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Gibson, Althea

Althea Gibson

1927-

American tennis player

Althea Gibson once characterized herself as a "Harlem street rebel," referring to her adolescence in New York City, when she was often without direction andmore oftenin various trouble. Yet the world's first African-American tennis champion remained a gadfly all her life. In the late 1950s her scrappiness and athleticism enabled her to not only shatter the segregated, insular world of tennis but also to become the sport's dominant female player. Black tennis players such as Arthur Ashe , Zina Garrison and sisters Venus Williams and Serena Williams have frequently acknowledged their debt to Gibson. (Garrison in 1990 became the first black woman since Gibson to reach the final of a Grand Slam event.) After leaving the amateur tennis circuit in 1958, Gibson met the challenge of integrating women's professional golf. She has since retired from sports, having suffered a number of strokes and additional health problems, yet athletes and activists alike continue to honor Gibson's legacy. In 1971, Gibson was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, and in 2002 was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.

Lost in Harlem

Gibson's parents, Daniel and Anna Washington Gibson, worked as sharecroppers on a cotton farm in South Carolina. Sharecropping, in which farmers work someone else's land and receive a small part of their crop as pay, dates from the Civil War. Even in the best of circumstances, sharecropping rarely offered a decent living.

When the cotton crop failed three years in a row due to poor weather, Gibson's family moved north to New York City.

After staying with Gibson's aunt, Sally, the family settled in an apartment on West 143rd Street in Harlem. Gibson's father found work as a handyman and car mechanic, but with the birth of three more girls (Millie, Annie and Lillian) and a boy (Daniel), the family's lot was little improved, especially as the Great Depression loomed. Gibson, however, remained irrepressible. She preferred shooting pool with the local sharks to doing schoolwork. She also bowled, boxed and played basketball and stickball with the neighborhood boys. Another favorite pastime was sneaking off to the movies. "I just wanted to play, play, play," she told a Time magazine reporter. More than once she ran away from home.

By 1941 she pretty much began ignoring high school completely, as the school board wouldn't transfer her to the school her friends attended. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's staff, while providing gentle guidance, emphasized that if her delinquency were to continue, they would have to put Gibson in a reform school. She struck a bargain: She would attend school at night if the agency would help her get working papers, despite her age.

But Gibson had energy to burn. She never made good on going to night school, and was fired repeatedly from menial jobs for skipping work to do things like go to concerts at the Apollo Theater. By age 14, New York City's welfare department helped Gibson find more suitable living arrangements and a better job. And then she discovered tennis.

Until her formal involvement in sports, Gibson always struggled to "be somebody." The Police Athletic League sponsored various recreational programs, including paddle tennis, at which she excelled. Musician Buddy Walker, who at the time coached for the PAL's recreation department, noticed Gibson playing paddleball (a popular urban sport played with a wooden paddle and ball against a wall). Suggesting she might enjoy tennis, he gave her a used racquet and taught her the basics. Convinced of her raw talent, Walker introduced her to the upscale Harlem Cosmopolitan Club, where she played a few sets with the pro there, Fred Johnson. The club members, impressed, bought Gibson a junior membership and lessons with Johnson. One member, Rhoda Smith, who had lost her own daughter a decade earlier, took Gibson under her wing, buying her tennis clothes and teaching the chronic rule breaker some new rules, those of social etiquette.

"Why Not Now?"

Tennis had changed Gibson, giving her an outlet for her energy. When she was just starting out, Gibson didn't know how to channel her feistiness. Nana Davis, who beat Gibson in the all-black American Tennis Association (ATA) national girls final, recalled in an interview with Time magazine that Gibson was "a very crude creature," seemingly more interested in a fight than a win. But every loss made her work even more intently on her game.

In 1946, while playing a women's singles competition at Wilberforce College in Ohio, Gibson caught the eye of two surgeons active in the ATA. Hubert Eaton of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Robert W. Johnson of Lynchburg, Virginia offered to provide her with room, board, and an education at no charge. She would spend the school months in Wilmington, and the summer with Johnson for more intensive tennis lessons. But Gibson balked. She never liked school and saw little appeal in returning to high school at age 19. If not for a man she had met during her job at the New School, she might have bypassed this opportunity. Sugar Ray Robinson , a rising boxing star en route to world championship status, and his wife Edna, who had befriended young Gibson during her Harlem days, urged the young champion to jump at the chance to better herself. And jump she did.

In 1947 Gibson won the first of ten consecutive ATA national championships. Two years later she graduated among the top ten in her class at Williston Industrial High School in Wilmington and accepted a scholarship from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College in Tallahassee. Between 1944 and 1950, Gibson took the New York state championship six times. There was no question of Gibson's ATA dominance. There was nowhere else for Gibson to go but crash through the formidable wall of racism.

Chronology

1927 Born August 25 in Silver, South Carolina
1930 Moves to New York City
1941 Begins lessons at Harlem's Cosmopolitan Club
1942 Enters and wins her first tournament, sponsored by the all-black American Tennis Association (ATA)
1946 Moves to Wilmington, North Carolina, to work on her tennis game and enroll in high school
1949 Finishes tenth in her high school class; accepts tennis scholarship to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee
1950 Enters her first outdoor United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) tournaments; plays in the U.S. National Tennis Championships at Forest Hills
1951 Competes in the All-England Tennis Championships at Wimbledon
1953 Graduates from Florida A&M moves to Jefferson City, Missouri
1954 Works with coach Sydney Llewellyn
1955-56 Travels throughout Southeast Asia on a U.S. State Department-sponsored goodwill tour
1959 Releases soloist album; appears in the film The Horse Soldiers
1960 Tours with the Harlem Globetrotters playing exhibition tennis
1964 Launches her professional golf career
1965 Marries businessman Will A. Darben
1971 Retires from professional golf
1975 Becomes manager of the East Orange, New Jersey, Department of Recreation
1977 Runs for New Jersey State Senate; loses three-way Democratic primary in Essex County

