Henry Harris tapped for HOF

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, November 7, 2018

NATCHEZ — Henry Harris has done a lot for the sport of tennis not only in his hometown of Natchez for much of the past 40-plus years, but in other parts of Mississippi and beyond as well.

Harris has been a championship coach, an accomplished player, and in recent years the director of the Duncan Park Tennis Center, and because of his dedication to the youth of Mississippi both on the tennis courts and in life, he can add another prestigious honor – induction into the Tennis Foundation of Mississippi Hall of Fame.

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Harris, along with fellow Class of 2018 member Albert Lyle of Jackson, will be officially inducted at a banquet to be held in their honor at the Country Club of Jackson on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.

Harris said it feels great to be recognized with induction to the Tennis Foundation of Mississippi Hall of Fame.

“I would like to thank the parents who have put their trust in me with their kids for all these years,” Harris said. “Without their trust, there would not be kids who could play tennis in Natchez like we have.”

Harris attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College and then graduated from Alcorn State University. Then Harris returned to Natchez to work as a policeman. Eighteen years later, he was transferred to the Parks and Recreation Department (now the City of Natchez Recreation Department).

In 1976, Harris started volunteering as the tennis coach at North Natchez High School. During his time leading the Rams, they won four division championships, four state championships, and two Big 8 Conference championships.

Then in 1984, he earned his Untied States Professional Tennis Registry (USPTR) and United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) certifications. At the urging of Hall of Famer Willie Shepard, Harris and Cleon McKnight, along with several others, began attending officials’ school so that coach Shepard would have someone to officiate his matches at Jackson State University.

Harris became involved with National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) when his friend Art Porter, seeking a way to help young black students, asked him to help start the first NJTL chapter in Mississippi in 1975.

In 1992 and again in 1993, that chapter received the Mississippi NJTL Chapter of the Year Award. In 2000, Harris began working at Battlefield Park in Jackson, and in 2004, he moved to Dallas, where he worked for the local NJTL, winning the Chapter of the Year award for the state of Texas twice.

Harris estimates that a total of 80,000 students came through the United States Tennis Association (USTA)/NJTL program during his association with that organization.

Harris also was awarded the Natchez Civic League Award in 1990, carried the Olympic torch through Mississippi for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, received the Sporting Goods Manufacturer National Award in 1997, and was recognized as the Natchez Citizen of the Year in 1998.

Harris was also featured in the CBS documentary “Beyond the Baseline,” in its first airing during the 1996 U.S. Open.

In addition to all of that, Harris found time to play tennis. He has been a longtime participant in both singles and doubles in the Senior Olympics National Games, finishing in the top five in numerous years.

For ticket information, call the MTA office and 601-981-4421 or 1-800-349-1683 or email revelandw@mstennis.com.