Historic tennis court reopens in Lynchburg

African-American tennis legends Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe played on this court

By Magdala Louissaint - Lynchburg Bureau Reporter

LYNCHBURG, Va. - A historic tennis court in Lynchburg has reopened.

It's where African-American tennis legends Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe spent time practicing the sport.

Some people in attendance at Friday's ribbon-cutting were former students of Dr. Robert "Whirlwind" Johnson, the instructor who taught Gibson and Ashe how to the play the game.

It's been 47 years since the court on Pierce Street has been used. After months of renovation, the court is finally open to attract the younger generation of tennis players. With help of The United States Tennis Association, gave $25,000 to $30,000 to the Whirlwind Johnson Foundation to renovate the court.

Some companies donated their time to install the lights on the court.

"My goal is to have someone, maybe someone off of Pierce Street or maybe off 15th (Street) or whatever, in the U.S. Open. This is a really special place, very historical place that we wanted to do our best to say, 'Let's bring it back,'" said Virgil Christian, the senior director of college tennis and market development for the USTA.

"We're breathing new life to what was a site and landmark that launched the careers and lives of a number of very solid players and citizens," said Lange Johnson, Robert Johnson's grandson and president of the Whirlwind Johnson Foundation.

The next step for organizers is restoring Robert Johnson's home and shed as a museum. Organizers of the foundation also said they are working with Lynchburg's Parks and Recreation Department to make the court available to underserved youth in the city. 

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