Awards and Accomplishments

1944-45 American Tennis Association (ATA) junior champion
1947-56 ATA singles champion
1948-50, 1952-55 ATA mixed doubles champion
1949 Eastern Indoor Championships quarter-finalist and first black to play in a USLTA-sanctioned event
1956 French Open singles and doubles champion; Wimbledon doubles champion
1957 U.S. Clay Court singles and doubles champion; Australian doubles champion; Wimbledon singles and doubles champion; U.S. singles and mixed doubles champion; U.S. Wightman Cup team member
1957-58 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year
1958 Wimbledon singles and doubles champion; U.S. singles champion; U.S. Wightman Cup member
1959 Pan American Games singles gold medalist
1964 First black to earn a Ladies Professional Golf Association card
1971 Inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame
1980 Inducted into International Women's Sports Hall of Fame
1991 First female recipient of NCAA Theodore Roosevelt Award
2002 Inducted into National Women's Hall of Fame

When The United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA, now the USTA) was founded in 1881, it formally barred blacks from competing in its tournaments. Some Washington, D.C.-area clubs created the ATA in 1916, in response. The ATA today is the oldest African-American sports organization in the country. When Gibson began playing tennis in the 1940s, racial segregation was legal, even institutionalized, in the U.S. and would remain so until 1954. The lanky 5-foot 101/2-inch player had often tried to enter the USLTA national tournaments but to no avail. In 1950 she took the Eastern Grass Court Championships, second place in the National Indoor Championship, and made the quarterfinals in the National Clay Court Championships in Chicago. But the USLTA national championships continued to refuse her application. Finally, Alice Marble, a four-time U.S. Open winner, published an historical editorial in the July 1950 issue of American Lawn Tennis magazine: "If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen," Marble wrote, "it's also time we acted a little more like gentlepeople and less like sanctimonious hypocrites.If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it's only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts."

Attains World Dominance

That August, the USLTA accepted Gibson's application. She entered court 14 at Forest Hills and defeated Barbara Knapp in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. Gibson led Denise Brough 7-6 in a tiebreaker in the next round, but a thunderstorm interceded. She dropped the tiebreaker 9-7, but made history as the first black to play at the U.S. Open. Gibson was ranked seventh in 1952, but fell to 70th the following year. Meanwhile, having graduated from college with a physical education degree, she worked in the athletic department at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. In 1955, tennis coach Sydney Llewellyn convinced her to return to the sport.

Llewellyn rebuilt her confidence and her game. She honed her serve-and-volley game and learned how to be patient at the baseline. She had an overpowering second serve. And she began to refine her court behavior. Simply having competed at Forest Hills opened many doors for Gibson, as it would later for other blacks, and she toured Southeast Asia on a goodwill mission for the U.S. State Department. While touring Europe and Africa, she won 16 of 18 tournaments. As a result, she was invited in 1956 to Wimbledon, where she lost to Ohio-born Shirley Fry, in the final Wimbledon attempt for Fry in her long career. Fry also defeated her at the U.S. Open that year.

Unshaken, Gibson returned to the grass court in 1957. It was to be a noteworthy year for the athlete and elsewhere. Gibson had won the French Open, her first major title, in 1956, and the Italian singles championships the previous year. In January 1957 she was Australian Open runner-up. Then, funded by a consortium of Harlem businessmen, Gibson returned to England. Back home, America was simmering with racial tension. Only two months earlier National Guardsmen had kept nine black students from entering the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. But in July, playing "with an

athleticism never before seen in women's tennis," according to Sports Illustrated 's Michael Bamberger, Gibson became the first black woman to win the Wimbledon singles title, defeating fellow American Darlene Hart, 6-3, 6-2, in less than an hour. The crowd "raised only an apathetic cheer" when Queen Elizabeth II presented the singles trophy to Gibson, Bamberger quoted his magazine's report at the time. In the States, however, the champion drew a cheering crowd at the airport in New York and received a Broadway ticker-tape parade.

"I didn't give a darn who was on the other side of the net," the Houston Chronicle quoted Gibson. "I'd knock you down if you got in the way. I just wanted to play my best." When she faced Brough at the U. S. Open that year, Gibson beat the 1947 champion for her first U.S. Open title, 6-3, 6-2, making Gibson the world's topranked female player. She repeated the feat the following year, winning both Wimbledon and U.S. Open singles titles, and women's doubles titles. The Associated Press named her Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958 and she became the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Unable to make enough money on the circuit, Gibson surprised fans and sportswriters and retired from pro tennis at age 30.

Life After Tennis

In 1958, Gibson published her autobiography I Always Wanted to Be Somebody. She began a career in music and theater. Sugar Ray Robinson had bought her a saxophone when she was a youngster, and she had a sultry singing voice, with which she enchanted the crowd at the 1957 Wimbledon ball. (She sang the romantic "I Can't Give You Anything but Love.") In 1959 she cut an album, Althea Gibson Sings, and she made a John Ford movie, The Horse Soldiers, co-starring John Wayne and William Holden. In 1959 Gibson turned professional and played a couple of exhibition basketball games touring with the Harlem Globetrotters. Making another incursion into a formerly elite sport, she became the first black member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association and played tournaments until 1967. The following year she published a second autobiography, So Much to Live For.

In the 1970s she coached women's and girls' sports, and from 1975 to 1977 became New Jersey athletic commissioner for boxing and wrestling. In 1977 she ran unsuccessfully in a three-way Democratic primary for the New Jersey Senate. She also served on the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness. A series of strokes limited her mobility and she retired in 1992. While mentally agile, Gibson suffers from arthritis and is confined to a wheelchair. When in the late 1990s friends, fans, and colleagues realized that the former champion was nearly destitute, they began a series of fundraisers, which netted $25,000 for the woman who had broken the tennis color barrier.

Gibson's Impact

Gibson had to be more than a tennis champion. She had to battle segregation, angering whites and also of some blacks who disdained Gibson for playing in what they considered a sport of privileged people. She also faced gender barriers. Fellow player Tony Trabert, who won the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open in 1955, said, "She hits the ball and plays like a man," Neil Amdur wrote in the New York Times.

