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The Voice of the Black Community

Sports

Black tennis club gets historic marker
 
Published Friday, July 12, 2019
by Bonitta Best

A historic institution in Durham history will soon have a North Carolina Historic Marker to commemorate its significance.

An unveiling ceremony for the Algonquin Tennis Club is set for August 15, 6:30 p.m., at the W.D. Hill Recreation Center on Fayetteville Street, the original location of the club before it burned down.

During the height of the Jim Crow era, the club was both a social gathering and a community center for Durham’s black elite. Late tennis great Arthur Ashe traveled from his home in Richmond, Virginia, to play at the club. Althea Gibson, the first black Wimbledon tennis champion, also visited.

According to the Durham Public Library, the Algonquin was originally founded in the 1920s as a meeting space, but later added food services to accommodate guests. The Library also references a book by Dorothy Phelps Jones that mentions the club. It states:

"The Algonquin Club voted to become a part of the Algonquin Tennis Club, which was the older organization and emphasized social growth as one of its primary objectives. It was the group that brought Althea Gibson at the height of her fame as a tennis champion and bragged of Arthur Ashe as one of the youngsters who played on their tennis courts – 'the bourgeois has arrived'."

The club lasted until 1964, as integration slowly crept in. Then tragedy struck in 1968 when the building was destroyed by fire, according to records. By then it had been renamed the W.D. Hill Recreation Center.

Needless to say, the historic marker is a big deal not only in Durham black history but all of history. More details forthcoming.

RBI Regionals

It’s been a banner year for sports in Durham so far. The U.S. Track & Field Youth National Championships last month brought thousands of athletes, coaches and supporters to the area.

Next week the Bull City will host its first Mid-Atlantic Regional RBI Tournament. RBI is an inner-city baseball program sponsored by Major League Baseball. The program was designed to increase participation among underserved youth.

Both the Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League and Durham Long Ball are members.

Long Ball president Pat James said they are expecting 22 teams, including six softball teams, from July 18-21. The regional showcases the best of the best, as select players are chosen to represent their city.

The junior teams (13 to 15 years old) will play at Hillside High and Crest Street Park, while the seniors (16 to 18) will battle at Southern High and the Durham Athletic Park. Hillside and Southern should come out of the deal quite nicely since both will keep the monies from concession sales.

The two baseball championship games will move to the Big House at the Durham Bulls.

Softball will play at Valley Springs with its championship game at the Duke softball complex.

Players will have plenty to do with a conditioning clinic hosted by both N.C. Central and Duke, a cookout (thanks to Texas Road House), a USA Baseball game and a college tour to NCCU and North Carolina A&T State universities.

“Long Ball has partnered with Charlotte Metro RBI program and, therefore, our all-star regional team will represent North Carolina very well,” James wrote via email.

Visit Long Ball’s Facebook page for more information.

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