Harmon Thrived from Ties with RTA

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Harmon Thrived from Ties with RTA

RICHMOND– The Richmond Tennis Hall of Fame held its biennial induction ceremonies on Oct. 28 at the Westwood Club.

Rodney Harmon delivered the keynote address. Seven new members were added to the illustrious list.

Harmon, who was inducted in 2009, spoke about how his life was changed by those who had helped him with tennis and life. He urged the group to keep doing the same for others.

“Just keep doing the things you’ve been doing with the same spirit and love that you do it with,” said Harmon, who is now the women’s coach at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Harmon rose from the city’s North Side to become an NCAA doubles champion and a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open. As a touring pro, Harmon was ranked in the world’s top 50.

Ron Charity was inducted posthumously. Charity coached Arthur Ashe on segregated courts near his home at Brookfield Park.

Ashe, a Richmond native, won three Grand Slam titles. He is the only black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open.

Charity also had an effect on Harmon, who served as director of men’s tennis for the U.S. Tennis Association for several years.

Harmon said he remembered talking to Charity when he was growing up.

“What was great about him is he would take time to talk to us about working on your game and the importance of working in school,” said Harmon. “When I saw where he was coming into the Hall of Fame, I was very happy.”

Harmon also credited past Hall of Fame inductee Fred Keochlein, who was the head pro at the Country Club of Virginia when Harmon was growing up.

Harmon said Keochlein offered to give him free lessons.

“He was just one of those great people who was just phenomenal,” said Harmon. “There are so many people like that in Richmond who work through the RTA to help you in so many different ways.”

Harmon said he always brings up Richmond and the RTA whenever he travels in the U.S.

“If you love tennis, there is someone in Richmond who will help you, no matter if you’re from Battery Park, Bon Air, St. Christopher’s, wherever,” said Harmon. “If you play tennis, no matter what color, creed or background, there are people who want to help you.”

Inductee Patricia Hunt also credited Charity for having a profound effect on her life. Hunt rose from being a stage director for the Miss Teen Virginia pageant to a nationally-recognized TV anchor.

Hunt said it was special that she shared the same coach as Arthur Ashe.

“I can say that the same man who mentored Arthur Ashe mentored me,” said Hunt. “I thank God I ran into Ronald J. Charity.”

Other inductees included Bill Barnes, Martha Beddingfield, Rachel Gale, Joe and Shima Grover, Sarah Townsend Harrison (posthumously) and the Country Club of Virginia for the generous use of its facilities by the RTA over the years.

The RTA’s next class of inductees is scheduled for the fall of 2019. Visit the Hall of Fame room at Westwood Club to see the Hall of Fame members.