A Titanic survivor was told he needed to get his legs amputated. 2 years later he won a US tennis championship!

English: Richard Norris Williams, American ten...

From OMG facts:

His name is Richard Williams, and he was considered one of the best tennis players in the world, when he boarded the Titanic on it’s doomed maiden voyage. When the ship sank, he managed to cling to a life boat; his legs freezing in the cold water.

That frost damage led to a doctor recommending he should get his legs amputated. He refused and continued his career. Just 2 years after the sinking of the Titanic, he won 2 US Singles championships, a Wimbledon doubles title, and Olympic gold medal and made it into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

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From “The Sporting News”

Richard Norris Williams was traveling from Geneva with his father, Charles. Richard planned on playing the lawn tennis circuit that summer and enrolling in Harvard for fall classes.

They were asleep in their stateroom when the ship hit the iceberg at 11:40 p.m. The jolt didn’t trigger much panic. After all, the Titanic was considered unsinkable.

Richard put on his big fur coat and headed out with his father. They came upon a steward trying to pry open a door to another cabin.

Richard lowered his shoulder and rammed the door in. The stranded passenger may have thanked him, but the steward said he would report Williams for destroying White Star Line property.

Read the whole story:  http://aol.sportingnews.com/sport/story/2012-04-15/richard-williams-tennis-titanic-100th-anniversary – Very well written

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The 1,500 tennis fans packed into the grandstand showered applause upon Karl Behr and Dick Williams after their thrilling fourth-round match in the 1912 Longwood Challenge Bowl. Old-timers agreed that the match had been the finest in the tournament’s history. For five sets on a warm July afternoon, Behr and Williams shared the same grassy rectangle, but the men already shared a much stronger bond—one forged in ice. Just 12 weeks prior, the two future tennis Hall of Famers had both survived Titanic’s sinking.


Both Behr and Williams were chasing their dreams when they separately ascended Titanic’s gangway in Cherbourg, France. The 26-year-old Behr had been a tennis standout at Yale, and in 1907 he was a doubles finalist at Wimbledon and a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team. As he boarded Titanic, however, Behr had more important things than tennis on his mind, mainly 19-year-old Helen Newsom.

The tennis star had been pursuing his sister’s classmate, but Newsom’s mother and stepfather disapproved of the age gap between the suitors and hoped a European trip might cool the romance. Behr, however, concocted a business trip to Europe and followed along. When Newsom telegrammed Behr in Berlin to say she was sailing home aboard Titanic, he quickly booked a ticket on the giant ocean liner to surprise her.

The Whole Article: http://www.history.com/news/titanics-tennis-star-survivors

4 responses

  1. Williams vacationed (and played tennis) at the Ausable Club in the Adirondacks every summer for almost 30 years.

    1. Good to know. I didn’t know there was an area connection to the story when I wrote it. Thanks for the info.

  2. In addition his Wimbledon doubles partner Chuck Garland and Dean Mathey both top ranked players of their time also belonged to the same club. The upper tennis courts have a plaque dedicated to Williams and Garland.

  3. Dick Williams had other connections to the area. He visited and camped out with classmates during his years at Harvard (19-12-1916) in the southern part of the Adirondacks. He also received his training after enlisting in the Army at Plattsburgh.

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