Whitney Reed: The Air Force, The Korean War, and San Jose State

C. F. Stewart

In 1952 the Air Force was unexpectedly in Whitney's future.

Whitney joined the Air Force in 1952, when men entered the military for a myriad of reasons. It could have been court-ordered, or to find a new life, or to avoid a hostile husband or father.

In Whitney's case it was the latter. He had formed a relationship with the daughter of a well known tennis coach whose ideas, to say the least, conflicted with his own. From the coach's perspective it was get out of town and don't come back. The well-known coach hustled Whitney into his car, drove him back to Alameda, and deposited him on his parents' front porch.

The coach told his father that Whitney was almost as incorrigible as Art Larsen. Whitney's dad said, "Let's go for a ride, son."

In front of the Air Force recruiting office, Whitney and his dad stopped at a red light. When the light turned green Whitney said, "The light's green dad." Whitney's dad said, "I know son. This is as far as you go."

Consequently, Whitney bid goodbye to the daughter, his parents, and the well-known coach and joined the Air Force for a four-year gig.

Four years in the Air Force went by fast. Tennis with a general in Tokyo and a short stint in Korea were the highlights. No shootings, no bombings, a little dysentery, but for the most part Whitney was out of harm's way.

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C.F. Stewart writes biographies of interesting off-beat characters who are irreverent, and a bit on the shady side, like Whitney Reed, the touring tennis player who could have been one of the best, but preferred to drink beer and gamble with Wimbledon pub dwellers -- instead of performing on center court for the Duchess of York. The same touring tennis player who boarded a plane for Australia to play in the Australian Championships -- and forgot his racket and tennis shoes. And when all his contemporaries' retired to the TV booth or had knee replacement surgery, he continued to play at a high level well into his 60's.

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