It takes only a brief look at tennis in North Carolina to discover Tom Parham’s tremendous impact on the sport, especially at the collegiate level.
For starters, he coached tennis for over four decades at Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) and Elon University. His Barton teams won National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics titles in 1979 and 1984, and in 1990 it was Elon’s turn to enjoy its perch at the top of the NAIA ranks.
Parham won National Coach of the Year honors four times and is a member of eight halls of fame. He had a 75 per cent win/loss record and ranks in the top 10 of all college tennis coaches with 600 wins. Parham’s players were selected first team All American more than 30 times.
His teams played in 28 national tennis tournaments, finishing in the top ten 18 times and 10 of those were top five finishes. Parham’s teams won 22 conference titles, including 11-year streaks at both Barton and Elon.
In his book Barton College, Our Century, Dr. William Jerry McClean wrote: “No other team in the conference or district could match the success of Coach Tom Parham’s Atlantic Christian tennis program of the 1970s. The popular professor had become the most successful coach in Atlantic Christian College history, and his reputation reach legendary status among tennis followers.”
Regarding his tenure at Elon, this was said of Parham upon his induction into the South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame: “Perhaps no one school has dominated one particular sport in the South Atlantic Conference more than Elon University dominated men’s tennis in the 1990s. And that credit goes to Tom Parham.”
Parham, a lifelong North Carolinian, is a graduate of Elise High School in Robbins and Barton College where he played varsity basketball and tennis. He earned a Master of Education from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1964 and then spent the next 40 years as a teacher, coach and administrator at Barton and Elon. He also coached basketball, but is most recognized as a tennis coach.
His hall of fame memberships include NAIA, Barton College, Wilson, N.C., Chamber of Commerce, North Carolina Tennis Association, South Atlantic Conference, Elon University, and Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Parham was awarded the Elon Medallion in 2004, the university’s highest honor. The state of North Carolina in 1979 awarded its highest recognition to Parham, the “Order of The Long Leaf Pine”.
He was also active in community tennis with a special emphasis on developing junior players and had over 30 years of camp experience. Parham was involved in the development of North Carolina’s first tennis camp, founded by Ed Cloyd at Atlantic Christian College. In 1985 Parham established the Elon Tennis Camps, which he directed for 19 years aided by his wife, Margaret, and sons, Tee and Dan.
He played a major role in the development of the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center at Elon University, which won the United States Tennis Association’s facility of the year award in 1990. The Powell Center became a model for tennis facilities throughout the Southeast.
The Parham family was selected North Carolina Tennis Family of the Year in 1990.
Now retired, the Parham’s enjoy the Tar Heel coast from their home at Emerald Isle.
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