Hewitt teamed with McMillan in the 1960s to form one of the most dominant doubles teams of all time. They captured 57 career titles, including victories over teams led by Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe, and Bjorn Borg.
Hewitt won 15 Grand Slam doubles titles before he retired in 1983, and he has long ranked as one of his nation’s legendary sports figures.
Conner, a Topsfield Girl Scout at the time, said she had just turned 15 in 1976 when Hewitt had sex with her outside Masconomet Regional High School. Hewitt began coaching Conner at a club in Danvers soon after his career with the Boston Lobsters pro team was shortened by an injury.
Conner, now a teacher at Reading Memorial High School, filed a report with the Topsfield Police more than two years ago accusing Hewitt of raping her. She also reported the allegations in 2010 to the Hall of Fame as well as the US Tennis Association and Women’s Tennis Association. She had been dismayed until Thursday that none had taken action against Hewitt.
“I am thankful the Hall stood strong for decency and have made him be held accountable for his actions and for the lifelong damaging effect and robbing young girls of their innocence,’’ Conner said.
A leading advocate for Conner and the other victims applauded the Hall’s investigation and action.
“Their suspension of Hewitt is an encouraging sign that organizations serving youth are taking to heart lessons learned from the Catholic Church, Penn State, and Boy Scouts scandals,’’ said Jetta Bernier, director of MassKids, which works to curn child sexual abuse. “The HOF’s decision reflects the overwhelming public sentiment that protecting children must always trump concerns about loss of institutional reputation, power and money.”
In the months after the Globe report, members of the tennis community slowly began to express outrage over the Hewitt scandal. Notable among them was Billie Jean King, an inductee and life trustee of the Hall of Fame who partnered with Hewitt in 1970 to win the mixed doubles title at the French Open.
“I’m very upset, and he needs to be in jail,’’ King told the Washingtonian magazine in June. “If he’s guilty, which it looks like he is, he should be on trial. Of course, he’s innoncent until proven guilty.’’
Connolly, rather than publish a report of his findings for the Hall of Fame, made two detailed presentations to the executive committee before the panel voted to suspend Hewitt. He interviewed several alleged victims on the condition the sessions remained confidential.
Chief among the evidence against Hewitt are several handwritten love letters he allegedly sent one of his students, Twiggy Tolken. Tolken, who said Hewitt became sexually involved with her when she was 12, provided copies of the letters to the Globe and Hall of Fame.
One letter ended with an urgent instruction: “P.S. — Destroy this and the last [letter] NOW. I love you, BOB.’’
Stenning said Connolly hired a handwriting analyst to examine the letters before he presented his findings to the executive committee.
“He ruined way too many young girls,’’ Tolken, now a 43-year-old mother of two in Auckland, New Zealand, said last year. “He should go from the Hall of Fame to the Hall of Shame.’’
Bob Hohler can be reached at email@example.com.