On this Day September 9th in the year 1968 Arthur Ashe became the first winner of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship, defeating Tom Okker of the Netherlands at Forest Hills Stadium, New York. He wasn’t just the first African winner but the first winner period.
Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. was the first, and is still the only, African-American male player to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. He is also the first black American to be ranked No. 1 professional tennis player in the world. He won three Grand Slam titles.
Besides playing tennis, he was an activist, an avid reader and straight A student. In 1950 Arthur met Ronald Charity, one of the best black tennis players in the nation and a part-time tennis coach, who took an interest in Arthur. He began working with him regularly, teaching him strokes and proper form. By 1953 it was apparent that Arthur had a talent for tennis but needed a proper coach in order to keep improving. At this point Charity introduced him to Dr. Walter Johnson, who would become his lifelong coach and mentor. Dr. Johnson was also the coach of the only African-American competing in world tennis at that time, Althea Gibson.
Arthur Ashe transitioned in New York City on February 6, 1993, from AIDS-related pneumonia. Four days later, he was laid to rest in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Some 6,000 people attended the service.
Here are a few quotes by Arthur:
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
Arthur Ashe’s Career Highlights Includes:
- Won the ATA National Championship for boys 12 years and under in 1953.
- Graduated 1st in his class from high school.
- Earned a full scholarship to attend college at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
- Elected as President of ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) in 1974.
- Selected as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup Team in 1981.
- Inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.
- Named Sport Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1992.
- He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993.
- After Ashe died in 1993 his body was displayed at the Governor's Mansion in Virginia for public mourning. The last time this was done was for Stonewall Jackson, a general of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
- The main stadium at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park, is named Arthur Ashe Stadium in his honor. This is where the U.S. Open is played during which the annual Arthur Ashe Kids Day is held.
- In 2005 the United States Postal Service released an Arthur Ashe commemorative postal stamp, the first stamp ever to feature the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine.
- Also in 2005, TENNIS Magazine put him in 30th place in its list of 40 Greatest Players of the TENNIS era.
- In 2007 Arthur Ashe was listed at #14 in USA Today's list of 25 Most Inspiring People of the Last 25 Years
- In 2009, he was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions by President Bill Clinton
- Numerous honorary degrees were bestowed on him during his life and posthumously including ones from: Amherst College, Barnard College, The College of William and Mary, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Hartford College, Haverford College, Kalamazoo College, Le Moyne College, Le Moyne-Owen College, New York University, Northeastern University, Princeton University, Saint John's University, Trinity University, University of Delaware, Virginia Union University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Wake Forest University, Yale University.