MOULTRIE – Lonnie White loves tennis. In his own words, he wants to share that love with everyone he meets.
The 59-year-old Moultrie native, on June 22, received one of the biggest accolades of his life and career. The Black Tennis Hall of Fame presented White with a “Regional Legend” award at its induction ceremony in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I had a lot of time to think about it,” said White during a telephone interview with The Moultrie Observer from his home in South Carolina. He was thinking about what this honor meant since he received word of it. The Black Tennis Hall of Fame has recognized the game’s legends from Arthur Ashe to Althea Gibson.
“Just to be mentioned in the same breath as them is a tremendous honor,” said White, a member also of the Colquitt County Sports Hall of Fame. “I love tennis so much, and I wanted to share that love with everyone I came in contact with.”
White also talked about having a great time during his trip to New York. A few of his fellow Moultrie natives were in attendance at the ceremony. That includes one former student who just happened to be in New York at that time.
“The city is huge,” said White. “That blew me away.”
While being interviewed, White was at home watching the first day of action at Wimbledon on The Tennis Channel. Commentary was provided by Chanda Rubin, who at one time was the No. 6 ranked women’s player in the world. Rubin was also a part of the 2019 Black Tennis Hall of Fame ceremony as an inducted player.
Currently, White is an assistant tennis coach at Coastal Carolina. While he has coached at the college level before, White said this is his first job in Division I. In the 2019 season, Coastal Carolina finished third in the Sun Belt Conference, one point out of second place.
“I really enjoy it,” he said. “The players are unbelievably good. They’re from Brazil, Australia, Finland. None from the United States.
“The school is growing by leaps and bounds.”
White also works at the Myrtle Beach Tennis Center. He said a lot of friends are surprised he’s not in Moultrie, but his wife, Moultrie’s Vanessa Taylor, is an associate head coach at Coastal Carolina with the women’s basketball team since May of 2017. She is a former head coach for women’s basketball at North Carolina Central and Johnson C. Smith University.
In December, White had rotator cuff surgery and thus has not been an active player so far in 2019. But, he said, he’s been cleared and is working out to get back into playing condition. He plans to participate in doubles and mixed doubles at the ATA Nationals beginning July 28 in Orlando.
“I just had the will, not the bill,” said White about his professional career which never got beyond the satellite tours. That statement meant he couldn’t get the necessary sponsorships that go with the skills and desire to play.
But, he still holds fond memories of Moultrie where he said people were always encouraging about his game.
“People don’t have to (be encouraging),” said White. “But when they do, it resonates with me.”