Scott Fowler

Tennis event wants to find Charlotte’s best players and honor church shooting victim

It’s been slightly more than four years since Cynthia Graham Hurd, the sister of former N.C. state Sen. Malcolm Graham, became one of nine people murdered during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Graham said he still thinks of his sister — a beloved longtime librarian in Charleston — all the time. He is committed to finding ways to honor her memory.

And that commitment, surprisingly, has brought us a new tennis tournament in Charlotte.

The Charlotte Amateur Tennis Championship will be presented by Atrium Health and held Aug. 16-18 at several public court sites in south Charlotte. Proceeds will benefit the Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation, which focuses on reading and civic engagement.

“We want to figure out who the best tennis players in Charlotte are,” Graham said.

Graham is a former scholarship college tennis player himself at Johnson C. Smith University. Growing up in Charleston, Graham’s older sister encouraged him to take up the sport, even though few blacks were playing at the time.

Malcolm Graham poses with a portrait of his sister Cynthia Hurd in 2016, on the first anniversary of her murder inside a Charleston church. John D. Simmons

Cynthia Graham Hurd and eight other African-American parishioners were killed in June 2015 by Dylann Roof in a racist attack. Roof pleaded guilty in 2017. He is awaiting execution in a federal prison.

Because their parents had passed away by the time he had graduated college, Graham said that his older sister became almost a maternal figure in his life starting in his 20s. Hurd worked as a librarian for 31 years and especially loved to encourage children to read.

More details about the tournament, which will be headquartered at Marion Diehl Recreation Center at 2229 Tyvola Road in Charlotte:

The tournament is sanctioned by the U.S. Tennis Association. The entry fee is $43.50 and entries must be received by Aug. 11.

The other divisions will include men’s and women’s singles and doubles at various levels as well as mixed doubles and wheelchair tennis.

Cash prizes of several hundred dollars will be awarded to the winners in the open divisions, Graham said, as well as a new trophy called the Rodgers Cup. For more information, you can visit or contact Graham at (704) 576-4568.