October 12, 2006
Camilla - When Eddie Williamson and wife Nan moved to back to her hometown in Mitchell County some 30+ years ago, Williamson's father-in law James Lee Adams told Eddie he would have to give something back to this community.
Williamson has done just that. So much so that he received the biggest honor in his life last month. "I just married my two passions together," Williamson said.
Williamson's passions are tennis and the Mitchell County Retardation Center. The Lite Pro Invitational tennis tournament he started 30 years ago has raised over a million dollars for the center and other worthy causes in Mitchell County.
"We are the only center in the state of Georgia that was not paid for with government money," he said.
Williamson's tennis tournament even reached the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame, which inducted the former Auburn tennis star last month. Williamson joins the state's Tennis Hall of Fame whose other inductees are some of the top ranked players of their day.
"I am very proud to be inducted into the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame, but it was not my tennis ability. My friends will tell you that my tennis ability is so-so. It is what we have created here in Mitchell County."
And Eddie Williamson emphasizes the word 'we' when talking about his induction into the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame. Because tennis is not the only thing that keeps the top ranked pros in the world coming back to Mitchell County each spring.
"And it evolved through friends of Mitchell County. We did it with which we did it so darn well here in south Georgia and that is with hospitality," Williamson said.
Eddie Williamson has not only raised a great deal of money, his passion for the game has spread to his friends and neighbors. The three hard surface and three clay surface courts at the Mitchell County Tennis Center are now home to one of the top junior tennis programs in the state.
"We have a young tennis pro, David Burkle, who is giving 125 to 150 kids lessons each week."
And if you are a tennis fan who hasn't been to Mitchell County, you need to make the trip. "The quality of tennis is probably as high as we are going to get. You are going to have to go to the U.S. Open if you want to see any better," Williamson said.