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Otis Smith, current Director of Tennis at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club, Santa Barbara, California, has vast tennis background. A native of Los Angeles, California, Otis grew up playing junior tennis.  In 1984 he was one of three African Americans to participate in Kalamazoo Boys' 18s (Brian Flowers and Bryan Shelton) before heading to UCLA where he was one of the few African Americans to play #1 singles along with Marcel Freeman and Arthur Ashe. He was the only African American on the team during those years. Otis was a three-year Letterman, 1985,1986 and 1987. He helped UCLA win a Pac-10 title, and won Southern California Intercollegiate Tennis title at Valley Hunt tennis club in 1987. He later graduated with a bachelors degree. 

Otis played on the professional tennis circuit for eight years and reached a high of 274 in singles, and a high of 199 in doubles.  He played in the US Open, Wimbledon and numerous ATP events around the world including Toronto, Montreal, Queens Club, Bristol, Memphis, Los Angeles and San Francisco.


In ITF events in Japan and Indonesia, Otis won singles and doubles titles.


Otis was the first African American tennis member at the Los Angeles Tennis Club.  Arthur Ashe wrote a letter to the Board of Directors stating he was giving up his seat as a Board Member if Otis wasn't allowed to join the club as a junior member.   Arthur Ashe's letter in full read: (photocopy below)


"September 18, 1975


To the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Tennis Club:


I am aware of the application of Otis Smith, III for membership at the club.

I am also aware of the fact that he is an honor student, a well-behaved, polite, committed youngster of 9 who happens to be quite a tennis player for his age.

Consequently, if the L.A.T.C. will ever "integrate" its membership rules, this is surely the time and the person. So much so that if he is turned down, I will privately resign my honorary membership.


Arthur Ashe"

For 10 years Otis served as the Director of Tennis at Ritz-Carlton Bacara Santa Barbara, California, and currently has been Tennis Director at Santa Barbara Tennis Club for the past 13 months.



  • Peter Brown Tennis - where he was also named Living Legend in 2019 for tennis accomplishments and for volunteering for the Black tennis community.
  • USTA NJTL Board Member (started by Arthur Ashe to provide tennis and education in communities that would not be exposed to tennis.
  • Southern California Foundation Board Member
  • USPTA Southern California Division Board Member - Vice President 
  • Black/African American Sub-Committee Member for USTA Southern California Tennis Association. 



 Arthur Ashe Letter


Photocopy from The Arthur Ashe Legacy at UCLA.




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