Robert Walter Johnson

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Robert Walter Johnson
Robert Walter Johnson.jpg
Born(1899-04-16)16 April 1899
Died28 June 1971(1971-06-28) (aged 72)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materLincoln University, Pennsylvania
Meharry Medical College
Scientific career
FieldsInternal medicine, sports medicine
InstitutionsLynchburg General Hospital

Robert Walter Johnson (April 16, 1899 – June 28, 1971) was an American physician and founder of the American Tennis Association Junior Development Program for African-American youths, where he coached and fostered the careers of Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson.[1]


Johnson graduated in 1924 from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, a historically black college. He was a classmate of Melvin B. Tolson.

Johnson was the first African-American physician to receive practice rights at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia.[2] Johnson continued his medical practice in Lynchburg for his entire career.

Known as the "godfather" of black tennis, Johnson founded an all-expenses-paid tennis camp for African-American children and hired instructors.[3] In these years in the segregated South, they had no public courts where they could learn tennis, and many did not have money for lessons. Johnson was instrumental in encouraging the athletic careers of both Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, whom he personally coached.[4] [5]

Legacy and honors[edit]


  1. ^ "Whirlwind Johnson Foundation". Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Heritage Sites & Organizations; Dr. Robert Walter Johnson Home and Tennis Court". The Virginia African American Heritage Program. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
  3. ^ Smith, Doug (August 2004). Whirlwind: The Godfather of Black Tennis: The Life and Times of Dr. Robert Walter Johnson. Blue Eagle Publishing. ISBN 0-9748111-0-6.
  4. ^ Carter, Bob. "Ashe's impact reached far beyond the court". ESPN Classic. Retrieved 2007-06-30.
  5. ^ McPhee, John (June 7, 1969). "Levels of the Game". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  6. ^ "Robert Johnson Virginia Sports Hall of Fame". The Library of Virginia. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  7. ^ ""Robert Walter Johnson Tennis Hall of Fame"". International Tennis Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  8. ^ "Practice Information: Lynchburg--Walter Johnson Health Center". The University of Virginia Health System. Archived from the original on 2003-07-25. Retrieved 2007-08-14. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  9. ^ VSU Athletics (2008). "Second Annual Dr. Robert Walter Johnson Memorial Invitational" (.PDF). Virginia State University. Retrieved 2015-05-02. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External links[edit]