Class of 1969
U.S. No. 3 (1907)
Member of the 1907 U.S. Davis Cup team, Davis Cup finalists
Overall Record: 1-2
Singles Record: 0-2
Doubles Record: 1-0
Tragedy and heroism connected Richard Norris Williams II and Karl Howard Behr in history and forged a bond between Hall of Fame athletes that has no comparison.
Williams and Behr both survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic, which struck an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours and sunk about 400 miles from Newfoundland, Canada on April 15, 1912. Its planned destination point in New York was 1,000 miles away, but the ship that was said to be unsinkable couldn’t absorb the collision.
The Titanic departed from Southhampton, England on April 12. Williams and Behr had different motives for the voyage; Williams on a family trip with his father, Behr a suitor for Helen Newsom, a friend of Behr’s sister, who he fortunately married in March 1913, a year after the catastrophe.
The London Independent quoted Behr as saying, "Although the sinking of the Titanic was dreadful … the four days among the sufferers on the Carphathia was much worse and more difficult to forget." It was on the Carphathia that Behr and Williams, a Harvard man, first met.
Twelve weeks after miraculously surviving, Williams and Behr forged yet another chapter in their life long bond, playing each other in the first round of the Longwood Challenge Bowl just outside of Boston. Williams was a rising star; Behr at the tail end of his career. At Longwood, Williams initially overpowered Behr with his athleticism, taking the first two sets 6-0. 9-7. The savvy Behr, however, made the adjustments necessary to capture the next three sets and a 0-6, 7-9, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory. The Boston Globe reported the next day that “if one of the 1,500 spectators went away dissatisfied, he was indeed hard to please.” Two years later the two played each other in the 1914 U.S. Nationals, with Williams winning easily in straight sets.
Behr was educated at the prestigious Lawrenceville (N.J.) School and starred at Yale, winning the Intercollegiate doubles title in 1904. Between 1906 and 1915, Behr was ranked in the U.S. Top 10 seven times. Behr reached the U.S. National Championship All-Comer's final in 1906, losing to William Clothier. In those days, the previous year's champion did not have to play until the Challenge Round. By losing to Clothier, Behr lost his chance to play against Beals Wright in the Challenge Round. His best chance for a major title came at Wimbledon in 1907, where the Aussie combination of Norman Brookes and Tony Wilding earned a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Behr and Wright in the Men’s Gentlemen Doubles final.
Behr played on the 1907 Davis Cup team, a 3-2 loss to Australasia. Behr lost his singles matches against Wilding, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 5-7, 3-6, and Brookes, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 2-6. He did team with Wright to winning a terrifically played doubles match over Brookes and Wilding, 3-6, 12-10, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Behr earned his law degree from Columbia University and enjoyed a career in the banking industry with Dillon, Read & Co.
Wimbledon: 4R 1907
U.S. Nationals: F 1906*
Wimbledon: F 1907
*Until 1920, the defending U.S. Nationals champion did not have to compete until the Challenge Round. Every other player would play through the draw until the Challege Round opponent was determined. Behr was the finalist and lost to William Clothier, who won the right to play Beals Wright in the Challenge Round