“You must have hope to survive. I went back to the basics of just surviving one day at a time, not looking ahead, not looking back, just taking each day and concentrating and living fully in that one day.” ~~Reese Patterson, 2018
Class of 1992
Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, 1992
Reese Patterson learned to play tennis at age ten and came of age during World War II. Born in 1926, he completed college and medical school in six years graduating from UT-Memphis in 1948. Patterson joined the Air Force and worked in the Pacific during the Korean War; after the war he worked in east Punjab, India, performing cataract surgery. In 1957, Reese opened an ophthalmology practice in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1961, Patterson and Roe Campbell (Class of 1992) founded the famed Knoxville Racquet Club, the birthplace of senior tennis play in 1963. Patterson, who did not begin competing in tournaments until he was 45 years old, partnered with friend Stan Ford (Class of 1992) in 1971 and the two enjoyed a twenty-two-year partnership capturing 70 mens senior doubles titles by 1991. The duo lost only five of more than 200 matches played together. Patterson and Ford both battled life-threatening illnesses between 1987 and 1988 respectively and resumed doubles play in 1989. In 1991, Patterson and Ford won six national doubles titles including the USTA National Men’s Senior Grass Court Championship. Patterson recalls that win as the most electrifying moment in his life. He said after the win, the officials opened the gates and people poured onto the court with tears rolling down their cheeks. Besides witnessing the outpouring of emotion from total strangers, Patterson said “they just seemed overcome with the phenomenal fact that we had not only come back from life threatening illnesses, but we had been able to win one of the most prestigious of all tournaments.” The duo also won the Jacobs Bowl Award (USTA Southern Section Annual Awards) that year. Patterson and Ford posted their last win at the Southern Indoor Open in 1996. After Ford’s death in 1998, Patterson continued doubles play throughout Europe until his retirement in 2009. He spends his retirement advocating for wellness and counsels cancer patients, encouraging them to become cancer survivors.