But the sharecropper's daughter dispensed with expectations and comparisons. As the first African American to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament, Gibson paved the way for other minority players. And as an outstanding competitor, she paved the way for other women who wanted to play aggressive, serve-and-volley games. But she stood out mostly for her unfettered courage.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: P.O. Box 768, East Orange, NJ 07019. Email: altheagibson@newyork.com. Online: www.altheagibson.com/.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY GIBSON:

I Always Wanted to Be Somebody, New York: Harper, 1958.

Related Biography: Tennis Player Alice Marble

California-born Alice Marble (1913-1990) was the first woman to capture both Wimbledon and U.S. Open singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles in the same year.

She learned her sport on the public courts of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Unable to afford a tennis racquet, she played with borrowed equipment until coach Eleanor Tennant discovered her. In exchange for lessons, Marble performed secretarial work for Tennant, who remained Marble's lifelong coach.

In 1934, while representing the United States in France, Marble collapsed on the court and was sent to a sanatorium to recover. Eight months later and against the advice of her physician, a bored Marble left the sanatorium and began to build up her strength and recover her game. The National Tennis Association officials, fearing her frailty, were reluctant to allow Marble to compete, but when in 1936 she won the national singles and mixed doubles championships, the world took notice of this serious challenger. Two years later she won Wimbledon, and in 1939 broke world records when she won the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Marble's style of rushing the net evolved from lack of confidence in her ground strokes, but led to a playing style many women, such as Althea Gibson and Martina Navratilova, would emulate.

Marble confronted many difficulties. Going against the grain, she became a football reporter for WNEW radio in New York in 1940 and developed an avid following. Four years later, during World War II, she lost a baby during pregnancy and soon after learned her husband, Captain Joseph Norman Crowley, had been killed in Germany. Early in 1945 she risked her life in several missions as an Allied spy. She was an early feminist and tirelessly fought on behalf of women, homosexuals, and African Americans. In July 1950, Marble wrote her historic editorial in American Lawn Tennis magazine, denouncing the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association's policy of excluding blacks from competition. If Marble hadn't had such courage and stature among her peers, Althea Gibson might never have been allowed to compete. "Alice Marble was a great, kind, and gracious lady," Gibson recently said in ABC Sports Online forum, "and the one person that stood up for me in the tennis world, really the world at large."

Where Is She Now?

Living in seclusion at her home in East Orange, New Jersey, Gibson, who is well into her 70s and suffers from crippling arthritis, said in a recent online forum, "I want the public to remember me as they knew me: athletic, smart, and healthy. Remember me strong and tough and quick, fleet of footand tenacious." While avoiding the spotlight, Gibson has not disappeared altogether. As a co-founder of the Althea Gibson Foundation, she works to help inner-city youths gain an education. Of all her accomplishments, Gibson says helping children is "probably the best thing that I will ever do." The National First Ladies Library recently honored her in absentia for her leadership role in creating opportunities for minority athletes and children.

Gibson, Althea and Richard Curtis. So Much to Live For. New York: Putnam, 1968.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Contemporary Black Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994.

Contemporary Heroes and Heroines, III. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998.

Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998.

Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.

Gates, Henry Louis Jr., and Cornel West. The African American Century, New York: Free Press, 2000.

Johnson, Anne Janette. Great Women in Sports. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996.

Notable Black American Women. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.

St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000.

Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.

Periodicals

"10 Greatest Women Athletes."Ebony (March 2002): 74.

Amdur, Neil. "After 50 Years, Gibson Hasn't Lost Her Luster." New York Times (April 26, 2002).

Bamberber, Michael. "Inside the White Lines: July 6, 1957: Althea Gibson Wins Wimbledon." Sports Illustrated (November 29, 1999): 114.

Janoff, Murray. "Tennis' Greatest Trailblazer." Sporting News (June 24, 1972).

Other

"Althea Gibson Answers Your Questions." ABC Sports Online. www.espn.go.com/(December 20, 2002).

Althea Gibson Official Web site. http://www.altheagibson.com/ (December 16, 2002).

Biography Resource Center. http://galenet.galegroup.com/ (December 16, 2002; December 20, 2002).

History of Jim Crow. http://www.jimcrowhistory.org (December 17, 2002).

Houston Chronicle. http://www.chron.com (December 16, 2002).

Intercollegiate Tennis Association. http://www.wm.edu/ (December 20, 2002).

International Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/ (December 16, 2002).

International Tennis Hall of Fame. http://www.tennisfame.org/ (December 16, 2002; December 19, 2002; December 20, 2002).

National First Ladies' Library. http://www.firstladies.org/ (December 20, 2002).

Sports Illustrated for Women. http://www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ (December 18, 2002).

Women's History. www.womenshistory.about.com/(December 16, 2002).

Sketch by Jane Summer

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Gibson, Althea 1927–2003

Althea Gibson 19272003

Professional tennis player, golfer, coach, singer

Chose Tennis Over Education

Faced Racism in Professional Tennis

Became Wimbledon Champion

Sought Other Careers

Receieved Honors Late in Life

Selected writings

Sources

Althea Gibsons accomplishments in tennis rank among the most inspiring in modern professional sports. At a time when the game of tennis was completely dominated by whites, Gibson emerged with enough talent and determination to win multiple championships at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the late 1950s. Gibson was not only the first black woman to compete in these prestigious tournaments, she was also the first black person ever to win a tennis title. Having achieved national prominence in a sport long associated with upper-class whites, she became a role model for blacks of both sexes who sought the right to compete in previously segregated sporting events. Doors of opportunity that Gibson opened in both tennis and golf have been pursued by the likes of Arthur Ashe and Zena Garrison in tennis, and Calvin Peete in professional golf.

The titles of Gibsons two memoirs, I Always Wanted To Be Somebody, and So Much To Live For, serve as testimony to her personality and ambition. Her difficult childhood in a Harlem ghetto offered her little in the way of encouragement, but timely help from tennis coaches and supportive black professionals gave her opportunities never before extended to a black woman. Gibson forged into the previously all-white field of womens tennis with the conviction that racism could not stop her, and she handled difficult situations with a grace and earthy humor that brought her a firm following among American sports fans.

