On May 30, 2018, the tennis courts at the River’s Edge Sports Complex were officially named the Carnis Poindexter Tennis Courts in honor of the local tennis legend and Roanoke native.
Poindexter graduated from Lucy Addison High School and earned a tennis scholarship to Arkansas A&M, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, after only one year of playing the sport. While there, he created a pipeline for other African-American Roanokers to attend the school on athletic scholarships.
In 1964, the first year the City-County Tournament was integrated, Poindexter won the championship as an unseeded player. He was also the first African-American tennis player to win a tournament with both amateurs and professionals. He would go on to win the City-County Tournament three more times on his way to an illustrious career in local tennis, amassing 14 overall titles.
After teaching for 30 years, Poindexter retired from Patrick Henry High School in 1994 and now serves as an elder at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Local attorney, John Fishwick, had the idea to name these courts after Poindexter. After playing with and learning from Poindexter, Fishwick felt this was a man who deserved recognition. “I had seen where the United States Tennis Association was doing more to honor African-American tennis players who had been trailblazers, and I thought we should honor Carnis.”
When Fishwick initially approached Poindexter about the idea, he was modest to a fault. He felt there were other, more deserving people for whom the city could name the tennis courts. “I told Carnis that these other players were deserving as well, but that we should start with him,” Fishwick said.
He presented the idea to City Council who voted to rename the tennis courts at River’s Edge Sports Complex in honor of Poindexter. Funding for the signs was privately donated, and Roanoke Parks and Recreation designed them and worked with local companies to have them made and installed.
Hundreds of people gathered on May 30 to pay tribute to Poindexter’s legacy. Roanoke Parks and Recreation Director Michael Clark kicked off the event, and Mayor Lea spoke to the crowd of Poindexter’s achievements. “We take great pride in the diversity of our city, and we are able to celebrate that diversity now because of a few brave individuals who challenged the status quo and broke barriers for people of color. One of those people is Mr. Carnis Poindexter.”
The new signage is displayed at the tennis courts at River’s Edge Sports Complex.