Rudy Lewis has heard it more times than he can count. The president of the James Lewis Tennis Scholarship Foundation is often thought to be the son of the man for whom the foundation is named.
“The first thing they ask me is, ‘Oh, that’s your dad?’” Rudy Lewis said. “I’ve always gotta tell them he’s no relation whatsoever to me. But he inspired many of us to follow in his footsteps and … make a difference in the lives of humanity.”
The foundation president may not be a relative of James Lewis but he “inherited” his dedication and devotion to teaching tennis to men, women, boys and girls. It is that trait that he gleaned from the man who reignited his love of tennis that helped earn him the distinction of Alabama Member of the Year of the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR).
The award is presented to a member who has shown dedication and diligence in promoting and supporting tennis and PTR, the largest global organization of tennis teaching professionals, with more than 16,500 members in 125 countries.
“I never envisioned me being an ambassador to tennis,” Lewis, 69, said, acknowledging that his initial interest was simply playing the sport. “I used to play in tournaments. I would play with Mr. Lewis’ son, Jimmy Lewis, and we would play in different tournaments throughout the city of Birmingham. I was getting a lot of satisfaction from tennis, playing diverse people on different levels.”
James P. “Jimmy” Lewis Jr. is treasurer of the foundation named for his late father. He said Rudy Lewis is continuing the tradition of tennis instruction begun by the elder James Lewis, who died June 14, 1995 at the age of 78.
“Matter of fact he’s taken it to another level actually with the juniors, in my opinion,” Jimmy Lewis said of Rudy. “Instead of just giving instructions, he started a team and he’s got different age groups that are competing in USTA (United States Tennis Association) leagues.
“He’s also had a couple of students to play college ball,” Jimmy Lewis said. “He just got more involved and he’s taken advantage of everything he could receive from the USTA.”
“He’s been around Alabama tennis a long, long time,” she said. “He did start out doing our website in the very beginning. He did help us all get started with it.
“Rudy’s such a nice, nice man.”
By 1999, Rudy Lewis wanted to share what he had learned with others. He joined PTR and started taking classes to prepare himself to teach the sport. Since then, he’s recruited others to teach tennis.
“It’s not all about me,” he said. “It’s about the team that surrounds me, and inspiring others to do good work for others.”
Born Livingstone T. Lewis Jr., the Homewood resident has given back to the game he loves for more than 20 years. He grew up in New Orleans and played high school football, as his father had.
Rudy Lewis and his wife, Margaret, picked up tennis in New Orleans before moving to Birmingham for his job at AT&T.
Lewis helped start the Birmingham Area Tennis Association and was chairman of Alabama Tennis Association Information Technology. He was on the USTA Southern IT Committee, including a stint as vice chairman, and was chairman of the section’s nine-state multicultural committee.
Lewis was on the board of trustees of the Southern Tennis Patrons Foundation. He was also chairman of the NJTL for Southern and served on the National NJTL Committee. Today, he serves as Junior Program coordinator, Southern NJTL chairperson and is on the Southern Tennis Foundation board of trustees.
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