After a lifetime of athletic and academic accomplishment, Les Longshore died Sept. 6 at age 88.
“He was very much a character,” said Les’ sister, Nelle Niles. “A lot of people got up and spoke at his service. They all said, ‘Well, we won’t be seeing anyone like Les again.’”
He has been immortalized in the Alabama Tennis Hall of Fame, the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame and the USPTA Southern Division Hall of Fame. He made an impact on the game of tennis in every aspect: college player, coach and official.
He was Southeastern Conference tennis champion in 1946 at Tulane when the Green Wave was in the SEC. He also coached at Clemson (1958-62) and Samford (1974-86). He played in the United States nationals, which is now the U.S. Open, in 1952-59, reaching the round of 16 one year.
Longshore also looked for new ways to challenge himself. That is when he turned to running. He began in 1975. That same year he founded the Birmingham Track Club. The club established the Vulcan Run. Longshore ran in it every year of its existence. The 1982 event was the most memorable.
Les married his wife Ann the night before the 10-kilometer race that year. The newlyweds spent the next day as officials of the event.
Longshore began keeping a journal when he began his running career. Recording his times was not important to him.
“He only put down the miles he’d walked or run,” Niles said. “The exercise he’s done, the food he’d eaten, the beer that he drank. He didn’t do emotional things until his wife died.”
Ann passed away of colon cancer in March of 2010. It was a difficult time for Les. He ran his final race in 2011 in honor of Ann. Running was how the two met. He was 86 years old but he would not quit. He just wanted to finish. The only thing Longshore ever quit doing was smoking. He gave up that habit at the beginning of his running career.
Les left behind his dog, Valentine. Valentine was Ann’s idea. Les shied away from Valentine early on. He was more of a cat lover. His relationship with Valentine changed after Ann’s passing.
“After Ann died, I would say that dog saved his life,” Niles said. “He was devoted to Valentine.”
She added, “Every time I’d call him he’d say, ‘Valentine and I are just sitting here in my chair. We miss Ann so much.’”
Niles said Longshore just had a certain way about him. He only watched movies from the 1930s and 1940s. She said he would say, “De gustibus non est disputandum.” That is Latin for “There is no disputing of taste.” When the former Latin and English professor was not quoting Latin or Robert Frost poetry, he was bellowing out his famous Tarzan yell.