Former Washington Park Tennis Center director Branch Curington and former Auburn and Mississippi State tennis coach Hugh Thomson will be inducted to the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame on Monday. Their induction comes on the same day as the opening ceremonies of the BB&T Atlanta Open.
Curington spent nearly 30 years at Washington Park Tennis Center in Atlanta as a teaching professional and tennis director and was one of the first African-American figures in Georgia tennis. He taught tennis to many prominent black Atlantans during this time, such as Atlanta mayors Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson and Shirley Franklin as well as Coretta Scott King.
Around 50 of Curington’s pupils played collegiately, including UCLA’s Horace Reid, who is also a member of the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame.
Curington was instrumental in defying the belief that tennis was a sport that African-Americans had no interest in.
“It started by getting kids off the street,” Curington said. “Once you teach a kid who maybe doesn’t have a father and likes to play ball and you should him you love him and are interested in him, they just start coming.”
After receiving the job at Washington Park on the request of Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Curington guided the tennis center’s first three decades of existence.
Thomson, meanwhile, left his native Australia in 1965 to play collegiately at Mississippi State. After winning 54 varsity matches in the SEC and capturing seven conference titles, he became the school’s tennis coach and took home SEC Coach of the Year in 1969.
He later coached at UAB and then Auburn, where he won consecutive SEC titles in 1982 and 1983 and became the school’s winningest coach.
Thomson has also been a teaching professional and stayed active as a senior player, winning 13 ITF senior world championships. He moved to Atlanta in 1995 and worked at Midtown Atlanta’s Ansley Golf Club from 1995 to 2007.
“Some people don’t have to play a whole lot to be good, but I’m not one of those,” Thomson said. “I have to hit a lot of balls.”
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