Ham Richardson - Tennis star
Ham Richardson Biography
Claim to Fame: Tennis star
DOB: Aug. 24, 1933
Date of Death: Nov. 5, 2006
Diabetes Type: 1
Quote: “I never longed to have played during another era. We played for love of the game, and that was more than enough.”
Tennis star Hamilton “Ham” Richardson was born in Baton Rouge, Louisana, in 1933. A competitor in the postwar tennis revival, he was a number one ranked player, a Rhodes scholar, and a father. He competed in his first tennis tournament when he was only 12-years-old and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 15.
“The first physician we went to said I could not play competitive tennis again,” Richardson recalled in a 1997 interview with The New Orleans 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 right where it left off.” One year later, Richardson won the French junior championship while spending each night during the tournament at the American Hospital because of his fluctuating blood sugar levels. Later, in the mid-1950s, Richardson was runner-up in the United States indoor singles as he gained recognition, along with the William Johnson trophy, for his "outstanding contribution to tennis."
Diabetes sometimes got in the way of Richardson's game, pushing him to reduce his tennis commitments to concentrate on his studies. He attended Tulane University in New Orleans before he studied at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. Between 1952 and 1965, Richardson played Davis Cup tennis seven times before declining a challenge round in Australia because the tournament refused to pay his wife's expenses to join him there. Instead, he returned to Oxford, where his studies had been interrupted by his tennis absences.
But two days before a challenge round in Brisbane, a competitor planned to play against other opponents, thinking that Richardson's diabetes would deter him in the heat. Richardson, once hearing of his foretold defeat, packed up his belongings, along with his wife, and went to the races. There he won both singles and the longest doubles in Cup history, lasting four hours and eight minutes.
In addition to his successes in tennis, Richardson had a long career in business and was active with the Democratic Party. After becoming principal of New York-based Richardson and Associates, an investment and venture capital firm, he died on November 26, 2006 at age 73 from complications of diabetes.
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