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Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, MD: 2009 Inductee To International Tennis Hall Of Fame

Monday, February 23, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Dr. Robert W. Johnson 2009 International Tennis Hall Of FameDr. Robert Walter Johnson "Whirlwind", already inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, has been named an inductee with the class of 2009 into the International Tennis Hall Of Fame. Dr. Johnson received his nickname for his football prowess, however, he was best known for his contributions in the development of tennis programs in the United States.

ITHF Class of 2009 Announcement:

Robert Walter Johnson "Whirlwind"

Born: April 16, 1899

Died: June 28, 1971

Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia, United States

Citizenship: United States

Inducted: 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Dr. Robert W. Johnson 2009 International Tennis Hall Of Fame
Black Tennis Pro's Dr. Robert Johnson 2009 International Tennis Hall of Fame InducteeDr. Robert “Whirlwind” Johnson (1899-1971) is considered the man most responsible for launching the careers of world tennis greats Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, the nation's first African-American tennis champions. During a time of racial separation, Johnson, through quiet diplomacy, was able to open the doors of tournament competition to young African-Americans barred from mainstream competition. He persevered, despite the racial barriers of that time, and through whispered entreaties and legal challenges he helped pave the way for minorities to gain entrance into tournaments and excel at the highest levels of the game. For more than 20 years, Johnson’s home in Lynchburg, Virginia became the destination for talented black tennis players to receive training and to participate in integrated tournaments and exhibitions with the likes of Pauline Betz Addie and Bobby Riggs. He provided food, equipment, financial support and guidance throughout their development.

Through the American Tennis Association (ATA), which was formed in 1916, Johnson created the ATA Junior Development Program. In the 1950s and 1960s, he sponsored, trained and nurtured hundreds of African-American juniors - and several white juniors - at his Lynchburg home, where he had a tennis court in his backyard. He initiated the integration of black tennis at the junior level, and ultimately at the highest levels of the game, working as coach, trainer, sponsor and fundraiser – and courageously approaching tournament directors and lobbying for his players’ full participation. He was also publisher of the ATA’s annual program, distributed at the national championships, and his vehicle for informing the membership of the achievements of his junior players.Black Tennis Pro's Dr. Robert W. Johnson 2009 International Tennis Hall Of Fame

The names of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe (both Hall of Famers) and their life achievements will long be remembered in the world of tennis; they were the African-American trailblazers and became champions of the sport through their discipline and perseverance. However it was Johnson’s vision and innovative groundwork that gave Gibson and Ashe – and all future black champions – the training ground and road map to succeed.

Personal Biography
  • Graduated from Lincoln University in 1924
  • Named to the Negro All American Football Team in 1924
  • Attended Meharry Medical School in Nashville, TN
  • Completed his medical residency & moved to Lynchburg, VA in 1933
  • Served on the Lynchburg Commission on Interracial Cooperation & was active during the Civil Right’s Movement
  • Founder of the American Tennis Association’s (A.T.A.) Junior Development Program in the early 1950’s
  • Dr. Johnson’s Junior Development Program produced the first African-American major tennis champions - Althea Gibson & Arthur Ashe

“As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Althea Gibson?s wins at Wimbledon and the US Open, it seems natural to discuss Dr. Robert Johnson?s involvement in creating new opportunities for African-American tennis players. An active member in the tennis community, Dr. Johnson?s efforts led to greater possibilities for players like Althea and Arthur Ashe. I support his nomination for the International Tennis Hall of Fame for his contributions and efforts.”
- Serena Williams

"Without Whirlwind, neither Althea Gibson nor Arthur Ashe would have become the first African-Americans to win major tennis titles. Both acknowledged the significance of his role in their development several times during their storied lives."
- Alan G. Schwartz, March 31, 2003
USTA Chairman of the Board &
President 2003 - 2004

“Needless to say, our sport, our country, indeed the world community became a better place because of Althea and Arthur’s achievements. Dr. Johnson made it possible for them to succeed. His extraordinary role should be remembered, appreciated and applauded not just by African Americans, but also by everyone who strives for equality and justice. Let’s start by creating a major contributor’s spot for him at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He deserves the honor.”
- John McEnroe, from the foreword of the book “Whirlwind: The Godfather of Black Tennis”

“Dr. Johnson was a major force in the careers of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, through his guidance, training and generosity. He also helped many other players on the tour through his wisdom and generous ways.”
- Billie Jean King, March 7, 2006

The Legacy of Dr. R Walter Johnson
International Tennis Hall Of Fame

Posted by Shelia

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