Theodore (Ted) Lumpkin Jr. - A Tuskegee Airman And Tennis - UBITENNIS
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Theodore (Ted) Lumpkin Jr. – A Tuskegee Airman And Tennis

Theodore (Ted) Lumpkin Jr. wasn’t a formidable tennis player and he was much more than a Tuskegee Airman as Mark Winters brings out in a tribute to an extraordinary individual who passed away in late December 2020…

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Annually, the third Monday of January, in the US, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The national holiday celebrates the memory of the Baptist minister and Civil Rights activist who was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

Ordinarily on MLK Day, I reflect on the experiences that I have had in life and in tennis. As an example, I think back to the time I spent with Arthur Ashe while attending UCLA. (Interestingly, King sent a letter to Ashe in February of 1968, praising his character, along with his commitment to Civil Rights. He concluded his message by saying that he looked forward to meeting him in person, which did not happen.) This year, included in my thoughts, were a salute to Naomi Osaka, who made a statement at the US Open without saying a word. She did it in a quiet and sincere manner by wearing social justice facemasks that protested a spate of police interactions throughout the United States that had left innocent men and women dead or significantly injured. She knew that turning a blind eye to injustice was wrong. It always has been.

On January 18th, my usual day of introspection was very different.  It changed dramatically after I learned that Theodore Lumpkin Jr. (known to most as Ted) had passed away on December 26, 2020. Word was slow to reach those in the tennis community concerning Lumpkin having lost his battle with COVID-19 just a few days before his 101st birthday. 

Readers are probably asking – What exactly does Theodore (Ted) Lumpkin Jr. have to do with tennis and for that matter, Martin Luther King, Jr.? 

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Here is the story. Actually, an overview of his life which could serve as an outline for the production of a documentary. Lumpkin was born in Los Angeles and while attending UCLA in 1942 he was drafted. As a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Air Force, the 21-year-old became a member of the 100th Fighter Squadron. Because of his poor eyesight, he was unable to qualify as a pilot so he served as an intelligence officer in the all-Black unit that was known as the “Tuskegee Airmen”. The name stuck like glue, because it was based in Tuskegee, Alabama. (They were called the Red Tails because the tails on their planes were painted red.) After World War II, thanks to their exploits and their courage they soon became revered. (As an aside, by the end of WWII, Lumpkin had reached the rank of captain. He remained in the Air Force Reserves until 1979 and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.)

Coincidently, Tuskegee forms part of the foundation of the country’s tennis history. Beginning in the1890s, Howard University and Tuskegee Institute, (both Black schools) were among the first schools in the US to offer their students an opportunity to play tennis. 

On November 30, 1916 in Washington, D.C., players led by the Association Tennis Club of Washington and the Monumental Tennis Club of Baltimore formed the American Tennis Association. The organization came into existence because the United States Lawn Tennis Association had a policy of not allowing African Americans to compete in USLTA tournaments. Due to that exclusion, the ATA’s specific goal was to provide “People of color an opportunity to develop an appreciation for the gentlemen’s game”. 

When it came to tennis, Lumpkin wasn’t a top competitor. He enjoyed the game but for him, the sport offered much more. It provided him with the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships on and off the court. That’s why the people in the Los Angeles tennis community, particularly those who played at Harvard Park, became a part of his extended family. 

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Ronita Elder, Theresa Brown, Ted Lumpkin, Delores Simmons and James Walker

Lumpkin had spirit but it was dignified. Combined with his concern for those around him, these characteristics defined his quiet but captivating presence. It was one that resulted in the respect that he received from his tennis cohorts, though he was only a recreational player. 

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Harvard Park honored “Living Legends In Our Community” including Don Bly, Ted Lumpkin, Earthna Jacquet and Jean Richardson


Lumpkin was humble and rarely talked about the fabled Tuskegee Airmen. In an oral history though, he said that the “Airmen” endeavor was “an experiment…” It was an early version of the proven fallacy that “African Americans” don’t have the intelligence or skill to play quarterback in the National Football League (American football). In this case, it was the intellect or ability to be a combat pilot. The truth has been documented and the bountiful successes African Americans have realized in both endeavors is now a given, and it is backed up by facts.

In 2007, US President, George W. Bush honored the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian recognition. Barack Obama, in 2009, invited the surviving Airmen to attend his first inauguration. In 2012, Lumpkin was inducted into the West Coast African American Hall of Fame. While he was pleased, it was clear that the acknowledgement didn’t defined who he always was.

With Lumpkin’s death, there are only eight Tuskegee Airmen surviving. Theodore (Ted) Lumpkin led an interesting, challenging and rewarding life. The essence of this man was goodness. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, as always, is a tribute to more than just one man. Ted Lumpkin has passed on, but he will be remembered for the life he lived. Tennis lost a long-standing friend who helped pave the way for every person of color who came after him. May He Rest In Peace. 

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Rafael Nadal Withdraws From Rotterdam Due To Back Injury

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Rotterdam due to ongoing back problems.

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Rafael Nadal (@WeAreTennisITA - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal has announced his withdrawal from next week’s ATP 500 event in Rotterdam due to a back injury.

 

The Spaniard’s back problems have started since before the Australian Open which he managed to play the tournament in Melbourne with the problem.

Eventually Nadal lost in his Australian Open quarter-final to Stefanos Tsitsipas from 2 sets to love up.

