William A. “Beau” Holton, Jr.
September 24,1929-September 30, 2002
July 4, 2013 By Billy E. Crawford
Beau Holton was induced into the Louisiana Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999.
Beau’s father was employed by the Swift meat package company. His father was an avid golfer but Beau took to tennis, starting to play at his parents’s club in Chicago at the age of 12. Growing up Beau attended school in Chicago and spent the summers in Amite, Louisiana. He graduated from Chicago’s Southshore High School. While in high school he also played basketball, but tennis was his sport always and forever.
Source: Christopher Holton, Beau’s son.
In the fall of 1947 Beau entered LSU and was a member of the Tiger tennis team. During his senior year, he was team captain. The following is from the 1952 Gumboyearbook. “Having one of their best years, Coach “Dub” Robinson’s net men finished the season with a record of eleven wins and four loses. These defeats came from the hands of the three top teams in the SEC, Tulane, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee. Captain Beau Holton, the only senior on the squad, finished his net career at LSU by hanging up ten victories against five defeats in singles competition.”
Beau graduated from LSU with a degree in Commerce in 1952
“Catfish” Jones remembers “Beau” Holton.
“I first met Beau in the late forties. He had come down to LSU from Chicago. His family was from the Amite area. We were in the same fraternity, Sigma Chi. Beau played on the LSU tennis team; and was known for his steady, steady forehand. He could put the ball anywhere he wanted to. At first he and I played on the same sports teams like basketball and baseball, and then he got me started playing tennis. Then, I started playing tennis everyday.”
After college Beau joined the Navy. He entered flight training in Pensacola. His flight instructor was Richard “Dick” Gaskill. Gaskill also was the playing coach of the Pensacola NAS tennis team. Beau became a member of the NAS tennis team and traveled around the States, playing many college teams as well as representing the Navy in matches against other branches of the military. Gaskill had played varsity tennis as #1 at the Naval Academy and had won the All Navy Tennis Singles Champion. (Admiral Richard “Dick” Gaskill would later be the “Skipper” (commanding officer of the USS Nimitz.)
“Dick” Gaskill remembers Beau
“In 1956-57 I was stationed here in Pensacola as the tennis coach and No. 1 player and our NAS team had 20 wins and only 2 losses. We played other military teams as well as colleges such as Alabama, South Carolina, Michigan State. We also came over to play LSU in Baton Rouge.
In 1957 Beau was a flight student here and I was his instructor. He joined the team, usually playing number 2 or 3. He was a very good tennis player and everyone liked Beau. I would fly the team around in a Beechcraft. Then in the late ‘70s we got reacquainted when he brought his sons up to the naval yard in Norfolk. I retired in 1981 and would come over to Baton Rouge and New Orleans. (My wife is from Baton Rouge). I would come over and play in the tournaments and stay with Beau. The last time I saw Beau was at the National ‘60s in Atlanta. When I found out he died I was really upset about it.”
Holton was both a fixed-wing naval aviator and a helicopter pilot. He was one of the last naval helicopter pilots to qualify for carrier landings in fixed wing aircraft. Shortly after he received his wings the Navy stopped sending helicopter candidates for fixed wing carrier qualifications. He served in the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea abroad the Cruiser, USS Des Moines, which was the flagship of the 6th fleet. While on duty there, he took part in the Beirut, Lebanon Crisis in 1958. After active duty he remained in the Naval Reserve and retired after 24 years with the rank of Captain.
New Orleans Years
Martin “Catfish” Jones remembers “Beau” Holton.”
“When he got out of active duty, he came home. So we both ended up in New Orleans. We started playing tennis at City Park. Later I joined the NOLTC, when it was on South Saratoga Street. Beau joined the club a couple years later. We started playing doubles tournaments in the 35s. From the 35s we won, not every year, in every age bracket. We were ranked #1 in doubles in Louisiana. In the South our highest rank was #3. “We had some good wins and so bad loses,” Catfish remembers. We had some good matches against Tommy Robinson (son of “Dub” Robinson) and Bob Gomez.
He could remember every point that he ever played,” said Catfish. “I kid you not. You could remind him of a year and a tournament, and he could tell you what happened and who hit what. His memory was amazing.”
