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Southern Hall Of Fame Member Roberta Alison Baumgardner Passes

March 26, 2009 12:01 PM

Roberta Alison Baumgardner, who broke ground when she played on the University of Alabama men’s tennis team from 1963-65, passed away this week from injuries suffered in a house fire.

Baumgardner was a 1989 inductee into the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the Alabama Tennis Association Hall of Fame, the National College Women’s Tennis Hall of Fame and the University of Alabama Tennis Hall of Fame. She was ranked No. 1 in the South as a junior, was ranked in the top 20 nationally four times, was elected twice to play on the National Junior Wightman Cup team and played on the Southern Girls’ Intersectional Team for five years.

The Roberta Alison Fall Classic, a collegiate tennis tournament played at Alabama, was named in her honor.

Baumgardner was born December 13, 1943 in Alexander City, Ala., where she was living until a fire swept through her home last Friday and she suffered second and third degree burns. For further details, click here for a story on the Alex City Outlook web site.

Baumgardner began playing tennis at the age of seven under the tutelage of her father, Cal Alison, former #1 singles player at Alabama. She was the granddaughter of Benjamin Russell, founder of Russell Corporation.

When she enrolled in the University of Alabama in 1961, there wasn’t a women’s tennis team. Due to the efforts of the men’s tennis coach, Jason Morton, the SEC ruled the next year that women could play on men’s varsity teams at schools without women’s teams. For the next three years she played at #4 singles. Baumgartner also played #2 doubles with the son of her father’s doubles partner, Eddie Terrell, for two years.

Additionally, won the USLTA National College Girls’ Tennis Championships in 1962 and 1963, and paired with Justina Bricka of Missouri for the 1963 doubles title.

She also played the American tennis circuit. At the event in Cincinnati, she was a singles finalist in 1962 and 1965, and won doubles titles in 1962 (with Mary Habicht of Brazil), 1963 (with Linda Lou Crosby) and 1965 (with Stephanie DeFina).
In a 1993 article in The Birmingham News, Baumgardner said she no longer played tennis because she found the “transition from competitive tennis to social tennis” too difficult. “I don’t miss it. I’ve gone on to other things. My children are grown now and I’m enjoying my friends and my hobbies and looking forward to a new phase of my life,” Baumgardner said in the article.




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