Hunter Lott Jr., Nov 25th 1914 - Oct 29th 2005
by Rob Dinerman

December 16, 2005 -Hunter Lott at his prime: USSRA 1949 National Champion.
When Hunter Lott Jr. suffered a fatal attack on the morning of October 29, 2005, less than a month short of what would have been his 91st birthday, the squash world lost one of its most prominent historical figures and true icons.

Lott in 1948-49 became one of only nine players in the century-plus history of the USSRA (Neil Sullivan in '34, Charlie Brinton in '46, Stanley Pearson Jr in '48, Diehl Mateer in '54 and '56, Sam Howe in '67, Victor Niederhoffer in '73 and '74, Peter Briggs in '76 and Preston Quick in '03 and '04 are the others) to capture both the U. S. National Singles and Doubles championships in the same season, and the eight National Doubles crowns he captured (five straight with Bill Slack from 1938-42 and three more with Mateer in '49, '50 and '53), all while playing the right wall, stood as a right-wall record until Morris Clothier recorded his ninth just this past spring.

A native and lifelong Philadelphian, Lott attended Lower Merion High School and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1936, the same year he competed in the National Singles Tennis Championships (which later became known as the U. S. Open) at Forest Hills before beginning a 48-year marketing career at the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) in which he ascended to the position of Executive Assistant to the CEO before retiring in 1984. He served with major distinction in World War II, attaining the rank of Captain in the U.
S. Quartermaster Corps, in which capacity Lott participated in every European invasion landing throughout the war, from North Africa (where he had a chance meeting with Larry Pool, the early-1930's Harvard squash star) to Sicily and on into Italy, where he was among the liberating troops on D-Day in 1944.

Hunter Lott in a recent photo: Tireless supporter of Penn squash and tennis.
Returning to the U. S. in September 1945 (when he would finally for the first time see his son, Hunter III, who was by then nearly three years old), Lott resumed his business and squash careers, falling just short in the National Singles final twice in the late-1940's before breaking through in '49 in his home town. There he and fellow Merion Cricket Club torch-bearer Donnie Strachan (who had won the Nationals 10 years earlier and who, like Lott, was by this time well into his 30's) upset the higher-seeded and much-younger Pearson and Brinton respectively in the semis.

The key game of their final was the third, when at a game apiece on simultaneous game-point at 14-all Strachan barely ticked the top of the tin on what would have been a backhand reverse-corner winner. Buoyed by this turn in his favor and by this time confident as well in the great improvement his backhand (formerly a weakness) had undergone in the months leading up to the Nationals, Lott garnered an early lead in the fourth game and held off a late Strachan rally to claim the championship, an achievement which Lott came to view as one of the three most important events in his life, along with his marriage to Virginia Sharp (a union that produced two offspring, Hunter III and his sister Ann) and his service in the war.

Realizing that winning the National Singles had required a training and conditioning effort that he likely would be unable to replicate, the by-then 34-year-old Lott decided to retire from singles competition (as did Strachan), at least on the national scene, and concentrate on doubles, in which, as noted, he had already won five national titles with Slack prior to World War II. In his Merion club-mate Mateer, Lott found an ideal protégé with the youth, strength, athleticism and shot-making skills to complement the experience and forehand power Lott provided. Their half-decade partnership proved enormously mutually beneficial, serving as a launch-pad as well for the three national singles and record 11 national doubles championships Mateer himself would earn during his own stellar career. Both men were, literally, first-ballot USSRA Hall Of Famers as members of the original class of inductees into the Hall, elected in
1999 shortly after that organization was founded and officially inducted in the spring of 2000.

Mateer and Lott did oppose each other in a memorable Merion club doubles championship in the early 1960's, in which Lott, by then in his late 40's, and James Whitmoyer won a five-game final against Mateer and John Hentz, who less than a month earlier had garnered the third of the four National Doubles titles they won during the five-year period from 1958-62!

It was to be the last hurrah for Lott, who ruptured an Achilles tendon shortly thereafter that ended his squash playing, though he continued to play tennis twice a week (earning a national seniors tennis ranking for a number of
years) until he suffered a small stroke three years ago. Throughout the last four decades of his life, however, Lott continued an association with squash in general and with Penn squash in particular that expressed itself in a host of forms, encompassing everything from the fund-raising effort he led for the Ringe Squash Courts in 1960 (part of a FIFTY-YEAR racquet-sports fundraising involvement at Penn that also included the Palestra tennis courts, which were in fact named in his honor in 1974), to the establishment in 1970 of the annual Hunter Lott Junior Tournament for players aged 10 to 18, which has become the largest junior championship in America, to the mentoring he provided to hundreds of squash and tennis athletes at Penn (even moving into an office at Penn's Weightman Hall), many of whom have said how much he inspired their careers and lives, to the several lunches a year he would arrange to have with Penn racquet-sport coaches, a number of whom, Demer Holleran and Ned Edwards among them, have in recent weeks affectionately recalled how Lott would often use these occasions to gently advance his agenda for the Penn squads they were heading.

Lott's reputation for being resolute, loyal and steadfast, traits that he attributed largely to his three years of praiseworthy military service, resulted in a remarkable degree of multi-front longevity: married for 63 years, he worked for PECO for nearly half a century, served as a member of Philadelphia Crime Prevention for 69 years, represented Penn racquet sports for 72 years and was a member at Merion for seven decades, including a three-year term as president of the club. He also was elected president of the USSRA and the Jesters. His squash game, both doubles and singles, was similarly solid and unshakable, and his many contributions to and accomplishments in the sport have fully established his standing as one of the most influential and legendary figures in the history of the game.


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