William E. Tompkins, Class of 1954

Bill Tompkins is probably the best of all Peddie tennis players. Entering the school-wide tournament in the fall of 1950 as a new boy, he was small, even for a freshman. Yet he quickly demolished all competition and - to everyone’s surprise - won the tournament. In the spring he quickly advanced to first man, beating out seniors twice his size.

A four-year fixture at number one, Bill seldom lost. He won the state championship his junior and senior years. Starring in singles and doubles, he made Peddie hard to beat. It was said that his play was unpredictable and his serve nearly impossible to return.

Classmate Palmer McGrew recalls, “Upon meeting him, most opponents expected that the ladder had been stacked so they were actually facing the bottom man instead of the top. Then they found they couldn’t hit his serve but he could return theirs. Very soon they “slunk” off the court, hoping no one had seen their quick defeat. Usually no one had. If you didn’t see Bill play, you wouldn’t know he was even on the team. He never talked about his success.”

Upon graduating, Bill felt that he needed time to mature before college and enlisted in the Navy. Home on leave in 1957, he was killed in an automobile accident.

A fine person and tennis phenomenon, Bill simply died too early. But he lives on in the hearts of his classmates as an extraordinary athlete whose record  marks him as one of Peddie’s brightest and best ever.