Hamilton “Ham” Farrar Richardson (August 24, 1933 – November 5,2006)
Ham Richardson was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 24, 1933. Ham’s father was Dean of the Engineering School at LSU. He, along with his two younger brothers, attended the Louisiana State University Laboratory School (U-High). Ham graduated in the class of 1951.
Ham excelled in baseball, basketball, and tennis, which his father introduced to him at the age of 11. His father was quite a tennis player himself, who played well into his 70’s. In fact, his father was most proud of winning a national father-son title with Ham. Tennis became the sport Ham dreamed of excelling in. He dreamed of playing at Wimbledon.
In order to realize his dream, Richardson traveled to New Orleans on Saturdays to take lessons from Tulane tennis coach Emmett Pare’. In an interview for his induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, he described Pare’ in these words. “He was a taskmaster who made his students work very hard on the fundamentals, drill, drill, drill until a player was comfortable with a shot.”
When he was 15 years old and one of the best junior players in the United States, he was told by a doctor he would have to stop playing competitive tennis because he was diabetic. “The first physician said I could not play competitive tennis again,” Richardson recalled in a 1997 interview with the Times-Picayune. “ So I went to a second doctor. He said the same thing, so I went to a third. When I finally found one who said I wouldn’t have to give it up, my tennis picked up where it left off.”
In 1948, Ham traveled to Kalamazoo College, Michigan, where he won the Boys singles 16’s National Championship. He was Louisiana’s first national junior champion. In 1950, he returned and was the junior 18’s singles National Champion.
“He’s the best tennis prospect in 25 years,” said Him Bishop, president of the United States Lawn Tennis Association.
The following is from a November 8, 2006 article posted on NewOrleans.com Archive Forums:
“Also in 1950, he won the French junior championships (now known as the French Open junior championships) at age 17 despite having to spend every night at the American hospital in Paris while doctors tried to stabilize his fluctuating blood sugar levels. He allowed researchers at Tulane Medical School to draw his blood during collegiate matches to study the effects of exercise on a diabetic.”
The following is from the biography for Ham Richardson’s 2001 induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame”
“In 1951, Richardson’s childhood dream came true when his mother took him to Wimbledon. But special arrangements were necessary because of his diabetes. With Britain still rationing food after World War II, they had to go to the U.S. Embassy for milk. Meat was sent from home. Budge Patty, the defending champion, was Richardson’s doubles partner. They faced one another in the second round of single play. Making small talk during the limousine ride from their hotel to the All-England Club, Patty asked Ham if he thought there would be any good matches that day. “At least one,” the youngster replied.”
He was right. Richardson used a brilliant backhand and cool head to eliminate the defending champion 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 10-8, 6-4. Later, in round 4, Ham lost to Brazil’s Armando Viera 8-6, 6-3, 8-6.
Also in 1951, Ham toured Japan with the United States Champion Art Larsen. The match is pictured on page 124 of the Southern Tennis. A History in Words and Pictures, 1997. The match was played in Osaka in a swimming pool filled with clay, the only place available with a stadium that could hold the large crowd. Richardson and Larsen were the first U.S. tennis players to play in Japan after World War II. Richardson won the Japanese Championships seven years later.
There was no doubt that he would attend college at Tulane, the perennial Southeastern Conference champion at that time. The Green Wave men’s teams won SEC Team Champions in 1939, ’41-‘42, (war years) ’47-‘49, and ’51-’59, ’62-’64. Richardson said, “Tulane is a fine school, and there was no Emmett Pare’ anywhere else.”
During his days as a member of the Tulane tennis team from 1952-55, Ham was:
SEC Singles Champion #1 in ’52, ‘53, ‘54, ’55
SEC Doubles Champion #1 in ’52: H. Richardson/C. Atherton
’53 &’54: H. Richardson/Henry Jungle
’55: H. Richardson/Buddy Lomax
NCAA Singles Champion in 1953 & 1954.
He won 58 of 60 singles matches during his career. The only blemishes on his collegiate record in singles play were losses to Tony Trabert of Cincinnati and Sammy Giammalvo of Texas. Trabert was the 1955 Wimbledon champion and two-time U.S. Open champion.
