(Whirlwind, the Godfather of Black Tennis) – Robert Walter (Whirlwind) Johnson (16 April 1899 — 28 June 1971), a Lynchburg, Va. physician, was a graduate of Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania and the first African American physician to receive practice rights at Lynchburg (VA) General Hospital.
Johnson, who died in 1971, also was a tennis pioneer and founder of the American Tennis Association Junior Development Program. Nearly every significant African American player to emerge before the 1980s trained on his backyard court, including tennis greats Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. Whirlwind’s story, is indeed a history of the early years of black tennis in America. For more than 20 years he allowed his talented young African American juniors – and some white juniors – to train – without cost – at his at his Lynchburg home.
But far more than a tennis tale, Whirlwind’s story is also the saga of a man whose obsessions – primarily tennis and women – brought joy or pain to those closest to him.