Chose Tennis Over Education

The oldest of five children, Althea Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina, on April 25, 1927. At the time of her birth, her father was working as a sharecropper on a cotton farm. The crops failed several years in a row, and the impoverished Gibson family moved to New York City in 1930 where her aunt was said to have made a living by selling bootleg whiskey. There they settled in a small apartment in Harlem, and four more children were born.

In her memoirs Gibson described herself as a restless youngster who longed to be somebody but had little idea how to pursue that goal. School was not the answer for her. She often played hooky to go to the movies and had little rapport with her teachers. After finishing middle school, despite her truancy problems, she was promoted to the Yorkville Trade School. Her

At a Glance

Born on August 25, 1927, in Silver, South Carolina; died on September 28, 2003, in East Orange, New Jersey; daughter of Daniel (a mechanic) and Anna (Washington) Gibson; married William A. Darben, October 17, 1965 (divorced); married Sidney Llewellyn, April 11, 1983. Education: Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, BS, 1953.

Career: Tennis player, 1941-58; author, 1958, 1968; singer, musician, spokesperson for products, and actress, 1958-63; Ladies Professional Golf Tour, golfer, 1963-67; tennis coach, member of athletic commissions, and associate of Essex County (NJ) Park Commission, c. 1970-92.

Awards: Winner of national Negro girls championships, 1944, 1945, 1948-56; winner of English singles and doubles championships at Wimbledon, 1957 and 1958; winner of U.S. national singles championships at Forest Hills, 1957 and 1958; named Woman Athlete of Yr., AP Poll, 1957-58; named to Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame and Tennis Mus., 1971, Black Athletes Hall of Fame, 1974, S.C. Hall of Fame, 1983, Fla. Sports Hall of Fame, 1984, Sports Hall of Fame of NJ, 1994.

problems continued there and became so severe that she was referred to a series of social workers, some of whom threatened her with the prospect of reform school.

Solace was hard to find for the brash youngster. Movies and stage shows at the Apollo Theater offered a glimpse of another world beyond the crowded Harlem streets, and Gibson longed for that worldand her own independence. Even before she was of legal age to drop out of school she applied for working papers and quit attending her classes. She held a series of jobs but was not able to keep any of them very long. A promise to attend night school lasted through only two weeks of classes. By the time she was 14, Gibson was a ward of the New York City Welfare Department. The social workers helped her to find steady work, and they steered her into the local Police Athletic League sports programs.

Gibsons first contact with tennis was through the game of paddleball. The game is similar to conventional tennis but uses wooden paddles instead of rackets. In paddleball Gibson found a challenge she could answer. She would practice swatting balls against a wall for hours at a time, and before long she was winning local tournaments. Her prowess brought her to the attention of musician Buddy Walker, a part-time city recreation department employee. Walker encouraged her to switch to regular tennis and even bought her a racketa second-hand model he re-strung himself. Walker also introduced Gibson to the members of the interracial New York Cosmopolitan Club. Some of them were also impressed with Gibsons natural talents, and they sponsored her for junior membership and private lessons with a professional named Fred Johnson.

The well-to-do members of the Cosmopolitan Clubparticularly a socialite named Rhoda Smithhelped Gibson to curb her wild behavior and adopt a more reasonable and conservative lifestyle. Just one year after her lessons began in 1941, Gibson won her first important tournament, the New York State Open Championship. In 1943 she won the New York State Negro girls singles championship, and in 1944 and 1945 captured the National Negro girls championship.

Faced Racism in Professional Tennis

Even though she lost the 1946 Negro girls championship, Gibson drew the backing of two quite influential patrons. A pair of surgeons, Dr. Hubert Eaton of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Dr. Robert Johnson of Lynchburg, Virginia, made Gibson an attractive offer. They would provide room and board for her and pay for her tennis lessons if she agreed to finish high school at the same time. Gibson accepted and moved to Wilmington to live with Eatons family. There she attended the local public school and practiced her tennis moves on Eatons private court. In the summertime she returned to Harlem for coaching by Fred Johnson. Beginning in 1948, Gibson won nine consecutive Negro national championships, a feat that quickly brought her recognition within the white tennis community as well.

Having finally realized the value of a good education, Gibson graduated tenth in her class at North Carolinas Williston Industrial High School in 1949. She then accepted a tennis scholarship to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee. She wanted to study music, as she could play the saxophone and had a fine singing voice. Counselors at the college persuaded her to stay with tennis, and she majored in physical education instead.

The biggest battle of Gibsons college years was securing the right to compete in major tennis tournaments against white opponents. That she had the talent to do so could not be denied, but many of the clubs that hosted major tournaments did not admit blacks. In 1950 Gibson sought an invitation from the United States Lawn Tennis Association to play in the National Grass Court championships at Forest Hills, Long Island. The invitation never came. Other tournaments at private clubs barred her as well. Frustrated but undefeated by the rampant racism, Gibson expressed her disappointment in a dignified and professional manner. Before too long she began to find allies in prominent positions.

One such ally was Alice Marble, an editor of American Lawn Tennis magazine. In the July 1950 issue of that periodical, Marble wrote a piece about the color barrier keeping Gibson from the top competitions. The entrance of Negroes into national tennis is as inevitable as it has proven in baseball, in football, or in boxing; there is no denying so much talent, Marble contended. The committee at Forest Hills has the power to stifle the efforts of one Althea Gibson, who may or may not be succeeded by others of her race who have equal or superior ability. They will knock at the door as she has done. Eventually the tennis world will rise up en masse to protest the injustices perpetrated by our policymakers. Eventuallywhy not now?

Became Wimbledon Champion

The reaction to the editorial was almost instantaneous. Within one month of its publication, Gibson was invited to the national tournament at Forest Hills, as well as a number of other important competitions that had once been closed to her. In her first appearance at Forest Hills, Gibson advanced to the second round where she met Wimbledon champion Louise Brough. Gibson was leading in a tie-breaking set, 7-6, when play was interrupted by a severe thunderstorm. When the game resumed the next day, a frazzled Gibsonwho had been hounded by the media throughout the delaylost the match 9-7.

