The Winston-Salem Open mourns the loss of a true giant in the Winston-Salem tennis community, Harold Southern.
Southern died on Sept. 18 at the age of 94, after an extended illness.
He and his wife Mildred formed what could be considered the first family of Winston-Salem tennis. They were both excellent players, and far beyond that they were pioneers in the growth and popularity of tennis throughout the city and state.
In recognition of their support, center court at the Wake Forest Tennis Center, site of the Winston-Salem Open, was dedicated as the Harold and Mildred Southern Stadium court.
"Harold was a great friend of the Winston-Salem Open, and a great friend of all those who love tennis in the community," WSO tournament director Bill Oakes said. "He touched literally thousands of lives and generations of tennis players in the area thanks to his passion for the game. He will be missed greatly, but his legacy will live on."
The North Carolina Tennis Association’s main offices and Hall of Fame are also dedicated in the Southerns’ honor.
Southern, a native of Greenville, S.C., starred in football, basketball and tennis at Furman University. He came to Winston-Salem shortly after graduating in 1937 and started leaving his imprint on the tennis community quickly.
As a player, he won five city singles titles and countless other singles and doubles titles at the statewide level. He continued to play late into life, winning the state men’s 80 doubles title in 2005.
As a promoter of the game, he was active in bringing the Southern Championships to Winston-Salem in the 1950s and 60s, which was the city’s crown jewel to that point. Then he was instrumental in the establishment of Winston-Salem Tennis Inc. in the 1960s, and worked alongside his wife in creating the hugely successful Young Folks Tennis program. They also played key roles in the growth of the North Carolina Tennis Association in its early years.
Southern is survived by Mildred, his wife of 56 years, along with son Harold Jr. and daughter Debbie, the women’s tennis coach at Furman.