Richard Williams Biography

Richard Williams, the legendary American tennis coach, is widely recognized as the father and coach of the iconic Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. Despite facing racism during his upbringing in Louisiana, Williams’s passion for tennis led him to train his daughters and transform them into prominent tennis players. Together, they have achieved numerous titles, including multiple Grand Slam victories and Olympic gold medals. Williams’s remarkable journey has been immortalized in the biographical sports drama King Richard, with Will Smith delivering an Oscar-winning portrayal of this esteemed figure.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Richard Dove Williams Jr.
  • Age: 81 Years, 81 Year Old Males
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Betty Johnson (m. 1965–1973), Lakeisha Graham (m. 2010–2017), Oracene Price (m. 1980–2002)
    • Mother: Julia Mae Williams
    • Children: Richard Williams III, Serena Williams, Venus Williams
  • Born Country: United States
  • Black Sportspersons
  • American Men
  • U.S. State: Louisiana, African-American From Louisiana

Childhood & Early Life

Richard Dove Williams Jr., better known as Richard Williams, was born on February 14, 1942, in Shreveport, Louisiana, US, into a family of sharecroppers. The oldest of the 5 children of his parents, Julia Mae and Richard Dove Williams, he was also their only son. He grew up with his sisters, Pat, Barbara, Penny, and Faye. He had a difficult childhood and had a tough time dealing with racism. Following his graduation from high school, he moved to Saginaw, Michigan and then settled in California.

Career

Richard Williams initially worked as a security guard. However, his love for tennis made him read all the tennis magazines available voraciously. He loved watching tennis matches, too. However, he was never formally trained in tennis. It is believed he took tennis lessons from someone known as Old Whiskey and had decided back then that his children would grow up to be tennis stars.

In 1978, he was amazed when he saw Romanian tennis player Virginia Ruzici earn $20,000 for winning that year’s French Open. He realized the potential of the game and decided to train his daughters Venus and Serena, to help the family escape their one-room apartment in Compton, where they stayed with their 5 daughters and slept in bunk-beds. Williams soon started taking his daughters out to train on public tennis courts. His then-wife, Oracene, too helped him train Venus and Serena.

Soon, Williams quit his job as a security guard. As he coached his daughters, he also stopped them from competing in the junior circuit, gearing up for a bigger stage instead. In 1999, Serena stunned the tennis world by winning the US Open, defeating Swiss tennis legend Martina Hingis, in what was her first major singles victory. Venus won the first of her 5 Wimbledons in 2000, defeating US tennis star Lindsay Davenport.

While Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe had already shot to fame earlier, as 2 of the first black Grand Slam champions, the Williams sisters, under the guidance of their father and coach, Richard Williams, created history with their subsequent wins. Over the years, he helped his daughters turn into 2 of the most accomplished tennis stars in history. His achievements as a coach include 7 Australian Open singles titles with Serena, 3 French Open singles titles with Serena, 12 Wimbledon singles titles with the Williams sisters, 8 US Open titles with the Williams sisters and 2 Olympic gold medals with the Williams sisters (in the singles category). He has also helped the Williams sisters win 4 Australian Open doubles titles, 2 French Open doubles titles, 5 Wimbledon doubles championships, 2 US Open doubles titles, and 3 Olympic gold medals (in the doubles category). He has also won 6 WTA Tour Championships and 28 WTA Tier I/Premier Mandatory/Premier 5 titles with the Williams sisters (in the singles category). In 2017, he was inducted into the American Tennis Association’s Hall of Fame.

Personal Life

Richard Williams has been married thrice and has 9 children from all his marriages. When he initially moved to Saginaw, Michigan, Williams met Betty Johnson, his first wife. The couple tied the knot in 1965. They had 5 children: 3 sons, Richard III, Ronner, and Reluss, and 2 daughters, Sabrina, and Reneeka. During this time, Williams also adopted Johnson’s daughter from her previous relationship, Katrina. The couple divorced in 1973.

In 1979, Williams met Oracene “Brandy” Price. Back then, Price already had 3 daughters from a previous relationship, Yetunde, Lyndrea, and Isha. Williams and Price married in 1980. They had 2 daughters, Venus (born on June 17, 1980) and Serena (born on September 26, 1981). They lived in Compton, California.

In 2002, Williams and Price divorced. Williams then began dating grocery store owner Lakeisha Juanita Graham. Williams and Graham had a son before filing for divorce in 2017. Williams also has a son named Chavoita LeSane from another relationship.

In July 2016, Williams suffered a stroke. In 2022, he had 2 more strokes. He is now apparently being looked after by Chavoita. While Williams and Graham started their divorce proceedings back in 2017, Graham later filed for bankruptcy to retain their family home in Palm Beach, Florida. Graham’s lawyer stated in 2019 that the couple had reconciled.

In Popular Culture

Popular actor Will Smith portrayed Richard Williams in the 2021 biographical sports drama King Richard, that was based on Williams’s life. Smith won the Academy Award for the Best Actor for the film, while the film earned 5 more Academy Award nominations. Williams has also been featured in various media outlets and documentaries.

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