Her Bio -
Born August 25, 1927 in Silver, SC, A right-hander, grew up in Harlem. Her family
was poor, but she was fortunate in coming to the attention of Dr. Walter Johnson,
a Lynchburg VA physician who was active in the black tennis community. He became
her patron as he would later for Arthur Ashe, the black champion at Forest Hills
(1968) and Wimbledon (1975). Through Dr. Johnson, Gibson received better instruction
and competition, and contacts were set up with the USTA to inject her into the
recognized tennis scene.
A trailblazing athlete who become the first African American to win championships at Grand Slam tournaments such as Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Doubles and the United States Open in the late 1950s. Gibson had a scintillating amateur career in spite of segregated offerings earlier in the decade.
She won 56 singles and doubles titles during her amateur career in the 1950s before gaining international and national acclaim for her athletic prowess on the professional level in tennis.
Gibson won 11 major titles in the late 1950s, including singles titles at the French Open (1956), Wimbledon (1957, 1958) and the U. S. Open (1957, 1958), as well as three straight doubles crowns at the French Open (1956, 1957, 1958).
In 1957, she was the first black to be voted by the Associated Press as it Female Athlete of the Year. She won the honor again in 1958. After winning her second U.S. Championship, she turned professional. One year she earned a reported $100,000 in conjunction with playing a series of matches before Harlem Globetrotter basketball games.
There was no professional tennis tour in those days, so Gibson turned to the pro golf tour for a few years, but she didn't distinguish herself. She tried playing a few events after open tennis started in 1968, but she was in here 40's and too old to beat her younger opponents. She worked as a tennis teaching pro after she stopped competing.
She became New Jersey State Commissioner of Athletics in 1975, a post she held for 10 years. She then served on the State's Athletics Control Board until 1988 and the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness until 1992. On September 28, 2003 at the age of 76, Althea Gibson died in East Orange General Hospital.
The title of her autobiography, written in 1958, is "I Always Wanted to Be Somebody." To tennis fans, she always will be somebody very special. Though she didn't go looking for the role of pioneer, she was one. "If it hadn't been for her," says Billie Jean King, winner of 12 Grand Slam singles titles, "it wouldn't have been so easy for Arthur (Ashe) or the ones who followed."
Wimbledon Singles Championship
Wimbledon Doubles Championship
Wimbledon Mixed-Doubles Finalist
USLTA Singles Championship
USLTA Mixed-Doubles Championship
USLTA Doubles Finalist
USLTA Singles Championship
Australian Doubles Championship
Australian Singles Finalist
French Singles Championship
French Doubles Championship