The following three years saw even greater disappointments. In 1952 Gibson was ranked seventh nationally in womens singles; the following year she dropped to 70th. Gibson seriously considered retiring from tennis completely, especially after she earned a Bachelors degree in 1953, and took a teaching position at Lincoln University in Missouri. A former Harlem coach, Sydney Llewellyn, encouraged her to return to the circuit, and in 1955 she was chosen as one of four American women sent on a good will tennis tour of Southeast Asia and Mexico. In the months that followed those trips, Gibson also played in tournaments in Sweden, Germany, France, England, Italy, and Egypt, winning in 16 of 18 appearances. She raised her fortunes even higher in 1956 when she won her first major singles title at the French Open.

Black people seeking equal treatment in all walks of American life pointed proudly to the success of Althea Gibson in 1957 and 1958. The game of tennis has no more prestigious tournament than that held at Wimbledon in England every year. Not only was Gibson the first black ever to appear in that tournament, she was seeded first both years and won the Wimbledon singles and doubles championships both years. In 1957 Gibson defeated Darlene Hard in the singles competition, 6-3, 6-2, and then teamed with Hard in the victorious doubles match. Gibson returned to a ticker-tape parade in New York City and then proceeded to defeat her old nemesis Louise Brough at the U.S. national championships at Forest Hills. Returning to Wimbledon in 1958, she beat Great Britains Angela Mortimer 8-6, 6-2 in singles and then paired with Brazilian star Maria Bueno for the doubles win. Yet another U.S. national championship followed that summer.

Sought Other Careers

It seemed that Gibsons future in tennis was quite secure by 1958. Although she had just turned 30, she was at the top of her game and had achieved international acclaim. Then she shocked the world by announcing her retirement from the sport. She admitted that the most pressing reason for her decision was moneyshe simply did not make enough playing tennis to meet her needs. In the wake of her announcement, Gibson began to earn far more by trading upon her fame. She embarked on a singing career that took her to the Ed Sullivan Show and led to the release of several albums; she received product endorsement contracts; she even appeared in a John Ford Western, The Horse Soldiers, with John Wayne and William Holden.

The lure of sports was a powerful one, however. By 1963 Gibson had embarked on another quest, just as ground-breaking as the first. She qualified for the Ladies Professional Golf Association and began competing in important golf tournamentsthe first black woman to achieve that honor. Gibson never had the success with golf that she had with tennis, however. She never won a tournament and took home little prize money, although she participated in the LPGA tour from 1963 until 1967. As late as 1990, she attempted a comeback with the LPGA but failed to qualify.

In the 1970s and 1980s Gibson also served as a tennis coach and a mentor to athletes, especially young black women. Her views on modern tennis stars were solicited regularly, and she showed a particular admiration for Martina Navratilova. Having married a New Jersey businessman named William A. Darben, Gibson concentrated her efforts in Essex County, New Jersey, where she served for many years on the Park Commission. She also took posts with the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and the Governors Council on Physical Fitness. Darben and Gibson were divorced and Gibson later married Sidney Llewellyn. Gibson retired in 1992, save for personal appearances in connection with golf or tennis events.

No other black woman athlete has yet risen to the prominence in tennis that Gibson achieved in the 1950s where Gibson ultimately won 56 tournaments. In 1971 Gibson was elected to the Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1990 Zena Garrison advanced to the Wimbledon finals but was defeated; she was the only other black woman star to have advanced so far in the game by that time. This does not in any way diminish Althea Gibsons contribution to American sports. Her determination to play in the top tournaments at a time when blacks had little access to the exclusive tennis clubs helped to create a climate of acceptance that persists to this day. Elitism may never be completely eliminated in sports such as golf and tennis, but the contributions of Althea Gibsonand their effect on subsequent generations of black American athletesare of lasting value to the sporting world.

Receieved Honors Late in Life

Gibsons health later started to fade, and by 1997, according to Time magazine, Gibson [was] suffering in silence from a series of strokes and ailments brought on by a disease she [was] simply said to have described as terminal. She had all but faded from the publics eye and it seemed she would die quiet and alone without anyone noticing. But some female athletes and coaches hearing about how she was living in all but poverty in East Orange, New Jersey, because her medical bills were overwhelming her, staged a benefit and tribute to the great Althea Gibson and raised, eventually, close to $100,000 to help defray the costs of her medical care. When Gibson learned of the effort that went into raising all the money to help her, her spirits were much lifted and her health improved somewhat.

In 1997 the Arthur Ashe Stadium was dedicated in New York to fellow black tennis great Arthur Ashe. The event took place on Gibsons 70th birthday and accolades were raised to her as well. In 1999 East Orange, New Jersey, dedicated the Althea Gibson Early Childhood Education Academy in Gibsons honor. The schools purpose, according to Tennis magazine, was to provide kids ages six and under with a safe, nurturing environment in which to grow. Betty Deb-naun, the principal of the new school said, Its only fitting to name the school after a woman as great as Althea Gibson. She excelled in everything she did. Shes a living legend. Also in 1999 a documentary of Gibsons life was published, an obvious indication that Gibsons accomplishments had not been forgotten. In 2000 The Sports Authority took upon itself to rank the ten top moments in womens sports. Gibsons becoming the first black woman to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open was named one of the ten.

On September 28, 2003, Gibson died after a long illness of respiratory failure at East Orange General Hospital in New Jersey. She was 76-years-old. According to the Sports Network several hundred mourners showed up to pay their respects to Gibson. David Dinkins, former mayor of New York spoke at the service about her greatness. Among other things Din-kins reminded listeners of a very important fact: A lot of folks stood on the shoulders of Althea Gibson. And this is something that people should never forget.

Selected writings

I Always Wanted To Be Somebody, Harper, 1958. So Much To Live For, Putnam, 1968.

Sources

Books

Ashe, Arthur, A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African-American Athlete since 1946, Warner Books, 1988.

Gibson, Althea, Always Wanted To Be Somebody, Harper, 1958.

Gibson, Althea, So Much To Live For, Putnam, 1968.

