William Ernest Rudolph Joell, the son of Frederick and Katie Joell, was born on October 30th, 1902. He was the grandson of William H.T. Joell, who was the first Black man to be elected to the House of Parliament in Bermuda in 1894. He attended the Berkeley Institute where he played his first game of tennis on a makeshift grass court with Dr. Eustace Cann and Dr. Charles A. Smith. Tennis was one of the great passions of his life. He talked it, played it, organized it, and arranged for international professionals to visit for exhibitions and tournaments.
W.E.R. chose Woodwork as a career and threw his energies into developing the best that was within him. Through practice and hard work he became a great craftsman. In 1925, Rudolph married Grace Jackson that union produced five daughters. In 1926 he was awarded 1st. prize for a Queen Anne Buffet set that he made. Some pieces of his fine craftmanship may be seen at the Bermuda Cathedral, a Processional Candle Holder, Litany Desks and Vestment Chest. Rudolph was adventurous, courageous, enthusiastic and daring, whether pursuing his interest in tennis or earning his living through his craftsmanship, seeking to represent his people politically or fighting for the working men of his community. He was a founding father of the Bermuda Workers’ Association (now the B.I.U.) and was one of the Signatories of the Petition that was taken to the Secretary of State in England by the late Dr. E. F. Gordon. He formed the Bermuda Furniture Craftsman in 1924, the Bermuda Floor Craftsman in 1927, the W.E.R. Joell Co. Commission Agents in 1949 and the W.E.R. Joell & Co. Ltd. in 1962.
He offered himself as a candidate for Parliament in 1958 and 1968, and ran as a candidate for the Corporation of Hamilton 19 times. In 1968 he advocated that Government should establish a training center which could offer courses in all aspects of the Hotel Industry to avoid the necessity of bringing in foreign help.
He was the moving spirit behind desegregating the Tennis Stadium which in spite of government ownership was off limits to all Black People. The first club with which he was associated was named by his father as the N.S.F.’ Never Say Fail Club’ a most fitting motto for the life lived by Rudolph. His wife Grace kept a chronological record of his achievements in the realm of Tennis from 1916 when he started to learn the game through to 1958 when he organized the Bermuda Tennis Development Fund which sponsored coaches to impart the game to children throughout Bermuda.
Rudolph Joell retained an unbounding faith in the future of his Family, his People and his Country. He did not ever say “Fail”. In 1973, he was honoured by the Queen with a certificate in recognition of valuable service given as a promoter of tennis for over 40 years. Rudolph left us on August 12th 1985 to receive his further reward for service well done. On July 11th. 2003 the Government renamed the Tennis Stadium adjacent to Bernard Park, “The W.E.R. Joell Tennis Stadium.” We aim to make it apart of the African Diaspora Trail.
Submitted from The Bermudian Heritage museum remembering our great Black Personalities. By Joy Wilson-Tucker