The happiest black man at Wimbledon, England, was not Arthur Ashe. It was 76-year old Richard Hudlin, the high school tennis coach who brought Ashe to St. Louis as a teenager, took him into his own home and gave him a bed to sleep on. Hudlin made it possible in those early years for Ashe to play every day and night with the same fine tennis group that has now produced three Wimbledon champions: Chuck McKinley, Jimmy Connors, and now Ashe himself.
Hudlin made the trip to England to see the Wimbledon matches, but after he got there he was too emotional to watch. Ashe in person and stayed glued to television in his London hotel. He did, however, send Ashe a note with a valuable tip for the big match: don’t let Connors move laterally where he is most effective, but, like a good baseball pitcher, jam the ball in close to Connors’ body.
Richard Hudlin, a deeply religious man, should feel especially proud not only that he helped give our country a Wimbledon and Davis Cup champion, but more importantly he has helped to give young men a role-model to inspire them. Already, the Missouri high school tennis champion is a young St. Louis black who did not lose a single set in winning two state titles. Tennis experts say he is even better than Arthur Ashe was at his age.
The same week that Ashe won the Wimbledon crown, General Daniel James, Jr. became the first black to be named a four-star general. He is another striking example of how a boy can start in the ghetto with absolutely nothing, and make it all the way to the top. His mother, who had only a high school education herself, taught Daniel James at home until he entered high school. He credits her with giving him not only knowledge, but his patriotism and a desire to achieve and to serve his country that persisted through 101 fighter plane combat missions in the Korean War and 78 combat missions over North Vietnam.
In an interview after his nomination for four-star rank, General James recalled how his father once scolded him for fighting with a white youth who had used a racial slur. “He told me, ‘You don’t have time to stop and take issue with every idiot who would hurl a rock or an epithet at you.’ “James called his father “a lamplighter” who consistently encouraged him to study and to achieve.
Both Arthur Ashe and General Daniel James are splendid examples to all boys, white and black, that the rewards for dedicated service to your country and your profession are far, far greater than anything possible in the careers of glamorized crime, sex and violence that are featured in the flood of movies catering to teenage customers.