WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Furman head women's tennis coach Debbie Southern, along with her late father, Harold, and her mother, Mildred, were among this year's inductees to the ITA Women's Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame Saturday in Williamsburg, Va. The Harold T. Southern family, also known as the First Family of Winston-Salem Tennis, joined Andres Brandi, Carole Loop Herrick, and Dr. Frederick Ho in the class of inductees. The Southern family's gift, a legacy endowment to the ITA Women's Collegiate Hall of Fame, enriches the program and secures its future.
Harold Southern (10/19/1916 - 9/18/2011) played No. 1 for the Paladins at Furman and continued playing competitively until he was 90 years old when he was ranked No. 4 nationally. Equally impressive, his professional achievements enabled him to promote, support and contribute in so many ways, especially in North Carolina. In the 1950s and '60s, Harold helped bring the Southern Championships to Winston-Salem and was instrumental in establishing Winston-Salem Tennis, Inc.
Mildred didn't play her first tournament until age 40, but she was consistently a high-ranked senior in singles and doubles. She served as president of the North Carolina Tennis Association, the North Carolina Tennis Foundation and the USTA Southern Tennis Association and organized the first Southern Senior Cup tournament. Mildred and Harold founded the Young Folks Tennis program that provides free lessons to children and funded the building for the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame in Greensboro. In recognition of their generous sponsorship, the NCTA's main offices and Hall of Fame are dedicated in their honor and center court at the Wake Forest Tennis Center was designated the Harold and Mildred Southern Stadium Court.
Daughter of Harold and Mildred, Deborah "Debbie" Leigh Southern was a fierce competitor during her premier junior days in North Carolina and at the University of Tennessee. Now in her 29th season as head coach of women's tennis at Furman, Debbie holds the title of "winningest women's tennis coach in Paladin history" and in 2004 was inducted into the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame.
The ITA Women's Collegiate Hall of Fame was established in 1995 and honors outstanding collegiate players and coaches, as well as players who attended college and later had a significant impact on women's tennis. The Hall of Fame is located at the College of William and Mary's McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center, named for the late Mark McCormack, founder of sports marketing giant International Management Group, and his wife, former tennis pro Betsy Nagelsen. The official site of the ITA Women's Collegiate Hall of Fame is http://web.wm.edu/tenniscenter/index.html.
As the governing body of collegiate tennis, the ITA promotes both the athletic and academic achievements of the collegiate tennis community. The ITA, which is comprised of nearly 1,700 men's and women's varsity coaches representing over 1,200 institutions, administers numerous regional and national championships and the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings for over 20,000 college varsity student-athletes at the NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior College levels. The ITA also has a comprehensive awards program for players and coaches to honor excellence in academics, leadership and sportsmanship. The official ITA web site is www.itatennis.com.