Franklin H. Crawford, Jr.

Franklin H. Crawford, Jr., fondly known as Mr. Crawford, was an avid tennis player and native of Richmond. His professional home was the classroom as a teacher at Armstrong High School for 37 years (1952-1989) where he earned Teacher of the Year in the 1970s. His second home was on the tennis courts, often at Battery Park.

Mr. Crawford is notably remembered for taking the pioneering step in 1961 of founding the Armstrong High School tennis team with just a dozen tennis balls and five eager students. Through dedication and instruction, in just three years Armstrong was the state runner-up in the all-black Virginia Inner-city Athletic League, and in 1964, the team would go on to win the state championship.

Beyond coaching the Armstrong team, Mr. Crawford spent more than 20 years teaching tennis over the summer, sponsored by Richmond Parks and Recreation. While developing and mentoring multiple generations of players, he grew a reputation for going above and beyond for his players, even personally driving them to tournaments and NJTL matches. His commitment was consistent and unwavering.

Mr. Crawford played competitively himself in tournaments throughout Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region and was consistently ranked high in his age group. Often alongside friend and doubles partner, Dr. Watson, he won multiple doubles events and enjoyed the camaraderie and time on the courts.

In 1975, fellow Richmonder and tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr. became the first black man to win the men’s singles tennis title at Wimbledon. In 2001, Mr. Crawford was interviewed by ESPN Classic Sports Century Series to recount the life of Arthur Ashe, whose success he witnessed.

Mr. Crawford was an active and beloved figure in the Richmond tennis community. His sportsmanship and grace on the court were exemplary, earning him respect among his peers. He was a familiar face on the courts and played until he was 83 years old—he truly loved the game and had a wonderful impact on Richmond tennis.