ohn Powless, secretary/treasurer of Super Senior Tennis and multiple world tennis champion died at home in May after a long illness. He was 88.

Powless owned John Powless Tennis Center in Madison, WI for more than 40 years and was a visible community leader and avid University of Wisconsin fan.

“John lived a rich and incredible life on his terms, playing tennis at every prominent venue around the world and developing personal friendships with legends like Arthur Ashe, Bob Knight, Oscar Robertson and Althea Gibson,” said Paul Fanlund, Capital Times editor and publisher, a friend and tennis partner for decades.

“At heart, John was an earnest man who was a deeply loyal and sincere friend, a person who lived with optimism and resiliency until his last day,” Fanlund added.

In a 2016 book about Powless, titled “John Powless: A Life Well Played,” author Dan Smith traced Powless’ life from humble beginnings in southern Illinois.

He was the oldest son of Cecil and Marie Powless and was born on Aug. 24, 1932, in Flora, Illinois. His sister, Kay, followed, and brother, Bob, came along three years later. His parents and his hometown were central to his development as an accomplished athlete, Smith wrote.

Powless was modest about his successes, Smith wrote. He was a standout three-sport athlete in high school and then a basketball star and All-American tennis player at Murray State.

He never lost a regular-season singles or doubles match. He won the Ohio Valley conference singles championship all three seasons he played. He shared the conference doubles championship three years in row and later became a charter member of the Murray State Hall of Fame for tennis


Fabled basketball coach Ed Jucker hired Powless as an assistant on University of Cincinnati teams that won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1961 and 1962.

Powless went on to coach the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team from 1969 to 1976, and coached nine NBA draft choices, the most in program history. He also was head coach of the UW tennis team for five years.

After basketball, Powless turned to coaching tennis and playing senior tennis around the world. He also was a color commentator on Badger basketball telecasts.

He was a 2000 inductee to the United States Tennis Hall of Fame, an honorary member of 22 national tennis associations and he coached the Junior Davis Cup team that included Ashe and Stan Smith.

From his humble home courts in Flora to the grass courts of the Queensland Tennis Centre in Brisbane, Australia, Powless played on virtually every tennis surface in the world — including those belonging to the emperor of Japan and those on the White House grounds when Ronald Reagan was president, Smith wrote.

Powless attained the number one ranking in the International Tennis Federation’s rankings in the 75 and older, 80 and older, and 85 and older categories. He was the top-ranked senior player in the 85 and older category as recently as 2018.

For all those accomplishments, Powless was probably most comfortable just hitting tennis balls. Despite four knee surgeries and numerous operations to fix injuries, he still trained every day he was able — for the next tournament in the next city in the next country, Smith wrote.

“Despite his awards and accomplishments, his family and friends will remember John as a man who passionately cared for others,” Smith said. “He was a father and grandfather first and a great friend to many all over the world.”