Jimmie McDaniel broke through barriers. He got some attention, but given what he did, it’s quite surprising that his name isn’t better known.
More than 80 years ago, McDaniel is believed to play the first interracial tennis match against world champion Don Budge, The New York Times wrote in early February in a story about the man who started his tennis career at Xavier University of Louisiana. . He attended Xavier from 1938-1941.
A prominent and widely read black newspaper at the time, The Amsterdam News called it the most important sports and social event to hit Harlem in many years.
The Times was clearly ignored by history for decades, telling the McDaniel story as part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about people who deserved attention but were for some reason overlooked by The Times, dating back to 1851. view our own archives. Unfortunately, we too overlooked McDaniel and his impact before he died of pneumonia in Los Angeles on March 8, 1990, at the age of 73.
Xavier U: McDaniel, Douglas made July a memorable one for XU track and field
According to The Times report, McDaniel Budge played for 2,000 people, and some watched from apartment windows, rooftops, and fire escapes. Wilson Sporting Goods, a Budge sponsor, saw the match take place at the Cosmopolitan tennis club, where the American Tennis Association was headquartered. The ATA, founded by Blacks, welcomed all races when tennis organizations did not. Considered by some to be a publicity stunt, a sports writer for The New York Herald Tribune gave Budge credit for providing an important service to the game’s good.
While widely recognized as the best black player of his day, McDaniel was not allowed to win. Two years earlier, The Times notes, Budge was the first winner of the coveted Grand Slam by capturing singles titles at the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US championships. McDaniel lost 6-1, 6-1 to one of the very best tennis greats, as many had done before and after him.
McDaniel got his start with Xavier in New Orleans. The Times reports that at the age of 22 in 1938, McDaniel had a Xavier track scholarship, he once jumped 6 feet 4.5 inches to win a Southern California high jump title, but made his way to the tennis courts of the institutions.
After his death, McDaniel was inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.
The Times reports that McDaniel won the national ATA championships four times between 1939 and 1946, and 38 of 43 ATA tournaments between 1939 and 1941. He has won the national black intercollegiate singles championship three times. With Xavier teammate Richard Cohen, he won the doubles title in 1939. He might have gotten more attention had he been allowed to compete against other players. The ATA historian, Art Carrington, told The Times, People should know that Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe didn’t just come out of the blue. Before them there was Jimmie McDaniel.
Forgive us for not taking notice of our own tennis champion. We hope others will recognize, cherish and honor McDaniel.
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