Northeast Park tennis courts renamed in honor of Bill Autry
MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Around 100 people gathered at the Northeast Park tennis courts on Saturday to honor former tennis coach Bill Autry.
In April 2020, Autry passed away from a heart attack at the age of 55. His death affected many people in the tennis community across East Mississippi and sparked the creation of the “Bill Autry Memorial Scholarship” at his alma mater Meridian Community College.
Former players, friends and family of Autry’s came out to the tennis center to play in a mixed doubles tournament that raised money for the scholarship at MCC. Before the tournament began, a special ceremony was held to reveal the tennis courts at Northeast Park would be renamed the “Bill Autry Courts”.
Autry served as tennis pro of Northeast Park for several years. His brother Paul, who attended today’s event, said it meant so much to the family to see Bill honored.
“When I first saw his name on the sign it kind of hit me. That’s just a symbol of what he meant to people,” Autry said. “People took the time to make a sign, come up with the idea and show their love and care for him and our family. It just took my breath away.”
Followed by the renaming ceremony, tennis players of all ages took to the courts to have fun playing in the mixed doubles tournament. Participants paid $20 to compete in the tournament with all proceeds benefiting the scholarship.
Event co-coordinator Jenny Bryan said people were so anxious for Saturday to come so they could come out and remember Autry’s legacy.
”We had lots of calls and people are so excited about this,” Bryan said. “Seeing the people is just a testament of Bill’s life and how many people he impacted, from little kids all the way up to elderly that he taught tennis.”
Prior to the tournament, $10,000 had already been raised for the scholarship. This is the first year the tournament was held but organizers say they hope to make it an annual event.
“Bill touched a lot of people’s lives. He loved kids and he loved teaching tennis,” Autry said. “He poured a lot of himself into other people and it’s good that people came out, recognized that and said thank you. It meant a lot to us.”
Copyright 2021 WTOK. All rights reserved.