If you’ve ever wondered who it was that got Venus and Serena Williams interested in tennis, look no further than their father, Richard.
Not only did he pique their interest in the game, but he was their coach early on, as well.
Today, Serena will be vying for her 24th Grand Slam, and if she wins, she will tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 career major titles. As she competes for the title, Serena will undoubtedly be cheered on by Richard, one of her biggest fans.
Read on to learn more about Richard Williams.
1. He Penned an Autobiography Called ‘Black and White: The Way I See It”
In Black and White: The Way I See It, Richard chronicles a childhood of poverty and abuse. The 76-year-old grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, with five brothers and sisters. His father left when he was young.
At one point in the book, Richard details his experience of being beaten by members of the Ku Klux Klan while his father looked on. He writes, “It is a terrible thing to be so unloved, to know your father would rather let you die than lift a finger to help you, to watch him run off and leave you all alone.”
He continues, “It was a rejection so cold it remains burnt in my memory and, in the end, it did what even white people could never do, hurt me so deep in my soul that I have never forgot or forgiven.”
At another point, Williams describes why he started stealing. “I became fascinated with stealing at the age of eight. I don’t know if the thrill was being able to get away with a crime, or that the crime was against the white man,” Courier Mail quotes him as saying.
2. He Filed for Divorce from His Third Wife in 2017
Last year, Williams filed for divorce from his third wife, Lakeisha Williams. He claims she stole his security checks and forged his signature to transfer property to her name. According to the Daily Mail, he also claimed that she left him for “a new person” with “serious criminal felony charges pending who could impose a danger to the minor child.”
A 2017 Daily Mail article about the incident reads, “In his petition, the 75-year-old tennis coach often credited for training his daughters in their younger years and laying the foundations that eventually made them into tennis superstars, believes his 38-year-old wife of seven years, Lakeisha Williams, is an alcoholic.”
Williams and Lakeisha married in 2010. In response to the allegations put forth, Lakeisha’s attorney told TMZ, “All of the allegations are false and will be proven to be false when we litigate the case in court,” and adds … Richard is just trying to avoid paying child support and alimony.”
3. He Was the First Person Inducted into the American Tennis Association Hall of Fame
In August 2017, Richard became the first person to be inducted into the American Tennis Association Hall of Fame. In a statement, the ATA Education Foundation President Dr. Franklyn Scott said, “These successful women have traveled beyond the stars thanks to their instilled determination and training while breaking plenty of barriers along the way. It is for the significance of Richard Williams in Venus and Serena’s athletic prowess and intellectual know-how that we would like to honor him as our first Hall of Famer.”
Speaking to the Philadelphia Tribune, Venus is quoted as saying, “It goes without saying what my dad has done for Serena and I, and changing the game of tennis, and for what he’s done for the sport, too… I’m forever grateful. I’m so excited for his honor.”
According to USTA, Williams’ interest in tennis began after seeing a tournament on TV where the winner collected $40,000.”
The rest, as they say, is history. “Williams, who taught himself how to play the game in part by watching instructional videos, according to a 1999 Sports Illustrated profile, began coaching Venus and Serena at public courts in Los Angeles when they were in elementary school.”
4. He Made Headlines for Screaming & Dancing After His Venus’ Grand Slam Win in 2000
Williams has sometimes been a controversial figure in the world of tennis. In 2000, after Venus won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Richard began jumping up and down, screaming, “Straight Outta Compton!” He also danced atop a television booth and held a sign that said “It’s Venus’ Party and No One Else Was Invited.”
Richard had little to no knowledge about tennis when he started coaching his daughters in the sport. Speaking about that, Serena is quoted by NBC Sports as saying, “It all started with an idea. It was his idea. It’s changed sports. It’s changed history.”
She’s also quoted as saying, “He’s been the most important person in my career.. I do miss my dad obviously. I miss him all the time. I call him. I try to reach out to him a lot. He calls me. He watches my matches. He still tells me things that I’m not doing right.”
5. He Has Been Married Three Times
Richard has been married three times. First to Betty Johnson from 1965 to 1973. Then to Oracene Price, the Williams’ sister’s mother, from 1980 to 2002. In 2010, he married Lakeisha Graham.
When Richard met Oracene Price in 1979, she was a registered nurse. The pair got married shortly after Venus was born in 1980.
Oracene had three daughters from a previous marriage when she wed Richard. One of those daughters, Yetunde, was killed during a shooting in Compton in 2003. CNN writes that Yetunde Price, the half-sister of Venus and Serena Williams, was shot in the chest “after she and 28-year-old Rolland Wormley became involved in a dispute with people on a Compton street as they sat in a car near the Williams sisters’ old neighborhood.”
At the time of her death, Yetunde Price worked as a nurse and at a hair salon.