HT’s Alumnae Celestine Hatchett Kyle Sizes Up Venus & Serena Williams!!
Monday Apr, 08 2013
March 25, 2013
The tagline “Discover HT” is persistent in having new meaning as the ground breaking stories of this historic institution continue to surface. Dr. Bertha Sadler Means was unrelenting in her request to visit her classmate Mrs. Celestine Hatchett Kyle in Lubbock, Texas. Once again, another HT treasure was uncovered.
Mrs. Kyle is a pioneer champion to the sport of tennis. She was introduced to the game on the playground of Navasota Colored High School in Navasota, Texas. Mrs. Kyle quickly became an excellent tennis player. She won the Class 3-AAA Tennis Singles Competition at Prairie View A&M College (now University) three years running and won the Doubles Championship each year she competed with her partner Ms. Alice Marie Jones.
In 1938, Mrs. Kyle accepted a full- tennis scholarship to Tillotson College. In her first year at Tillotson, Mrs. Kyle entered the Southwestern American Tennis Association Competition and defeated the reigning veteran champion. This began a string of wins in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Her winning streak landed Mrs. Kyle an opportunity to compete against New York City’s, Harlem’s rising star, Althea Gipson. Ms. Gipson was the first black woman to play in the U.S. National Championship Tournament in Forrest Hills, New York, now known as the U.S. Open, and the first Black to compete and win the Wimbledon Championship in Wimbledon, England, in 1957. Mrs. Kyle proudly claims her second place position next to Gipson. When asked how she felt she would do against today’s Wimbledon champions Venus and Serena Williams, Mrs. Kyle confidently replied, “I would have given them a close call in my time. You have to be a fighter in tennis.”
During our visit with Mrs. Kyle, she spoke lovingly about her time at Tillotson College. She recalled the names of the professors that impacted her life such as, Mrs. Upshaw, Mrs. Mary Roberts, and tennis coach and college Treasurer Mr. Arthur Royster. She reminisced about her love for the campus and the many walks to Beard Hall. “Tillotson was homie. Everybody looked out for each other.” Mrs. Kyle fondly remembers the Co-Op run by the Mosby family but she laughs and says, “I didn’t get to visit too often because I didn’t have money to go there anyway.”