Henderson, Edwin B., and others, The Black Athlete: Emergence and Arrival, Publishers Agency, 1976.

Smith, Jessie Carney, ed., Notable Black American Women, Gale, 1992.

St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press, 2000.

Periodicals

American School & University, November, 1999, p. 28.

Black Enterprise, September, 1997, p. 144.

Ebony, November, 1997, p. 146; March, 2002, p. 74.

Jet, March 30, 1987, p. 49; October 13, 2003, p. 51.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, March 27, 1997.

Library Journal, March 1, 1999, p. 125.

Newsweek, October 13, 2003, p. 12.

Sports Illustrated, September 10, 1990, p. 26; November 29, 1999, p. 114.

Sports Network, October 2, 2003.

Tennis, September, 1999, p. 37.

Time, September, 8, 1997, p. 4.

WWD, November 17, 2000, p. 23.

Mark Kram and Catherine V. Donaldson

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Gibson, Althea 1927–

Althea Gibson 1927

Professional tennis player, golfer, coach, singer

At a Glance

Why Not Now?

Wimbledon Champion

Sources

Althea Gibsons accomplishments in tennis rank among the most inspiring in modern professional sports. At a time when the game of tennis was completely dominated by whites, Gibson emerged with enough talent and determination to win multiple championships at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the late 1950s. Gibson was not only the first black woman to compete in these prestigious tournaments, she was also the first black person ever to win a tennis title. Having achieved national prominence in a sport long associated with upper-class whites, she became a role model for blacks of both sexes who sought the right to compete in previously segregated sporting events. Doors of opportunity that Gibson opened in both tennis and golf have been pursued by the likes of Arthur Ashe and Zena Garrison in tennis and Calvin Peete in professional golf.

The titles of Gibsons two memoirs, / Always Wanted to Be Somebody, and So Much to Live for, serve as testimony to her personality and ambition. Her difficult childhood in a Harlem ghetto offered her little in the way of encouragement, but timely help from tennis coaches and supportive black professionals gave her opportunities never before extended to a black woman. Gibson forged into the previously all-white field of womens tennis with the conviction that racism could not stop her, and she handled difficult situations with a grace and earthy humor that brought her a firm following among American sports fans.

The oldest of five children, Althea Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina on April 25, 1927. At the time of her birth, her father was working as a sharecropper on a cotton farm. The crops failed several years in a row, and the impoverished Gibson family moved to New York City. There they settled in a small apartment in Harlem, and four more children were born.

In her memoirs Gibson described herself as a restless youngster who longed to be somebody but had little idea how to pursue that goal. School was not the answer for her. She often played hooky to go to the movies and had little rapport with her teachers. After finishing middle school despite her truancy problems, she was promoted to the Yorkville Trade School. Her problems continued there and became so severe that she was referred to a series of social workers, some of whom threatened her with the prospect of reform school.

Solace was hard to find for the brash youngster. Movies

At a Glance

Born August 25, 1927, in Silver, SC; daughter of Daniel (a mechanic) and Anna (Washington) Gibson; married, husbands name William A. Darben. Education: Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, B.S., 1953.

Tennis player; winner of national Negro girls championships, 1944, 1945, 1948-56; winner of English singles and doubles championships at Wimbledon, 1957 and 1958; winner of U.S. national singles championships at Forest Hills, 1957 and 1958- Singer, musician, spokesperson for products, and actress, 1958-63; member of Ladies Professional Golf Tour, 1963-67; tennis coach, member of athletic commissions, and associate of Essex County (NJ) Park Commission, c. 1970-92. Author, / Always Wanted to Be Somebody, Harper, 1958, So Much to Live For, Putnam, 1968.

Addresses: Home P.O. Box 768, East Orange, NJ 07019.

and stage shows at the Apollo Theater offered a glimpse of another world beyond the crowded Harlem streets, and Gibson longed for that worldand her own independence. Even before she was of legal age to drop out of school she applied for working papers and quit attending her classes. She held a series of jobs but was not able to keep any of them very long. A promise to attend night school lasted through only two weeks of classes. By the time she was 14, Gibson was a ward of the New York City Welfare Department. The social workers helped her to find steady work, and they steered her into the local Police Athletic League sports programs.

Gibsons first contact with tennis was through the game of paddleball. The game is similar to conventional tennis but uses wooden paddles instead of rackets. In paddleball Gibson found a challenge she could answer. She would practice swatting balls against a wall for hours at a time, and before long she was winning local tournaments. Her prowess brought her to the attention of musician Buddy Walker, a part-time city recreation department employee. Walker encouraged her to switch to regular tennis and even bought her a racketa second-hand model he re-strung himself. Walker also introduced Gibson to the members of the interracial New York Cosmopolitan Club. Some of them were also impressed with Gibsons natural talents, and they sponsored her for junior membership and private lessons with a professional named Fred Johnson.

The well-to-do members of the Cosmopolitan Clubparticularly a socialite named Rhoda Smithhelped Gibson to curb her wild behavior and adopt a more reasonable and conservative lifestyle. Just one year after her lessons began in 1941, Gibson won her first important tournament, the New York State Open Championship. In 1943 she won the New York State Negro girls singles championship, and in 1944 and 1945 captured the national Negro girls championship.

Even though she lost the 1946 Negro girls championship, Gibson drew the backing of two quite influential patrons. A pair of surgeons, Dr. Hubert Eaton of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Dr. Robert Johnson of Lynchburg, Virginia, made Gibson an attractive offer. They would provide room and board for her and pay for her tennis lessons if she agreed to finish high school at the same time. Gibson accepted and moved to Wilmington to live with Eatons family. There she attended the local public school and practiced her tennis moves on Eatons private court. In the summertime she returned to Harlem for coaching by Fred Johnson. Beginning in 1948, Gibson won nine consecutive Negro national championships, a feat that quickly brought her recognition within the white tennis community as well.

Why Not Now?

Having finally realized the value of a good education, Gibson graduated tenth in her class at North Carolinas Williston Industrial High School in 1949. She then accepted a tennis scholarship to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee. She wanted to study music, as she could play the saxophone and had a fine singing voice. Counselors at the college persuaded her to stay with tennis, and she majored in physical education instead.

