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Texas Tennis Hall of Fame Announces the Class of 2007

Waco, Texas — Five outstanding Texas tennis players make up the 27th class inducted into the Hall of Fame since its founding in 1981. George P. Mitchell, founded the Houston Racquet Club and the Woodlands Racquet Club, Chuck LeMaster, currently ranked #1 in Men’s 75 Doubles and co-founder of the Houston Tennis Umpires Association, John B. Kniffen, a member of the Texas Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame and coach of high school tennis for 26 years, Barbara Smith, making the “Growth of Tennis” a reality with her dedication to the sport on a local, sectional, national, and international level, and Semp Russ, won Texas State Singles and Doubles Tournaments from 1899-1915 and help organize the San Antonio Tennis Club, have been chosen for induction to the Texas Tennis Hall of Fame. The Induction ceremony will be held on November 10, 2007 at the Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame in Waco.

Tickets for the event are available to the public by contacting Tina Brumm at the Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame at 254-756-2307, or txtennismuseum@earthlink.net. Event sponsorships are also available.

The Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame is overseen and sponsored by the United States Tennis Association-Texas Section, texas.usta.com. Past inductees include tennis legends Zina Garrison, Maureen Connolly Brinker, Steve Denton, and Cliff and Nancy Richey.

All the proceeds from the event benefit the Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame, a non-profit institution dedicated to the collection and preservation of tennis history, particularly in Texas. The goal of the Museum is to educate the public about tennis, tennis history, and Texas tennis history and to provide role models through the Texas Tennis Hall of Fame Inductees for generations to come. To this end the TTMHF collects, preserves, researches and exhibits related artifacts.

George P. Mitchell was born May 21, 1919 in Galveston, Texas, became interested in tennis at an early age, and began competing in local and regional tournaments in Galveston. He was the captain of Texas A & M tennis team his senior year and graduated in 1940 with a degree in Petroleum Engineering. After the war, he and his wife Cynthia settled in Houston and he began his career, founding George Mitchell and Associates, Inc. in 1946. He continued playing the game regularly in both singles and doubles in Houston and competing in the Gordon Cup, the USTA National Grass Courts, and other tournaments in Houston and Texas. For more than twenty years, he volunteered for the Houston Tennis Patrons and the Houston Tennis Association. He also founded and developed the Houston Racquet Club in 1969, the Woodlands Racquet Club in 1975, and the Texas A&M ’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center, which received the USTA Tennis Award in 1999 for top tennis center in the country and hosted the NCAA tennis championships in 2005. He is a devoted tennis player, a civic leader in Texas, and a major contributor to Texas Tennis and its future.

Chuck LeMaster was born February 2, 1928 in Barnetts Creek, Kentucky. In college, he began playing tennis but it was his move to Houston, Texas in 1951 that would solidify his life long love of the sport. In that same year, he became a charter member of the Houston Tennis Patrons Assoc., which would later become the Houston Tennis Association. He played tennis on the Memorial Park Courts and became an active member in their Tennis Association. He co-founded the Houston Tennis Umpires Association and worked with his wife on the Husband and Wife Tennis Tournament, which is now known as the HTA/Le Master Husband and Wife Tennis Tournament. He has served on the Board of the HTA and has served as a liaison between the TTA and the junior tennis coaches. In 1999, he and his partners’ were ranked #1 and #2 in the 70 Doubles and with one partner was ranked #11 nationally. He also won the bronze ball in 2004 for Men’s 75 Doubles. In Texas, he was ranked either #2 or #3 from 2003-2005 in Men’s 75 Singles. At this time, under the “12 month rolling standing” guidelines, he is ranked # 1 in Men’s 75 Doubles in Texas; a plateau he attained while playing with three different partners. He has dedicated his time to promoting and enhancing the players and tournaments in Houston, Texas.

Barbara Smith was born on July 20 in McAllen, Texas and she received her Bachelor’s of Art from the University of Texas were she studied in the Honors Program and graduated Magna Cum Laude. She became involved with tennis in 1976 as a tournament director and tournament endorser. In 1979 she became involved with the USTA Texas Section as a member of the ranking committee, junior endorser, and the junior tennis council. Throughout the years she would hold several positions on the Executive Committee and would become a certified Referee/Umpire. She has been involved with the International Tennis Foundation, and has performed many duties from medal presenter for the Olympics to member of the ITF Olympic Committee. She has also served as a liaison for the USTA in the Olympic Games in Atlanta and the Pan American Games in Argentina. Her years of service to the game have earned her many honors including; Family of the Year Award, Caswell Award, 25-year Texas Section volunteer Award , 20-year USTA volunteer award, and in 2007 the USTA Barbara Williams Senior Service Award, for outstanding senior female leaders. She has inspired not only her family, but also her community to get involved and support the game of Tennis in Texas and the USA.

John Kniffen was born on October 1, 1936 in Clyde, Texas. He graduated from Clyde High School where he won the State Championship and went to Texas Tech University on a full scholarship for tennis. He received his Master’s Degree from West Texas A & M and began teaching high school history and coaching tennis at many of the areas local schools. He has coached state and national champions, as well as receiving many state championships and he was ranked in Texas Tennis Doubles’ for Men’s, Mixed, and Father and Son. He is a Hall of Fame Inductee for the Texas Tennis Coaches Association and a lifetime member of the Texas State Teachers Association. He has helped promote and organize tournaments and currently volunteers teaching tennis to local children, adults, and tennis camps. He is also involved in Menard as a leader in many community organizations and activities. He has committed his career to tennis and he continues to encourage players on a local and state level.

Semponius “Semp” Russ was born on April 16, 1878 in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana. He attended the Magruder School, San Antonio Sealey Academy, and Tulane in Austin before studying law at the University of Texas in Austin. He was a Football Quarterback at the University of Texas from 1898 to 1900 but his love of tennis would take him all the way to the Olympics. From 1899 to 1915, he has won fifteen Texas State Sectional Championships in Singles and Doubles and he would be a Southwestern Champion three times. In 1904 he would place Fifth in Singles and Doubles with Charles Cresson. He also helped organize the first tennis club in San Antonio in 1895. Throughout his life, he contributed to the history of tennis but was also instrumental in helping to further the medical and scientific fields by establishing an endowment for the University of Texas’s Medical School and establishing the Semp Russ Foundation. He was an active sports enthusiast, corporate leader, and a generous supporter of his community and education in Texas.

 

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