I immediately knew the call that day in May, 2018 had hit the mark. The soft-spoken voice that answered the phone was unmistakable and the answer to my first question was very gratifying.
Sometimes you just get lucky.
Carnis Poindexter had received his due earlier that day when the tennis courts at the River’s Edge Sports Complex, sight of many of Roanoke’s top tennis competitions for decades, were named in his honor. An African-American player who had broken barriers throughout his life, not only as a tennis player in a sport typically associated with the country club set, but also as a mentor and teacher who had made an impact on many of his students along the way.
“I’m trying to reach Mr. Carnis Poindexter, the tennis legend in Roanoke,” I asked. When he acknowledged he was Carnis, I followed with the request for a short phone interview to talk about the honor bestowed with the new “Carnis Poindexter Tennis Courts” and to let him know I had seen him play over the years on his way to being such a dominant player, and like myself, a former high school teacher in The Roanoke Valley, I’ll never forget his reply.
“Sure! I can’t believe you found me because I don’t get out a lot anymore. It’s a thrill for me that you’ve called and would write this story.”
That supposedly ’short phone interview’ turned into about a 90 minute conversation that covered so many subjects as we both had a great time reminiscing about sports, his unique start in tennis and life in general. There’s no other way to say it – Carnis was a jewel.
When the interview concluded, Carnis made a simple request: “Would it be possible for you to print out the article and get it to me at my address?”
I assured him I’d deliver it to his front porch the next day.
Poindexter passed away on September 21 at his home in Roanoke due to natural causes at age 84.
While many have come forth to talk about the career of Carnis Poindexter, The Star thought it appropriate to reprint that 2018 article to recount the words from the man himself:
Rest in Peace, Carnis; Yes sir, you were a jewel.