MERIDIAN, Mississippi (WTOK) – About 100 people gathered on the Northeast Park tennis courts on Saturday to pay tribute to former tennis coach Bill Autry.
In April 2020, Autry died of a heart attack at the age of 55. His death touched many in the tennis community of eastern Mississippi and triggered the creation of the “Bill Autry Memorial Scholarship” at his alma mater Meridian Community College.
Former Autry players, friends and family came to the tennis center to play in a mixed doubles tournament that raised money for the MCC scholarship. Prior to the start of the tournament, a special ceremony was held to reveal that the Northeast Park tennis courts would be renamed “Bill Autry Courts”.
Autry was a Northeast Park tennis pro for several years. His brother Paul, who attended today’s event, said it meant a lot to the family to see Bill honored.
“When I first saw his name on the sign, it kind of hit me. It’s just a symbol of what he meant to people, ”Autry said. “People took the time to give a sign, to come up with the idea and to show their love and care for him and our family. It just took my breath away.
Followed by the name change ceremony, tennis players of all ages took to the courts for fun playing in the mixed doubles tournament. Participants paid $ 20 to participate in the tournament, with all profits going to the stock market.
Event coordinator Jenny Bryan said people were so eager for Saturday to come so they could step out and remember Autry’s legacy.
“We’ve had a lot of calls and people are so excited about it,” Bryan said. “Seeing people is just a testament to Bill’s life and the number of people he touched, from small children to the elderly he taught tennis.”
Before the tournament, $ 10,000 had already been raised for the scholarship. This is the first year the tournament has been held, but organizers say they hope to make it an annual event.
“Bill touched the lives of a lot of people. He loved children and he loved teaching tennis, ”said Autry. “He’s invested a lot in others and it’s good that people have stepped forward, recognized him and said thank you. It meant a lot to us.
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