The biggest battle of Gibsons college years was securing the right to compete in major tennis tournaments against white opponents. That she had the talent to do so could not be denied, but many of the clubs that hosted major tournaments did not admit blacks. In 1950 Gibson sought an invitation from the United States Lawn Tennis Association to play in the national grass court championships at Forest Hills, Long Island. The invitation never came. Other tournaments at private clubs barred her as well. Frustrated but undefeated by the rampant racism, Gibson expressed her disappointment in a dignified and professional manner. Before too long she began to find allies in prominent positions.

One such ally was Alice Marble, an editor of American Lawn Tennis magazine. In the July 1950 issue of that periodical, Marble wrote a piece about the color barrier keeping Gibson from the top competitions. The entrance of Negroes into national tennis is as inevitable as it has proven in baseball, in football, or in boxing; there is no denying so much talent, Marble contended. The committee at Forest Hills has the power to stifle the efforts of one Althea Gibson, who may or may not be succeeded by others of her race who have equal or superior ability. They will knock at the door as she has done. Eventually the tennis world will rise up en masse to protest the injustices perpetrated by our policymakers. Eventuallywhy not now?

The reaction to the editorial was almost instantaneous. Within one month of its publication, Gibson was invited to the national tournament at Forest Hills, as well as a number of other important competitions that had once been closed to her. In her first appearance at Forest Hills, Gibson advanced to the second round where she met Wimbledon champion Louise Brough. Gibson was leading in a tie-breaking set, 7-6, when play was interrupted by a severe thunderstorm. When the game resumed the next day, a frazzled Gibsonwho had been hounded by the media throughout the delaylost the match 9-7.

The following three years saw even greater disappointments. In 1952 Gibson was ranked seventh nationally in womens singles; the following year she dropped to 70th. Gibson seriously considered retiring from tennis completely, especially after she earned a bachelors degree in 1953, and took a teaching position at Lincoln University in Missouri. A former Harlem coach, Sydney Llewellyn, encouraged her to return to the circuit, and in 1955 she was chosen as one of four American women sent on a good will tennis tour of Southeast Asia and Mexico. In the months that followed those trips, Gibson also played in tournaments in Sweden, Germany, France, England, Italy, and Egypt, winning in 16 of 18 appearances.

Wimbledon Champion

Black people seeking equal treatment in all walks of American life pointed proudly to the success of Althea Gibson in 1957 and 1958. The game of tennis has no more prestigious tournament than that held at Wimbledon in England every year. Not only was Gibson the first black ever to appear in that tournament, she was seeded first both years and won the Wimbledon singles and doubles championships both years. In 1957 Gibson defeated Darlene Hard in the singles competition, 6-3, 6-2, and then teamed with Hard in the victorious doubles match. Gibson returned to a ticker-tape parade in New York City and then proceeded to defeat her old nemesis Louise Brough at the U.S. national championships at Forest Hills. Returning to Wimbledon in 1958, she beat Great Britains Angela Mortimer 8-6, 6-2 in singles and then paired with Brazilian star Maria Bueno for the doubles win. Yet another U.S. national championship followed that summer.

It seemed that Gibsons future in tennis was quite secure by 1958. Although she had just turned 30, she was at the top of her game and had achieved international acclaim. Then she shocked the world by announcing her retirement from the sport. She admitted that the most pressing reason for her decision was moneyshe simply did not make enough playing tennis to meet her needs. In the wake of her announcement, Gibson began to earn far more by trading upon her fame. She embarked on a singing career that took her to the Ed Sullivan Show and led to the release of several albums; she received product endorsement contracts; she even appeared in a John Ford western, The Horse Soldiers, with John Wayne and William Holden.

The lure of sports was a powerful one, however. By 1963 Gibson had embarked on another quest, just as groundbreaking as the first. She qualified for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and began competing in important golf tournamentsthe first black woman to achieve that honor. Gibson never had the success with golf that she had with tennis, however. She never won a tournament and took home little prize money, although she participated in the LPGA tour from 1963 until 1967. As late as 1990, she attempted a comeback with the LPGA but failed to qualify.

In the 1970s and 1980s Gibson also served as a tennis coach and a mentor to athletes, especially young black women. Her views on modern tennis stars were solicited regularly, and she showed a particular admiration for Martina Navratilova. Having married a New Jersey businessman named William A. Darben, Gibson concentrated her efforts in Essex County, New Jersey, where she served for many years on the Park Commission. She also took posts with the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and the Governors Council on Physical Fitness. Gibson retired in 1992, save for personal appearances in connection with golf or tennis events.

No other black woman athlete has yet risen to the prominence in tennis that Gibson achieved in the 1950s. In 1990 Zena Garrison advanced to the Wimbledon finals but was defeated; she is the only other black woman star to have advanced so far in the game. This does not in any way diminish Althea Gibsons contribution to American sports. Her determination to play in the top tournaments at a time when blacks had little access to the exclusive tennis clubs helped to create a climate of acceptance that persists to this day. Elitism may never be completely eliminated in sports such as golf and tennis, but the contributions of Althea Gibsonand their effect on subsequent generations of black American athletesare of lasting value to the sporting world.

Sources

Books

Ashe, Arthur, A Hard Road to Glory;: A History of the African-American Athlete Since 1946, Warner Books, 1988.

Gibson, Althea, / Always Wanted to Be Somebody, Harper, 1958.

Gibson, Althea, So Much to Live For, Putnam, 1968.

Henderson, Edwin B., and others, The Black Athlete: Emergence and Arrival, Publishers Agency, 1976.

Smith, Jessie Carney, editor, Notable Black American Women, Gale, 1992.

Periodicals

Jet, March 30, 1987, p. 49.

Sports Illustrated, September 10, 1990, p. 26.

Mark Kram

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Gibson, Althea

Althea Gibson

Born: August 25, 1927
Silver, South Carolina

African American tennis player

Althea Gibson is noted not only for her exceptional abilities as a tennis player, but for breaking the color barrier in the 1950s as the first African American to compete in national and international tennis.

