by Shawn Nowlin
Former educator and tennis coach Carnis Poindexter recently received one of the highest accomplishments a city resident can earn – induction into the Roanoke Regional Tennis Hall of Fame in front of a court named in their honor.
A group of former students, city officials, family members and longtime friends gathered Thursday(4/15) at River’s Edge Sports Complex to show their support for Poindexter and his career milestone.
Around 6 p.m. people began speaking about what Poindexter, 82, has meant to the Roanoke Valley community for decades.
“Recognizing Mr. Poindexter’s many contributions to our community was inspiring and reminded me of the time-worn quote, ‘what unites us is always greater than that which divides us,’” said Kathleen Oddo, the VP of the Roanoke Valley Tennis Association,
She added, “Mr. Poindexter used tennis to create a bridge to higher education for those he coached, and a means to narrow social and racial divides in our community. On behalf of the Roanoke Valley Tennis Association, I thank Mr. Poindexter for his countless contributions, both the visible and invisible ones, and I congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”
Tennis has always been one of Poindexter’s favorite sports. When asked what exactly he loves about the physical activity, he responded, “It is rather inexpensive to get into, there are public courts everywhere, and aside from the many friendships one can develop – it is the only sport proven to extend a person’s life.”
Raised in Roanoke, Poindexter grew up in the Northwest part of the city, across from the Upper-Springwood Park tennis courts.
The year before graduating from Lucy Addison High in 1956, he met Dr. E.D. Downing who was associated with the American Tennis Association’s (ATA) Junior Development Program founded by Dr. Robert W. Johnson. It was Dr. Downing who encouraged Poindexter to play and suggested that he might be good enough to earn a scholarship to college through tennis.
Poindexter enrolled at Arkansas A.M. & N College in 1957 (currently University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff) on a tennis scholarship. In 1959, he won the ATA National Inter-Collegiate Singles Championship. Five years later, as an unseeded player, he won the Roanoke City Championship.
Poindexter’s coaching career began at Burly High in 1964 after he spent two years in the Army. In 1965, he became the tennis coach at Lucy Addison High, winning the VIA State Tennis Championship in just two years. Before retiring in 1994, Poindexter coached countless students at both Jefferson and Patrick Henry High Schools. Over two dozen of his former students were awarded athletic scholarships.
Dwight Holland, founding chairperson, Roanoke Regional Tennis Hall of Fame Board was among those at the gathering.
“We have inducted our two most senior male and female members into the hall to date: Mr. Carnis Poindexter, and Mrs. Juanita Stanley at 96 years young. These, and other regional tennis stars, will be feted at the induction and banquet at Hidden Valley Country Club September,” said Holland.