Dr. Robert Walter Johnson (1899-1971) resided at 1422 Pierce Street, a house constructed in 1911 in the American Foursquare Style. Dr. Johnson was a well-known and respected physician and general practitioner in Lynchburg, with an office on the corner of Fifth and Polk Streets. He was the first minority physician to be granted practice rights at Lynchburg General Hospital. Dr. Johnson's home and the clay tennis court beside it served as summer training ground for promising young African-American athletes.
Nicknamed "Whirlwind" due to his success as a college running back, Johnson supported aspiring African-American tennis players, using his own funds to found the Junior Development Program of the American Tennis Association during the 1950s. Johnson trained tennis stars Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, the first African Americans to win at Wimbledon, as well as champions Juan Farrow and John Lucas. He taught these young athletes sportsmanship and discipline, giving them the confidence needed to excel despite racial barriers.
Johnson's residence also offered lodging to notable African Americans traveling through Lynchburg during the period when African Americans were excluded from white hotels. Duke Ellington, Jackie Robinson, Lionel Hampton, and Roy Campanella were said to be among the visitors hosted at 1422 Pierce Street.
The Dr. Robert Walter Johnson Home and Tennis Court were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
In addition to the house, a gable-roofed cottage likely used as a garage stands at 1422 Pierce Street. No apparent changes or additions have been made to either the house or the cottage. The double tennis court, built around 1933, is located on a full city lot west of the house. The fence, nets, and score posts have been removed, but two metal net posts remain. A plaque commemorating the historic significance of the site marks these properties.
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1422 Pierce Street