When Calvin Patterson returned from college in West Palm Beach in the mid-1960s, he went to Gaines Park, where his high school carpentry teacher was teaching tennis and a former classmate from Patterson was helping him.
âAt first I only saw a few people there,â Patterson recalls. âThen there was more. And then I would come home and, oh man, there were 60, 70 people there taking classes and the courts were full. I thought, ‘Wow! Who knew a lot of people of color would be here to play tennis? And they did it because of Doc Horne.
Today, the Gaines Park tennis center is named after Jimmie “Doc” Horace Horne Sr. In 1990, the City of West Palm Beach proclaimed March 17 Jimmie “Doc” Horne Appreciation Day, and four years later, he was one of six recipients of the US Tennis Association’s Community Service Award.
Today, Horne, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 88, is awarded another honor: the Hall of Fame.
Recognized as a trailblazer, Horne is one of eight people chosen for the 2021 class of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. Horne and the others will be inducted into the BTHOF with the class of 2020 – last year’s induction was canceled due to COVID-19 – in a virtual ceremony on Friday. It was originally scheduled to be an in-person event on Friday and Saturday at the Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enshrinement Center in Boston, Massachusetts, but plans changed last month due to the continuing impact of the pandemic.
âTo understand his history and the contributions he has made is certainly a fitting honor,â said Janice Graham, who started playing tennis at the age of 7 and regards Horne as his lifelong mentor and “the igniter of my love” for sport. “He deserved it and kudos to them for recognizing it.”
Horne attended Florida A&M University, where he won a state tennis championship in 1947 in the “All Black Division”, and later became the first registered black tennis professional in Florida. After serving as a quartermaster in the United States Army, he taught woodworking for 34 years at Roosevelt High School.
It was there that he urged his students to try tennis. Many did, including James Marion, a classmate of Patterson’s who helped Horne coach for over 20 years at Gaines Park.
âHe was a perfectionist when it came to teaching the game and playing the right way,â Marion said.
This included always wearing your shirt tucked in and not throwing your racquet or you would be sent home for the day, Marion said. Together, the two also set up study rooms for students after practice – Horne, who used geometric diagrams to teach tennis, helped with math while Marion helped with language arts. Horne also raised money from local black-owned businesses so his tennis students could compete in tournaments and grab some snacks.
âHe’s done a lot for this community,â Marion said.
Graham, who played tennis at Palm Beach High School and later at Emerson College in Boston, described Horne as “an uncompromising coach” who was at the same time “a big hearted guy” who made you laugh on and off. ground .
âHe had a big presence in all of our lives that played with him,â Graham said. âHe had very few filters, and I think that’s what people admired about him. He didn’t try to make his criticism of your competence comfortable. But he also had the ability to form relationships where the relationship was based on trust.
Horne was friends with the Williams sisters’ father, Richard, and began to develop a close relationship with the girls as they made their way to stardom.
“Venus and Serena called him their tennis grandfather,” Horne’s son Jimmie “Bo” Horne Jr. said at his funeral. F. Malcolm Cunningham Jr., an attorney who represented the Williams sisters, once noted: âThere is hardly anyone in the black community who has played tennis who has not learned at least part of it from Doc Horne. .
Patterson said, “He’s always been interested in helping others, and he’s done it through tennis.”