Jimmy McDaniels, Xavier, La

Jimmie McDaniel (September 4, 1916 – March 8, 1990) was a Black American tennis player.[1] He was a four time American Tennis Association singles champion.[2] He was said to be the “greatest black player of the pre-war (WWII) era.” [2] Jimmie was raised in Los Angeles where he attended Manual Arts High School. His father Willis McDaniel was a former baseball player in the Negro leagues who worked as a railroad porter in Los Angeles; his mother, Ruby, was a domestic worker.[1][3] Although the only Black player on his high school’s tennis squad, McDaniel was the highest ranked player at the school. In 1935, McDaniel played Robert “Bobby” Riggs in a practice match while both were still in high school. At the time of the match Riggs was ranked as the number one junior player in the country and McDaniel had only been playing for two years. McDaniel would lose to Riggs in a 11-13 second set. McDaniel continued his tennis career by winning the 1938 Southern California Men’s Singles Open title and share the Double’s title with his brother Al McDaniel. McDaniel was eventually recruited by Olympian Ralph Metcalfe for a track scholarship to Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where he soon switched his full efforts to tennis. During his tenure at Xavier University McDaniel would win numerous championships among the then-segregated ranks of black tennis players.[4] Banned from the NCAA Championships, he dominated a Black-college circuit that included schools like TuskegeeHampton, and Prairie View.[5] In the Spring of 1939, still as a college freshman, he became the National Open Men’s Singles Champion, and shared the Doubles title with his schoolmate, Richard Cohen. Between 1939 and 1941, McDaniel would win the Singles title at Prairie View Intercollegiate, the Southwestern Open, the North Carolina Open, the Eastern Sectional Open, the Southern Intercollegiate Sectionals, the New York Open, and the American Tennis Association National Tournament. Paired with Richard Cohen, he won the Doubles title at the North Carolina Open, the South Carolina Open, the Eastern Sectional Open, and the New York Open. They would go on to win the National Doubles title in 1939 but were upset in the semi-finals in 1940. Cohen had previously held the title in 1938. McDaniel would again win the National Singles title in 1941. He would finish his collegiate career at Xavier University in 1942.

On July 29, 1940, McDaniel would unofficially break tennis’ color barrier by participating in an exhibition match against Don Budge that received wide attention. At the time, The Cosmopolitan Club in Harlem served as the headquarters of the American Tennis Association (ATA) — home to the nation’s Black players—and the Budge-McDaniel exhibition was held there in conjunction with an ATA tournament. For the first time since tennis arrived in the United States six decades earlier, a white player and a Black player met in a top-level match. Two-thousand people crammed the club’s stands to capacity while others leaned out windows and crowded onto the fire escapes that overlooked the court. Those who didn’t have a view could hear the score called on a public-address system. Prominent tennis writer Al Laney was on hand for the occasion, and he praised Budge for “performing an important service for the good of the game.”[6] Budge won the match 6–1, 6–2.[1] Although hailed as a step forward for Black tennis players, the event would all but be forgotten with the onset of World War II. It would be another 10 years before Althea Gibson took the next step by integrating tennis at the United States National Championships (now the US Open) at Forest Hills, in 1950.

After the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, Jimmie put tennis aside and moved to Los Angeles to work at a Lockheed Martin aircraft factory. McDaniel would return to the tennis courts in the late 1950s. By then he was allowed to walk into white clubs and enter USTA events, and he eventually earned a Top 20 national ranking in the 60-and-overs.

Jimmie McDaniel – Wikipedia

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