The name Dick Williams may mean something to you. He is a titanic survivor, a war hero, a legendary tennis player. His story is one of triumph and it is this story and achievements that ensures his name is now in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In this article, we will tell his story, spoiler alert, the ship sinks.
Dick Williams was part of a wealthy family. His father was a famous tennis player and they boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg, France as his father was set to play in a tournament in America. When the Titanic hit the iceberg no one panicked. They were on board the unsinkable ship and felt assured that everything would be fine. His father Charles had found someone trapped on his way around the ship and broke through a door to set them free. As no one realized what was happening he got in a lot of trouble for breaking Titanic property, in reality he may have saved a life.
As things got worse that night it is believed that Charles was crushed under some part of the boat collapse and died. Dick was luckier, he was on the surface of the Titanic when it finally collapsed and he was washed from the surface into the icy waters. Dick resurfaced from the icy water and saw a small boat in the distance, he swam to it and climbed on top. It was nothing that could save him but it allowed him to escape from the cold waters for a small amount of time. He and thirty others stayed on that boat until help came. The whole time he waited his lower half was submerged underwater.
The RMS Carpathia would soon come to rescue them but many didn’t make it. Of the thirty holding on to that boat, only 11 were still alive by the time the boat came. Williams was lucky to be one of them but his legs had been in the water for so long they had suffered severe frostbite. He was told that they needed to be amputated but he refused. His own tennis career had already begun and he refused to give up, even if the doctors gave him no chance of using his legs again.
The doctors were wrong. Williams worked hard, he slept for only two hours at a time to ensure he could get up and allow blood to flow through his tired legs. He did this until they returned to some form of normal. Once he could rely on his legs he picked up his racket again and started to compete in tennis.
The Titanic crashed in 1912 and by 1914 Williams was a college champion. He played for Harvard in singles and doubles and won out both contests in 1914 and 1915. He turned professional and won the US Championship in 1914 and 1916. He won a gold medal in the Olympics for doubles in 1924. He won the Davis Cup in 1925 and 1926. A long and prestigious career at the top of the sport.
Between 1916 and 1925 there are little tennis records for Williams. In 1917 he was fighting in World War 1 and his valor earned him the Legion of Honor. He died at the age of 77. He survived the Titanic crash and two world wars long enough to see his name be put in the hall of fame. An incredible athlete and an incredible person. His achievements will never be forgotten and if his father had survived the Titanic crash he would have been delighted to see the boy he raised becoming a man to be proud of.