Branch Curington

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Photograph, Branch Curington, Undated

Atlanta native Branch Currington served as director of the Washington Park Tennis Center for nearly 30 years. He quit school after eighth grade to help support his widowed mother and siblings, and at age 13 took a job in the tennis maintenance department of the Piedmont Driving Club (PDC). He prepared courts for play and worked as a ball boy, eventually learning everything about the game from building tennis courts to stringing rackets. He taught himself to play by observing members at the whites-only club.After serving in World War II, Curington returned to work at PDC and eventually became head court attendant. Welby Van Horn, the club pro who was also the number five ranked tennis player in the United States, recognized Curington’s talent and advised him to move to California to hone his skills. Van Horn saw no future for the young man in Atlanta as a Black tennis player or club pro. Curington stayed and proved him wrong. He became an assistant tennis pro at Piedmont and the first Black person in Georgia to be certified as a tennis teaching professional. 

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Photograph, Tennis Instruction at Washington Park, Atlanta, ca. 1960s

In 1964, Mayor Ivan Allen approached Curington with a request that he become the director of the newly built Washington Park tennis center. The two knew each other from the Piedmont Driving Club, and Allen knew that Curington was perfect for the job. Curington accepted and vowed to never “turn a child away from the courts for social, or economic reasons beyond the youngster’s control,” contrasting his experience at Washington Park years earlier. 

Notable students of Curington over the years include Former Atlanta Mayors Andrew Young and Maynard Jackson, Hank Aaron, and Herman Russell, the first Black member of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Around 50 students went on to play in college, often with the aid of scholarships. His incredible role in the Washington Park and the wider Atlanta community led to his induction into the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame in 2016.