Honoring Marion Rice, Indianapolis Tennis Visionary and Legend
It is not easy to grow up in the shadow of a man driven to change things in the community. Indianapolis’s Fred Rice learned that fact early in life following his father, Marion Rice, around the west side of Indianapolis while he helped grow the tennis community. Growing up with his brother and family near Riverside Park meant that Fred learned the game while coming of age during a transitional time in our city’s history. Fred shares of his late father, “Dad was a very principled person. He had leadership qualities and the vision and goals to make them happen. He was very vision-driven and saw what tennis could be for the whole community.”
Marion encouraged Fred to play tennis and to use it to build his career. Fred enjoyed much success as a junior and college player at Beloit College in Wisconsin. While Marion thought Fred should attend via a tennis scholarship, Fred put his education first all while playing four years of college tennis and continued that focus into law school. “Dad wanted both of us to go as far in tennis as we could. But ultimately he humored me and my own path while continuing to break barriers in tennis.”
Marion’s impact on the Indianapolis tennis community is ever-present. Fred shares, “We followed my Dad around, not realizing he was making history. We just wanted to do what he was doing.” And make history, he DID!
Marion was the President of the Capitol City Tennis Club and President of MIDTAC, both of which continue to offer tennis events and programming in Indianapolis. He helped established our local National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapter and was pivotal in removing the barriers for local black players participating in sanctioned events held at private clubs in Indiana. He broke down racial barriers that existed for him so that his sons could freely participate in sanctioned tournaments all over the Midwest. He was also one of the first Black USTA Officials at the U.S. Clay Court Championships and at the U.S. Open. Marion played tennis as hard as he served the tennis community, as a founding member of the Industrial League here in the Circle City which continues today. Marion is also a member of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame and you can read more about him HERE.
Fred has continued Marion’s legacy and vision for keeping tennis open to all and is a caretaker of tennis on the west side. Fred is a former high school coach at his alma mater, Shortridge High School, a former President of USTA Central Indiana, and has held leadership and committee positions at the USTA Midwest. He is chairman of the USTA Midwest Bylaws, Rules and Regulations Committee and a member of the USTA Midwest Grievance Committee.
Take a moment to note the signage at the Marion I. Rice Tennis Courts at Riverside Park. Dedicated June 8, 2019, this hallowed ground honors a man who helped make tennis available to all, and his family continues to support the tennis dreams of ALL players in the community.