In 1932, at the age of 15, Eaton was the first African American to win the North Carolina Interscholastic Tennis Championship. In 1933, he won the Boys 18 ATA National Championship. He became the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association (which is now called the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association or “CIAA”) Singles Champion in 1936. Eaton and George Stewart won the ATA Men’s Doubles Championship in 1848, 1949, 1951 and 1946. In 1046 Dr. Eaton took Althea Gibson into his home. He provided tennis instruction on his home tennis court and, along with Dr. Robert Johnson, directed her early ATA career. Eaton was a successful ATA President during a critical period in the organizations’ development. He served in this role from 1960 to 1970 and helped the organization maintain relevance at a time when tennis was becoming integrated.
Eaton was an excellent student. He graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in 1937 and wanted to go to medical school in North Carolina to continue his education. Unfortunately, African Americans were not admitted to any of North Carolina’s medical schools. He therefore attended the University of Michigan and earned his M.D. in 1942. Eaton actively fought for integration both on and off of the tennis court. In his native Wilmington, NC, Dr. Eaton led efforts to desegregate Wilmington College (forerunner of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington), the YMCA, the Municipal Golf Course and the County Library System.
He served on the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, serving as chairman in 1981. Dr. Eaton ran for a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Education in 1952, 1954 and 1956. He lost those races but made history by becoming the first African American to run for public office in New Hanover County since the 1890’s. Dr. Eaton was a leading local civil rights activist and sued New Hanover County to provide equal funding for black public schools. In 1984, Eaton was inducted into the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a tremendous tennis player and outstanding leader. And in 2013 he and Wilmington native Lenny Simpson were inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.