“About this time Beau got me into umpiring tennis matches. He forever carried a rulebook in his back pocket. He knew the rules verbatim almost. Without a doubt he had one of the sharpest minds about rules. If you questioned him about a rule, he would pull out the rulebook and show you exactly where it was. He taught umpire classes in this area.
Later, he got sick with hepatitis C. He had a blood transfusion, and it had tainted blood in it.
“He was my best friend; we went to all the tournaments, said Catfish. He was a lover of tennis and a fine person. Even- tempered; never got upset with the coaches when he was umpiring. For a Yankee he could calm down into a pretty nice guy,” as Catfish laughingly said.
After he died I just dropped out of playing.”
Beau was ranked # 1 in singles and doubles in Louisiana at least once in each age bracket from the 45s through the 70s and also won at least one Southern Open title in doubles in each age bracket from the 45s through the 70s.
Rocky Andry remembers Beau Holton:
I met Beau in the late 1980’s at the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club and was friends with him until the day he died. He came to Louisiana from Chicago to attend LSU and play tennis there. He was a LSU fanatic. He was an excellent player and never lost to a Louisiana player in his own age group. He won many tournaments with Catfish Jones.
Just about all the local tennis officials were recruited by Beau, including his wife Bess, Rocky Andry, Catfish Jones, Dick Mann, Pierre Hjartberg. He knew the rules better than just about anyone and took them seriously. When he got married he had the “Friends at Court” in his back pocket. He kept the “Friends at Court” on the table beside his bed in case he wanted to check out a rule at night. He was also a very good friend of Stanley Jacobs.
In 1999 Beau was named Official of the Year by the Louisiana Tennis Association.
In 2002, The LTA renamed the Official of the Year award to the Beau Holton Official of the Year award.
Bess Holton, Beau’s wife, remembers:
In the 1990’s when Beau was diagnosed with hepatitis C and his health prevented him from playing up to the caliber he was used to, we both decided to take up officiating; he was the referee and I was the umpire. We went to school and got our certification and started doing the LSU matches in Baton Rouge and Tulane matches, along with others around the Louisiana area, including a number of the Sunbelt Conference teams.
Later he received a White Badge to sit in the chair at Wimbledon in the Open, but he said, “No Way!”
He really enjoyed refereeing, especially the Tulane matches. Then he got others interested in officiating matches. One of the biggest was the Southern Juniors played at City Park, which was very exciting.
Beau always kept his cool while officiating. He had a habit of “rocking” during the matches, for he was standing up there for hours. Sometimes I had to remind him to “stay straight and still.”
“He was never without the rule book in his pocket,” said Bess Holton. One year we had a surprise birthday party at the NOLTC and the only way we could get him upstairs—to get him to the club without giving up the surprise was for Lee Stall to take his rule book out of his locker—we knew he would go back to where he had been to look for his rule book—the last place he had been. So we enticed him and surprised him.
In fact when Col. Nick Powell was revising The Code of Tennis he and Nick would talk on the phone almost nightly discussing the correct wording in the Code.
The following is USTA Southern Yearbook 2001
Tennis Official of the Year
“William ‘Beau’ Holton has been a tennis officiating fixture in New Orleans for over 25 years and his hard work and passion for the game puts him in a class by himself. In 2000 he worked over 50 tournaments in various capacities at the community through professional level. He worked as a referee and roving chair umpire at the NCAA Regional Men’s Championship. In addition, he worked at several ITF Wheelchair events and at the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Senior Invitational as a referee, a position he has held for nearly 25 years. Beau has also been a sectional trainer for the USTA Southern Section and for the past three years he has volunteered to conduct workshops on “the rules of the game,” “player conduct,” and “the best way to handle on-court disputes, “ in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles. His love for the game is legendary in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana. There is none other more deserving of this honor.”
Source: The New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club by Gaspar J. “Buddy” Stall:
Beau says, “ the biggest match he ever officiated as a chair umpire was an exhibition between John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulitis. The biggest match I ever officiated as a linesman was a money tournament between Rod Laver, Cliff Drysdale, Roy Emerson, and John Newcombe. They were great competitors and real gentlemen.”
Beau formerly was chairman of umpires and referees in Louisiana, and for the last four years, has been a sectional trainer for tennis officials in the Southern Section of the USTA. In 2000, he was selected as Tennis Official of the Year in the Louisiana District and the Southern Section. In 2000 he received the Mac MacDougal Tennis Official Of the Year Award presented by the USTA Southern Section.