From the Digital Archives: Tennis Anyone?

Tennis player Krister Larzon during N.C. State and Atlantic Christian match, 1986

Tennis player Krister Larzon during N.C. State and Atlantic Christian match, 1986

With the Wimbledon tennis championship underway and today being the 141st anniversary of its first tournament, we at the NC State Libraries' Special Collections and Research Center want to celebrate the University's own tennis history with images from our Rare and Unique Digital Collections. While tennis was played at NC State early on, it was initially only played as a club sport. It was in 1922 that a varsity team was first organized, and its women's and men's teams have competed in and won championships during their almost 100 years of playing.

Irwin Holmes on tennis court, 1957.


Tennis is an important sport in our University's history, because it was played by Irwin Holmes. Holmes was one of the first African Americans to enroll as an undergraduate student at North Carolina State University. He enrolled in 1956 and was the first African American to earn an undergraduate degree from North Carolina State College in 1960, and the first African-American athlete in 1957, in tennis.

In a 2014 oral history interview, Holmes described his experiences playing tennis as the only African American player on the team, and the influence of his mentor and coach John Kenfield.


NC State student playing tennis on court, with a traditional tennis dress, circa 1980.

Tennis Club, before tennis was a varsity sport, 1920s

J. W. Isenhour, tennis coach from 1968-81. He led the team to ACC and NCAA championships, and the Isenhour Tennis Complex is named after him.

A 4-H club member visiting during Club Week, on court and in a classic tennis outfit, 1956.

Two players on court, circa 1970

And one of our favorites, a student goofing around with a tennis racket in a Metcalf dorm room, 1980s.

If you would like to learn more about the Special Collections Research Center and our digitized materials, please visit the Rare and Unique Digital Collections for access to thousands of images, video, audio recordings, and text materials documenting NC State history and other topics.