WILMINGTON, NC (RELEASE FROM ONE LOVE TENNIS ) — Wilmington native and legendary tennis professional Lendward “Lenny” Simpson will be inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in their annual ceremony in Ft. Lauderdale later in August of 2014.
The Black Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum is a non-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of African-American tennis and honoring the contributions of those who achieved success in tennis and life. “Lenny Simpson has displayed championship qualities for his entire life.” Says Robert Davis, Executive Director of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum. “From his accomplishments as a junior champion, to his achievements on the professional tour, to his work with urban children through his not-for-profit foundation, his life has been one of selflessness. He is a humanitarian of world-class proportions and I am proud, no, ecstatic, to be inducted alongside this giant of a man.”
Simpson’s historic tennis career began in Wilmington in 1953 when at age 5, he was visiting neighbor Dr. Hubert Eaton’s tennis court where Althea Gibson happened to be practicing. The groundbreaking tennis Grand Slam Champion coaxed him into playing.
Young Simpson was coached by neighbor Nathaniel Jackson and Dr. Eaton who later
introduced the promising player to Dr. R. Walter Johnson, the lifelong mentor of
Gibson and Arthur Ashe. At age 9, he joined Dr. Johnson’s ATA Junior
Development Team and traveled and often roomed with his friend Arthur Ashe on
the predominantly white tennis circuit for almost a decade.
Simpson attended The Hill School and Cheshire Academy on academic and tennis
scholarships and won the National Prep School Championship in 1967.
Simpson was ranked in the top 10 nationally in every age group as a junior in singles
and in doubles. In the early 60’s, he won the ATA National Boy’s Singles and Doubles
Championships and played the U.S. Open Championships in 1964, 1965 and 1966.
Simpson won the 1964 USLTA Eastern Boys 14 and under singles title at Forest Hills.
Later that same year, at age 15, he became the youngest male to ever play at the U.S.
National Championships at Forest Hills.
While partnered with North Carolina native Bonnie Logan, Simpson won the ATA
National Mixed Doubles title four consecutive times from 1967-1970. He won the
Wilmington City Championships 5 times in singles, twice in doubles once while
partnered with Dr. Hubert Eaton, who is also being inducted posthumously into the
Black Tennis Hall of Fame this year.
After a stellar amateur career, Simpson went on to become a top collegiate player at
East Tennessee State University. Captain of the ETSU tennis team from 1968 – 1972,
Simpson was a quarter finalist at NCAA tournament and played no. 1 in singles and
doubles. He was the Ohio Valley Conference Champion in Singles and Doubles.
Simpson turned professional in 1973 and was the first African-American to play
World Team Tennis for the Detroit Loves. Simpson qualified for Wimbledon in 1974.
Simpson was inducted in the Cheshire Academy Hall of Fame in 1989. He was a part
of the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Breaking the Barrier Tennis Exhibit in
2010, and was inducted into the N.C. Tennis Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Greater
Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. “Of all the accolades, this is the one I cherish the most.” Says Simpson of this induction. “I am humbled to join this Hall of Fame with not only my friends but my ATA family who came before and after me, who helped pave, as Ashe said, “the hard road to glory. ”
Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, Dr. Johnson and the American Tennis Association have
all been inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. Simpson will also be accepting
the posthumous 2014 honor for the family of Dr. Hubert Eaton.
In early 2013, Simpson moved to back to his hometown of Wilmington, NC and
started The Lenny Simpson Tennis and Education Fund and One Love Tennis, a year
round program for at-risk youth that provides tennis instruction in an environment
that builds self-esteem, character and life skills and has had over 5000 youth contacts.
Simpson also teaches tennis privately and through programs at the YMCA and
YWCA. He recently coached his Wilmington Junior Team Tennis (10 and under) to
the State Championships.
Simpson has also organized many charitable tennis exhibition matches with tennis
greats like Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Caroline Wozniacki, John
McEnroe, Todd Martin and most recently the Bryan Brothers.
Information on Lenny Simpson’s One Love Tennis:
The goal and vision of the One Love program is to continue the legacy of Dr. R. Walter Johnson, Nathaniel Jackson and Dr. Hubert Eaton, who through personal sacrifice and sheer determination, introduced the game of tennis to young boys and girls regardless of their socioeconomic situation.
Their efforts produced such champions as Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson, as well as world class players, such as myself and many others who have used the skills they learned to open doors for others.
Our “One Love” program will reach thousands of young boys and girls through instruction in elementary and middle schools, as well as community centers. We will teach them the great game of tennis and life lessons through their exposure to the game which will help them to succeed in life and then open doors for others.
More info at http://www.lennysimpsontennis.com/