Lester Sack was a freshman member of the Tulane tennis team during Ham’s senior year. When recently asked his memories of Ham, he reflected, “Ham had the best backhand. Often players have a tough time returning serves from left- handed players. Ham took the ball early, and he could do anything with it. He was very smart. While a student at Tulane he played on the Davis Cup team. He would take his books with him to study. When he returned from Australia he took his subject tests and made A’s. Most college students would have had to drop out. He had a photographic memory. In fact he only made two B’s at Tulane, one in French and one in a physical education class first aid course.”
Dr. Tommy Robinson grew up in Baton Rouge and played collegiately at LSU, remembers Ham as being very skillful taking the ball early and having fine control on his returns. He remembers seeing Ham working on his strokes in the ole handball courts at the Huey P. Long field house on the LSU-BR campus. “Ham had a different approach on his serves. Many players serve the ball differently for the first serve and the second. Ham did not. He had the same serve, which had a slight spin. He had great control to serve deep in the opponents service area and could place it in either corner.”
Ham earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Tulane, Phi Beta Kappa. He then was chosen as a Rhodes scholar. At Oxford he took a B.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics.
POST GRADUATE YEARS:
After graduation Ham served two years as Louisiana Senator Russell Long’s legislative assistant in Washington, D.C.
In 1956 and 1958 he was ranked as #1 in amateur tennis. In 1956 he defeated four Wimbledon champions Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall, Ashley Cooper, and Neale Fraser in four days to win the 1956 Eastern Grass Court Championships at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club in New Jersey. In 1958 he teamed with Alejandro Olmedo to win the U.S. doubles championship at the U.S. Open, and with Maureen Connolly to reach the mixed doubles final at the Australian National Championship.
Richardson was a member of the United States Davis Cup team seven times, in 1952, ’53, ’54, ’55, ’56, ’58, and ’65. He also posted a 2-0 record as a Davis Cup captain.
During these years he regularly played mixed doubles with Althea Gibson, the first African American woman to win major championships; together they never lost a match. Richardson and Gibson traveled on a U.S. State Department-sponsored Goodwill Tour of Southeast Asia in 1959.
In his interview for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction, Richardson stated, “A tennis player reaches his prime between 25 and 35 years of age. In 1958, when I was 25 and one of the top players in the country, I went into business. Since then, I’ve primarily been a weekend player, although I’ve been able to win some when I had the time to prepare.”
On one of these occasions, he returned to New Orleans to play a match in an exhibition held at the New Orleans Country Club. His opponent was Frankie Parker. Prominent New Orleans attorney “Charlie” McHale Jr. recalls this event. “ It was on a Sunday morning. I remember because I skipped church to see this much- anticipated match. I also remember the officials interrupted the match to announce to the large crowd that Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bed from an apparent suicide.” It was Sunday, August 5, 1962.
Mr. Richardson had a successful career in the brokerage and investment banking business in Texas. Years later, he moved to New York City. At the time of his death he was president of Richardson and Associates, a New York investment and venture capital firm.
TULANE ANNOUNCES FORMATION OF HAM RICHARDSON ENDOWMENT:
According to the April 14, 2004 Tulane Green Wave website, a tennis alumni weekend on March 26-28 brought many former Tulane tennis players to New Orleans. At a luncheon attended by approximately 100 tennis alumni plus friends and family of Ham Richardson, Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson announced the formation of the Ham Richardson Endowment to fund scholarships for the Tulane men’s and women’s tennis program in perpetuity.
Mr. Richardson’s many honors include induction into the:
Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame
Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame
Southern Tennis Hall of Fame
Louisiana Tennis Hall of Fame
Louisiana Athletic Hall of Fame
Funeral services were held on Wednesday, November 15, 2006 at 3:30 p.m. at St. James Church, 865 Madison (at East 71st Street) in New York City. The Richardson family asked in lieu of flowers, contributions to be made to the Ham Richardson Endowment for Tennis at Tulane University or to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, NY Chapter.
He was survived by his wife of 32 years, the former Agnes (Midge) Tuck, who was the editor-in-chief of the magazine Seventeen for 18 years. He was also survived by three children for a previous marriage; Kevin, Kenneth, and Kathryn and five grandchildren