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1937 Virginia 2023

Virginia Brown

June 22, 1937 — February 6, 2023

Lubbock

Virginia Annette Brown, a member of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Hall of Fame and a longtime advocate of the sport throughout West Texas, passed away Feb. 6. She was 85.

Brown was born June 22, 1937, to parents Preston T. and Virginia Hancock Brown in Fort Worth, Texas, where she eventually graduated from Paschal High School. Tennis became part of her life through a cousin at the age of 15 who bought her first tennis racket. With his help, Brown attended Baylor University out of high school, earning her bachelor’s degree in 1959, and then her master’s in education from North Texas State University in Denton in 1967. She was also part of the doctoral program at Middlebury College in Vermont (1969), the University of California at Berkeley (1971), Texas Tech University (1971) and the University of Texas at Austin (1978).

While she resided in the state of Texas for most of her life, the game of tennis took Brown all over the world from the courts of Wimbledon as a player to the World Team Tennis Tour as a coach. Brown was a standout on the court, herself, winning the Texas state doubles championships annually from 1958 to 1962 as well as the Texas Intercollegiate doubles title in 1959 while at Baylor. In 1963, she received the biggest break of her playing career, competing at Wimbledon.

Brown was ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation as a professional before turning her attention to the next generation of tennis greats as a coach. A coaching veteran of more than 40 years, Brown was a pioneer in the early stages of Title IX, serving as the head women’s and men’s tennis coach at Odessa College (1963-80) and the head women’s tennis coach at University of Texas-Permian Basin (1973-89).

Both programs experienced unprecedented success under Brown, who was named the NAIA Coach of the Year in 1985 and the NJCAA Coach of the Year six times (1969, 1970, 1976, 1978 and 1980 in women’s and 1980 in men’s). In total, Brown’s teams captured a total of 14 national titles while at Odessa College as her women’s program claimed eight championships during her tenure, while the men’s team won six. Brown coached at total of 28 NJCAA All-Americans during her tenure at Odessa alone as both programs regularly ranked among the nation’s elite.

Brown simultaneously spent eight years as a professional coach with World Team Tennis as well as an individual coach for numerous professionals. Her list of successful tennis standouts included Sandy Collins, who ranked as high as No. 17 in both singles and doubles during her career, Elise Burgin, a top-10 ranked doubles and top-30 singles player, as well as Jill Smoller, an established doubles player who is now an agent to tennis great Serena Williams with WME-IMG.

In addition to her role as a coach, Brown was instrumental in elevating collegiate tennis at the national level, serving as the President of the NJCAA Tennis Coaches Association from 1976-81 as well as a NAIA ranker from 1987-89. Brown, who was UTPB’s Director of Athletics from 1987-88, served on many statewide and national committees throughout her coaching career, while also participating in tennis clinics across the country as well as the Special Olympics.

In 2000, Brown accepted the head women’s tennis coaching position at Texas Tech where she led the Lady Raiders for three seasons to cap a 40-year coaching career. She was formally inducted the ITA Hall of Fame in 2016, the highest honor for a collegiate tennis coach. She was also enshrined into the Texas Tennis Hall of Fame in 1993.

Following her tenure at Texas Tech, Brown resided in Lubbock until her death, remaining a regular fixture at many athletics events, namely the tennis courts where her goddaughter, Reagan Collins, would eventually become a member of the women’s tennis program. She was a member of Texas Tech’s event management gameday staff from 2002-18 and also worked as a senior loan officer and project manager for Capital Mortgage Services from 2003-16 as well as the general manager for the Club at Preston Manor from 2013-15.

Brown is preceded in death by her parents as well as a sister, Billie Yelley, and her brother Preston T. Brown Jr. She is survived by her brother Gary Brown and his wife Joyce of Houston; sister Betty Brown Murphy and her husband Danny of Houston; and sister-in-law Miriam Brown of Copperopolis, California. Those left to cherish her memory also include nephews Ted Yelley and his wife Venita of Wilson, Texas; Craig Yelley of Spokane, Washington; Rob Brown and his wife Dede of Pleasant Hill, California; and a niece Laura Timmons and her husband Dale of Martinez, California. She was the great aunt to 10 great nieces and nephews as well as five great-great nieces and nephews at the time of her passing.

Additionally, Brown is survived by longtime best friend Sandy Collins of Lubbock as well as her daughter, Reagan. Reagan Collins is currently a Research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston as part of the Texas Tech University School of Medicine.

Family and friends will celebrate Brown’s life at 2 p.m. Friday, February 10, at Second Baptist Church in Lubbock with a reception to follow. A live stream of the service will be available at secondb.org. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Red Raider Club, which supports student-athletes across each of Texas Tech’s 17 athletic programs. Checks can be made payable and mailed to the Red Raider Club at Box 45055, Lubbock, TX 79409 or online at www.RedRaiderClub.com.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Virginia Brown, please visit our flower store.

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Friday, February 10, 2023

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