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The Passing of Two Great Southern Tennis Champions

March 4, 2003 03:47 PM

Former USTA Southern Section President Newton Cox

Newton Cox, former president of the USTA Southern Section and an instrumental figure in founding the Mobile Tennis Center died Sunday in Mobile, Alabama. He was 73.

"Almost everyone who played tennis in the South knew Newton," said Southern Section Executive Director John Callen.

Mr. Cox's brother, Patrick Cox, told Mobile Register writer Cassandra M. Taylor Cox had experienced heart problems and suffered successive strokes while undergoing surgery in November. Complications from the strokes and ongoing heart problems apparently caused his death

After a 19-year career with the Army Corps of Engineers, Cox devoted his life to tennis. He became a teaching pro, served as a USTA delegate for the Southern Section and as regional vice president of the United States Professional Tennis Association, which honored him as its professional of the year in 1971

In a three-year span, Cox was inducted into three different tennis halls of fame — the Alabama Tennis Association's Hall of Fame in 1989, the Southern Tennis Patrons Foundation Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992.

"The world lost a great man in the passing of Newton Cox," Marilyn Sherman, the director of adult tennis for the United States Tennis Association, told the Mobile Register. "In a time filled with turmoil and angst, Newton stands as an example of how one man can make a difference through love, vision and courage. Newton will be remembered by every tennis player in the city of Mobile to players, volunteers and staff members across the state of Alabama, the South, the United States and internationally."

A driving force in the development of The Mobile Tennis Center, which is one of the largest public tennis facilities in the South and was renamed The Newton Cox Complex in July of 1999. Cox served as the teaching pro at the center for several years, was a USTA national tournament director and pro circuit tournament director and local players recall him as a skilled hot dog chef at the tournaments he ran in Mobile

"You could go on and on about what he's done for tennis in the South," Patrick Cox told the Mobile Register. "He was a very kind and generous person; there was nothing he wouldn't do for a friend. He's helped so many people. He had such a good heart that I don't know of anybody that disliked him."

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Southern Tennis Patron's Foundation, 3850 Holcomb Bridge Rd., Suite 305, Norcross, GA 30092.

(The above piece originally appeared at www.tennisweek.com)

Tennis Legend Nehemiah Atkinson

Nehemiah Atkinson, whose illustrious tennis career spanned seven decades, passed away on Sunday, February 9th at the age of 84.

"Nehemiah was a great man and in addition to his gift for tennis, he was such a fine sportsman" said Randy Gregson, former USTA and USTA Southern Section President.

A resident of New Orleans for the past 63 years, Atkinson was an outstanding senior tennis player, a retired tennis teacher and a U.S. Army Veteran. He began his career in tennis in the 1940’s. Undeterred by the obstacles of segregation, Atkinson served as a role model for African-American tennis enthusiasts around the country.

During World War II Atkinson served in the Army’s Black Corp of Engineers. After the war he returned to the game he loved and founded the New Orleans Hardcourts Tennis Club with seven other tennis devotees. Over the years Atkinson received countless honors for his work in the game. He was the first African-American to receive the Touch Stone Memorial Award and the first African-American inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame.

Atkinson was a member of the Gardnar Mulloy Cup team in 2001 in Perth, which won the Cup and the singles world champion in 2001 in the men's 80 division. He won his first gold ball in 1999, the 80's hard court championships, and followed it with many more titles.

Dan Miller, at 86, 2 years older than Atkinson, had the following comments: "I have played Nehemiah 12 times and never beat him in singles. I also have played him as many times, or more, in doubles and have only lost to him once! Basically he was a singles specialist and played doubles to be sociable with either Howard Kuntz or Paul DeCamp, both from New Orleans.




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