Childhood in Harlem

Althea Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina, on August 25, 1927. She was the first of Daniel and Anna Washington Gibson's five children. Her parents worked on a cotton farm, but when she was three years old the family moved north to the Harlem area of New York City. Gibson caused a lot of problems as a child and often missed school. Her father was very strict with her on these occasions, but he also taught her to box, a skill that he figured would come in handy in the rough neighborhood the Gibson family lived in.

Tennis success

When Gibson was ten years old, she became involved with the Police Athletic League (PAL) movement known as "play streets." PAL was an attempt to help troubled children establish work habits they would need later in life. In 1940 PAL promoted paddle ball (a game similar to handball except that it is played using a wooden racket) competitions in Harlem. After three summers of playing the game Gibson was so good that the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club sponsored her to learn the game of tennis and proper social behavior.

In 1942 Gibson began winning tournaments sponsored by the American Tennis Association (ATA), the African American version of the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA). In 1944 and 1945 Gibson won the ATA National Junior Championships. In 1946 several politically minded African Americans identified Gibson as having the talent to help break down organized racism (unequal treatment based on race) in the United States. Sponsored by Hubert Eaton and Walter Johnson (18871946) and inspired by boxer Sugar Ray Robinson (19211989), Gibson was soon winning every event on the ATA schedule. In 1949 she entered A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, on a tennis scholarship and prepared for the difficult task of breaking the color barrier in tournament tennis.

Breaking the color barrier

The USLTA finally allowed Gibson to play in the 1950 Nationals when four-time U.S. singles and doubles (a two-person team) champion Alice Marble (1913) spoke out on her behalf. Gibson lost her first match of the tournament, but the breakthrough had been made. Over the next several years Gibson worked as a physical education teacher at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. She also continued playing tennis and rose up the USLTA rankings (ninth in 1952, seventh in 1953). After a year of touring the world and playing special events for the U.S. State Department, Gibson staged a full-scale assault on the tennis world in 1956. That year she won the French Open in both singles and doubles.

Over the next two years Gibson was the leading women's tennis player in the world. In 1957 and 1958 she won both the Wimbledon and U.S. National singles titles, becoming the first African American to win a Wimbledon singles title. In 1958 she wrote a book about her life called I Always Wanted to Be Somebody. After her 1958 victory at the U.S. Nationals, Gibson retired from tennis and played professional golf. She was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.

Later years

In 1994 Gibson suffered a stroke that left her confined to her home. In February 2001 her picture was featured on a Wheaties cereal box as part of a special Black History Month package. Later that year tennis stars Venus (1980) and Serena Williams (1981) were honored at an Althea Gibson Foundation dinner that raised $100,000 for scholarships and youth development programs. Through a spokeswoman, Gibson congratulated the Williams sisters for having grown into two of the best tennis players in the world.

For More Information

Biracree, Tom. Althea Gibson. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Davidson, Sue. Changing the Game. Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1997.

Gibson, Althea. I Always Wanted to Be Somebody. Edited by Ed Fitzgerald. New York: Harper, 1958.

Jones, Betty Millsaps. Wonder Women of Sports. New York: Random House, 1981.

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Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson is noted not only for her exceptional abilities as a tennis player, but for breaking the color barrier in the 1950s as the first African American to compete in national and international tennis.

Born in Silver, South Carolina, in 1927, Althea Gibson became the dominant female athlete of the late 1950s in a sport well known for its custom of racial segregation. Tennis was not Gibson's first sport; instead, she shot pool, bowled, and played basketball. She even boxed a little.

Childhood in Harlem

During the Depression the Gibson family moved north to Harlem. When she was ten years old, Gibson became involved with the Police Athletic League (PAL) movement known as "play streets." Essentially, PAL was an attempt to help troubled children establish work habits they would use later in life. In 1940 in Harlem, PAL promoted paddleball. After three summers of paddleball competition Gibson was so good that the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club sponsored her to learn the game of tennis and proper social behavior.

In 1942 Gibson began winning tournaments sponsored by the American Tennis Association (ATA), the black counterpart to the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA). In 1944 and 1945 Gibson won the ATA National Junior Championships. In 1946 Gibson was recognized by politically astute blacks as a player who could help break down institutionalized racism in the United States. Sponsored by Hubert Eaton and Walter Johnson and inspired by Sugar Ray Robinson, Gibson soon dominated every event on the ATA schedule. By the beginning of the 1950s she was ready to endure the hardship of breaking the color barrier in tennis.

Breaking the Color Barrier

Gibson had a powerful ally: four-time U.S. singles and doubles champion Alice Marble. The USLTA finally allowed Gibson to play in the 1950 Nationals when Marble intervened on her behalf. Gibson lost her first match of the tournament, but the entrance had been made. Over the next several years Gibson rose in the USLTA rankings (ninth in 1952, seventh in 1953). After a year of touring the world, playing special events for the U.S. State Department, Gibson staged a full-scale assault on the tennis world in 1956. That year she won the French Open in both singles and doubles.

Tennis Dominance

Over the next two years Gibson was the dominant women's tennis player in the world. In 1957 and 1958 she won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals. In 1958 she wrote a book about her life called I Always Wanted to Be Somebody.

Further Reading

Tom Biracree, Althea Gibson (New York: Chelsea House, 1989).

Betty Millsaps Jones, Wonder Women of Sports (New York: Random House, 1981).

Pat Ross, ed., Young and Female: Turning Points in the Lives of Eight American Women, Personal Accounts (New York: Random House, 1972). □

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Gibson, Althea

Althea Gibson (ălthē´ə), 1927–2003, African-American tennis player, b. Silver, S.C. In 1948 she won the first of 10 straight national black women's singles championships. She was the first African American to play in the U.S. grass court championships at Forest Hills, N.Y. (1950), and at Wimbledon, England (1951). In addition to many international tournament victories, she won the French women's singles championship in 1956 and the U.S. and British championships in both 1957 and 1958. She retired from competition in 1958. In 1971 she was named to the National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame.

See her autobiography, I Always Wanted to Be Somebody (1958).

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