Arthur Ashe (1943-1993)

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Arthur Ashe is a professional, 3 Grand Slam American tennis player. He was raised in Richmond, Virginia by his father who pushed him to play sports and got Ashe into tennis at the age of 7. In 1958, Ashe played in his first racially integrated tournament and became the first African American to play in the Maryland boys’ championships. Shortly after in 1960, Ashe accepted an offer from Richard Hudlin, a St. Louis teacher and tennis coach, and quickly moved to St. Louis to spend his senior year focusing further on the sport. He graduated from Sumner High School and was awarded a tennis scholarship to UCLA. Ashe joined the ROTC program in her college years, so after graduating in 1966 he joined the US Army where he was assigned to the US Military Academy at West Point to work both as a data processor and head the tennis program. After leaving the military, Ashe focused even further on his tennis career. In 1963, he became the first Black player selected to the US Davis Cup Team, which he would later captain from 1981-1985. Ashe was ranked by several sports companies as Number 1 in the world in 1968 and in 1975, and by ATP computer rankings, peaked at Number 2 in 1976. He is still today the only Black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. 

 

Ashe retired in 1980 and wrote for magazines, commentated sports games, and founded the National Junior Tennis League. Five years later he was elected into the Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1988, he published his book, A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African-American Athlete, which he said was more important than any tennis title win. Ashe contracted HIV in 1983 from a blood transfusion during heart surgery, publicly announcing his illness and becoming an advocate for HIV-AIDS education in 1992. That year, Ashe founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. Ashe died in 1993 from AIDS-related pneumonia and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom later that year. Ashe’s athletic success and his advocacy off the court is still remembered today.