Despite playing in Melbourne, Nadal’s back problems continue to derail his schedule as he has now withdrawn from Rotterdam.

In a statement on Twitter, Nadal said that after consulting his doctor it was not the best idea to play Rotterdam.

“It is with great sadness that I have to forfeit from Rotterdam. As most of the fans know, I suffered back problems in Australia that started in Adelaide and continued in Melbourne,” Nadal said.

“We found a temporary solution that allowed me to play without pain in the second week of the tournament. Once I got back to Spain I visited my doctor and together with my team they’ve advised not to play this upcoming week.”

Nadal’s 10 year hiatus from the tournament continues as he looks to recover from the problem as soon as possible.

The 20-time grand slam champion’s main priority will be the clay-court swing where he can win a record-breaking 21st grand slam title.

Nadal’s next scheduled tournament will be the Miami Masters in late-March.

Meanwhile Nadal could now lose his world number two ranking next week as the top seed which is now Daniil Medvedev could replace him there.

The recent Australian Open finalist will need to reach the final if he wants to become the world number two but will face stiff competition in Holland from the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Milos Raonic.

The tournament will start on the 1st of March.

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John Isner not happy with the cut in prize money for Miami Masters

John Isner took to Twitter to raise some issues about the ATP and latest state of affairs in Tennis.

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The American took to social media to vent his frustration saying it doesn’t make sense.

 

John Isner took to twitter today after hearing the news that the Miami Open will be cutting its prize money down with the singles champion only taking $300,110 with a first round loser only winning $10,000 in prize money.

Isner and many other players on tour believe the tournament should be forced to due an audit to truly reveal what their finances are and to see if they are hiding anything.

“How about a true audit to see how much tourneys are actually hurting and then a money formula after the event to reconcile?”

“Amazing we still don’t have this in a lot of our big events. How does that make any sense?” 

He also tweeted about the promoters saying the system the ATP uses is broken.

The American also spoke of the unfairness in the cuts the players are taking in comparison to the actual events.

“So players should take a 60% cut and 80% champions cut while ATP executives keep full salaries, benefits, and expense accounts? Make that make sense. Seems just a little bit hypocritical, don’t ya think?”.

Isner finally believes the players should benefit from the tournament not just in the short term but over a long tenure.

““Tennis is plagued by conflict and lack of transparency”

The tournament is scheduled for March 23rd at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and the tournament has confirmed they won’t be doing a quarantine like the Australian Open.

The players will need to provide a negative PCR test to board a flight to the US and once they land they will be tested once again and isolate until a negative result is shown.

The players will only be allowed at the hotel and the venue and any player who doesn’t respect the rules will be subject to penalties and be withdrawn from the tournament.

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Lleyton Hewitt ‘Hugely Honoured’ To Be Elected To Hall Of Fame

The class of 2021 have been confirmed with The Original 9 of women’s tennis also being inducted.

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Former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt celebrated his 40th birthday by being notified that he will be inducted into the prestigious Tennis Hall of Fame.

 

The Australian tennis star will be inducted into the player category after coming in first place in a vote by tennis fans that took place last year and being selected by the official voting group of media, historians and Hall of Famers. Hewitt was one of five candidates up for the vote. He is the first person from his country to enter the Hall of Fame since wheelchair tennis player David Hall did so in 2015.

Hewitt played in 46 ATP finals during his career in which he won 30 titles. In the Grand Slams he defeated Pete Sampras at the 2001 US Open to clinch his maiden major trophy. In the following year he triumphed at the Wimbledon Championships. It was during 2001 when he topped the ATP rankings at the age of 20 to become the youngest player to ever do so since the system was implemented in 1973. A record that he still holds this present day. Hewitt spent a total of 80 weeks as world No.1 which is 10 times longer than John Newcombe, who is the only other Australian man to have held the top spot for multiple weeks.

“The Hall of Famers are people who I admired so much throughout my career – especially people like [Tony] Roche and [John] Newcombe and Rod [Laver] and so many others,” Hewitt said in a statement. “They were all motivating factors in my career and to be recognised alongside them in tennis history is an incredible honour.”

In the Davis Cup Hewitt was instrumental in helping his country win two titles. He holds the Australian Davis Cup record for most ties played (43), most years played (19) and the most total wins in the competition (59). After retiring from the sport he became captain of the team.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome these tennis greats into the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” Hall of Fame President Stan Smith said. “Lleyton Hewitt always competed hard until the last ball was hit, and this is very apparent in the Hall of Fame resume he built, which includes a Wimbledon trophy, a US Open trophy, two Davis Cups, and being World No. 1.”

Original 9 also receive recognition

Also inducted into the class of 2021 are the Original 9 who played a pivotal role in the formation of women’s tennis. The group, who are the first to make the hall of fame, made history in 1970 after signing $1 contracts with Gladys Heldman to take part in a tournament. At the time both playing opportunities and prize money for women were significantly different to that of their male counterparts. The event led to the formation of the Virginia Slims Circuit and then to the birth of the WTA Tour.

“The Original 9 were true trailblazers in tennis history,” said Smith. “It took a lot of courage to do what they did, and we have today’s incredible WTA Tour to thank for it, as well as opportunities for women in so many other sports.”

The members of the Original 9 are Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Billie Jean King, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.

Finally, tennis coach Dennis Van der Meer will be inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously after passing away in 2019.

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