His passing in January of 2014 was treated in the world of tennis administrators the same way the passing of a pro player who won all four of the Grand Slam Championships would be treated by tennis fans. He was a true gentleman who raised the bar of administrative leadership in the sport of tennis.

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