Ham Richardson was one of the top-rated mens tennis players in the world in the 1950s.
I n the 1950s Hamilton Farrar “Ham” Richardson was one of the world’s top-rated tennis players. He overcame severe diabetes to become a collegiate tennis star at Tulane University, then spent several years at the top of the international tennis circuit before leaving the sport at the age of twenty-five for a business career.
Richardson was born on August 24, 1933, in Baton Rouge. At age eleven he began playing tennis; however, he would go on to excel also at basketball and baseball while at Baton Rouge’s University High School. As a teen he would travel to New Orleans on weekends to train at the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club with renowned Tulane University tennis coach Emmett Pare.
Despite being diagnosed with diabetes at fifteen years old—and ignoring his doctors’ advice—Richardson succeeded under Pare’s tutelage, winning several state and regional championships. In 1950 Richardson won the US Junior singles and doubles championships. It came as no surprise when Richardson decided to attend Tulane University, and he would later win two consecutive NCAA singles championships there in 1953 and 1954.
He graduated from Tulane with a bachelor’s degree in economics in only three years. Named a Rhodes Scholar, he went on to Trinity College in Oxford, England, where he earned master of arts degrees in the Honours School of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.
Between 1951 and 1958, Richardson played on seven US Davis Cup teams, including the 1954 and 1958 teams that defeated the vaunted Australian teams of Ken Roswall, Lew Hoad, Rod Laver, and Roy Emerson. He compiled a record of twenty wins against only two losses in Davis Cup play.
In 1956 Richardson was ranked as the number one men’s singles player in the world by the United States Tennis Association. He reached the quarterfinals in the Australian Open (1953, 1954), and the semifinals in the US Open (1952 and 1954), the French Open (1955), and Wimbledon (1956). He won the US Open doubles championship in 1958 with partner Alex Olmedo.
Richardson was ranked among the world’s top ten men’s singles players for eleven years.
To the surprise of many, he retired from tennis at the age of twenty-five and began his business career, eventually founding Richardson & Associates, an investment banking and venture capital firm in New York in 1969.
In 1983 Richardson became the first tennis player inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. He died on November 5, 2006, in New York, at the age seventy-three, of complications from diabetes. In 2011 his family donated his extensive trophy collection to Tulane University, where it is on display in the Wilson Center.