BLACK HISTORY MONTH
HOF INDUCTEE HENRY HARRIS
Ron Cioffi | February 11, 2019
Henry Harris has been the face of tennis in Natchez, MS, for the better part of the last 40 years. His service was noted when he was inducted into the Mississippi Tennis Foundation Hall of Fame last month.
Harris attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College and then graduated from Alcorn State University. He returned to his hometown, where he went to work for the City of Natchez as a police officer. After 18 years, he was transferred to the Park and Rec Department.
In 1976, he started volunteering as the tennis coach at North Natchez High School. During his tenure, North Natchez won the division four times, the state championship four times and the Big 8 Conference title twice. In 1984, he earned his USPTR and USPTA certifications.
At the urging of Hall of Famer and Jackson State tennis coach Willie Shepard, Harris and Cleon McKnight, along with several others, began attending officials’ school so that Shepard would have someone to officiate his matches at Jackson State. ADVERTISEMENT He remains a certified USTA official and referee.
Harris became involved with National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) when his friend, Art Porter, asked him to help start the first chapter in Mississippi in 1975. In 1992 and 1993, that chapter received the Mississippi NJTL Chapter of the Year award. In 2000 he began working at Battlefield Park in Jackson, and in 2004, he moved to Dallas where worked for the local NJTL, which won the Texas NJTL Chapter of the Year twice. He estimates that 80,000 students came through the USTA/NJTL program during his association with that organization.
In addition to his recognition of service to tennis and his community, he has also been recognized as the Natchez Citizen of the Year in 1998, was awarded the Natchez Civic League Award in 1990, received the Sporting Goods Manufacturer National Award in 1997, and carried the Olympic torch through Mississippi for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He was featured in the CBS documentary “Beyond the Baseline,” in its first airing during the 1996 US Open. In addition to all of this, Harris did find time to play tennis. He has been a long-time participant in both singles and doubles in the Senior Olympics National Games and has finished in the top five numerous years.