Induction Year: 1996
Jack Norton was a cotton broker and talented tennis player. He baffled his opponents with his reverse serve. He was a finalist in the Texas Sectionals and brought many tournaments to River Oaks Country Club in Houston.
In 1931 during the Great Depression, Norton thought his fellow River Oaks members needed something to cheer them up. He decided to recruit some of America’s best tennis players to be the featured attractions at a garden party he wanted to host. He traveled to New Orleans, where the U.S. Davis Cup team was playing an exhibition tie against Mexico, and recruited the services of five of the top 10 Americans. They agreed to play in Houston for "travel expenses."
The tournament became known as the River Oaks International Tennis Tournament, also known as the River Oaks Invitational Tennis Tournament, and was a men's tennis tournament held in early spring from 1931 until 2007 at the River Oaks Country Club, Houston.
In 2008 the River Oaks International was merged with one of the oldest, and last remaining clay court tournaments in the United States, the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships to continue the storied and tradition-filled tennis stadium at River Oaks. The tournament has gone through numerous incarnations, always finding a way to adapt and change with the times. It officially went professional with the advent of the Open Era, joining forces with Lamar Hunt's World Championship Tennis circuit, the precursor of the modern tour.