August 7, 2014 was a day I’ll long remember. That day unfolded in Fort Lauderdale, Fl at the ATA (American Tennis Association) championships.
It was a celebratory day, a day set aside to recognize, thank, and enshrine seven illustrious inductees into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.
One of those seven was a true “tennis pioneer,” in my book, an iconic American hero.
His name is Richard A. Hudlin.
Hallelujah! Finally, this incredibly accomplished, quietly effective foot soldier has received a “proper” welcoming into the ranks of historical predecessors who made it possible for many, many others to follow, strive, and persevere in tennis.
In the mid 1920’s, Richard Hudlin attended the University of Chicago, which during that time was considered one of the premier institutions of higher education in the nation. It was one of the “Big Ten” colleges.
And, if attending such a preeminent school were not enough, Hudlin was also a member of UOC tennis team from 1926 to 1928. He was the only black on those teams.
Although great strides have been made, race remains one of the most divisive issues in American society. Having said that, imagine what it was like 86 years ago, when in 1928, Hudlin was selected as captain of the UOC tennis team thereby making him the first black captain of a Big-Ten college tennis team.
Who’d have been willing to do what he did? The answer is few.
But somebody had to do it, be the first that is. Clearly, Mr. Hudlin was up to the task.
17 years later, in St. Louis, Missouri, he would again achieve an unprecedented feat by filing a lawsuit against the City of St. Louis and municipal tennis association to gain access for his players of color to tournaments conducted in public parks. The suit was adjudicated in his favor.
The “walls of exclusion” were replaced by opened gates for inclusion. Again, a difficult undertaking needed doing and, once again, Hudlin stepped forward and persevered.
I was asked by Mr. Bob Davis, he too a 2014 inductee, if I’d be willing to attend the induction gala to introduce Mr. Hudlin and accept the posthumous hall of fame memento and induction certification in the event none of his immediate family was present. Of course my answer was a resounding “yes.” After all, it was I who nominated him.
I prepared an abbreviated speech highlighting several of Mr. Hudlin’s stellar achievements from a life-resume of remarkable work. Unfortunately, due to some organizational glitches (too many speakers in too little time or not having speakers limit their remarks so as to consume only a preordained number of minutes etc), time constraints prevented me from delivering my sub-five minute speech. While certainly unintentional, it was a disservice to the memory of a truly great man.
So, for the sake of venting a bit of personal frustration and to honor Mr. Hudlin’s induction, I’ve included the link below with the comments I’d prepared.
Despite my slight disappointment, I’d do it all again, because at the end of the day, Mr. Hudlin has been afforded the “props” he’s so richly deserved for such a long, long time.
Mr. Richard A. Hudlin is now a cherished member of an exalted group of blacks who made it possible for all of us and all of tennis to thrive, flourish and burgeon into the spectacular sport that it’s become.
He’s a recognized, sanctioned member of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.