Kickstarter Tuesdays: Roberta – First Lady of Southern Sports

Geek Alabama Kickstarter Projects

There is a special Kickstarter project going on to talk about a special women in Alexander City.  Roberta Alison was born in Alexander City in 1943.  She learned tennis from her father, and in time, the young girl from Alexander City, Alabama played the game with a rare combination of power and intelligence, filling a case with trophies.  In the 1960’s women’s college sports were non-existent.  So Roberta Alison did something that made history.

From SEC Digital Network.

From SEC Digital Network.

At age 19, Alabama tennis coach Jason Morton found Roberta Alison training on grass courts in Tuscaloosa in preparation for the U.S. National Championship.  He convinced her to attend Alabama and play on the men’s tennis team.  This was the first official move toward allowing women to participate in varsity athletics in the Southeastern Conference of the NCAA.  To make this happen, Alabama athletic director Paul “Bear” Bryant, helped push a rule change through the SEC.  Alison was welcomed by the men’s tennis team, where she quickly emerged as a trailblazing figure.

Roberta was the first woman to be awarded an athletic scholarship by the Crimson Tide.  During her time at the University of Alabama, Roberta Alison was in the No. 4 position her first year but played in either the No. 1 or No. 2 position in her second and third years. Here’s a crazy fact, some of the competing schools men’s varsity teams would default to her rather than risk playing against a woman and losing to a girl!  Roberta won the women’s collegiate singles title in 1962 and 1963, and the 1963 NCAA doubles title.  Alison also was a four-time Blue Gray champion, and a three-time Southern tournament champion.


Roberta Alison had dreams to compete on the world stage in tennis but that never happened.  She returned to Alexander City, married one-time coach Earl Baumgardner, raised a family, and became a respected and beloved member of the Alex City community.  Roberta was a lover of animals and she helped start the Lake Martin Humane Society and was active in LMHS activities for many years.  Sadly, Roberta Alison died in 2009 from injuries in a house fire.  In 2012, the University of Alabama dedicated a new indoor tennis facility naming it the Roberta Alison Baumgardner tennis facility.

Here are some words from Keith Dunnavant:

Half a century after her pioneering tennis career, Roberta Alison Baumgardner’s name adorns a modern tennis facility at her alma mater, in an age when the Crimson Tide sponsors nearly a dozen women’s sports and athletic scholarships for females are plentiful.  But her story remains largely unknown in a world she and other pioneers helped create—a world in which young girls all across America, empowered by the opportunity that eluded previous generations, gravitate to sports, dreaming not just of game-winning points, but also of life-altering scholarships and the sort of fulfillment that can only come from competition and achievement.  Alison’s story is awash in ambition and optimism and a young heart stirred by the pursuit of her own particular bliss.  Her story reflects who we were, and who we became.


This Kickstarter project is to produce a documentary film about Roberta Alison.  The film will be made by ShadowVision Productions and produced by Keith Dunnavant.  Like the African-American pioneers highlighted in Three Days At Foster, the central figure in Roberta is emblematic of something larger, presaging not just the coming revolution in women’s sports but also the culture-sweeping conversation about gender and boundaries that erupted in the 1960s.  This is an important story that needs to be told, screams out to be told, and they need your help.  The budget raised here will help them fund the filming of interviews, travel, and post-production, anticipating completion in mid-2014.

As of June 25th, this Kickstarter project has raised around $4,600 of the $10,000 goal they need to be funded.  And as you know in Kickstarter, a project is not funded until the fundraising goal is reached!  This project only has 9 days left to reach the $10,000 goal.  For a pledge of $15, you will get a commemorative 8 1/2 x 14 inch film poster, signed and personalized by the filmmaker.  For a pledge of $30, you will get a commemorative DVD of the film when it is completed.  Plus, the above-mentioned poster.  There are also many other pledge options including a special thanks in the closing credits, online access to the film, and autographed books!

To learn more about Roberta – First Lady of Southern Sports and to pledge money go to: