Arthur Ashe

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. (July 10, 1943February 6, 1993) was an African American tennis player who was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. During his playing career, he won three Grand Slam titles. Ashe is also remembered for his efforts to further social causes.

Early life and tennis career

He was coached by Ronald Charity and later coached by Walter Johnson. Tired of having to travel great distances to play caucasian youths in segregated Richmond, Virginia, Ashe accepted an offer from a Saint Louis, Missouri tennis official to move there and attend Sumner High School. Young Ashe was recognized by Sports Illustrated for his playing.

Ashe was awarded a tennis scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1963. That same year, Ashe became the first African American ever selected to the United States Davis Cup team.

In 1965, Ashe won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) singles title and contributed to UCLA's winning the team NCAA tennis championship. While at UCLA, Ashe was initiated as a member of the Upsilon chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

In 1968, Ashe won the United States Amateur Championships and the inaugural US Open and aided the U.S Davis Cup team to victory. He is the only player to have won both of these amateur and open national championships in the same year. Concerned that tennis professionals were not receiving winnings commensurate with the sport's growing popularity, Ashe supported formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals. That year would prove even more momentous for Ashe when he was denied a visa by the South African government, thereby keeping him out of the South African Open. Ashe used this denial to publicize South Africa's apartheid policies. In the media, Ashe called for South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit.

Professional tennis career

In 1969, Ashe turned professional. In 1970, Ashe won his second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open.

In 1975, Ashe won Wimbledon, unexpectedly defeating Jimmy Connors in the final. He played for several more years, but after being slowed by heart surgery in 1979, Ashe retired in 1980.

Ashe remains the only African American player ever to win the men's singles at Wimbledon, the US Open, or Australian Open. He is one of only two men of black African ancestry to win a Grand Slam singles title (the other being France's Yannick Noah, who won the French Open in 1983).

In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, ranked Ashe as one of the 21 best players of all time.

Activities after retirement from professional tennis

After his retirement, Ashe took on many new tasks, including writing for Time magazine, commentating for ABC Sports, founding the National Junior Tennis League, and serving as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team. In 1983, Ashe underwent a second heart surgery. He was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.

Personal life

Ashe served in the U.S. Army from 1966–68, reaching the rank of second lieutenant.

On February 20, 1977, Ashe married Jeanne Moutoussamy, a photographer he had met four months earlier. Andrew Young, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, performed the ceremony at the U.N. chapel in New York. Arthur and Jeanne adopted one child together, a daughter, who was born on December 21, 1986. She was named Camera after her mother's profession. Camera was only six years old when her father died.

In 1979, Ashe suffered a heart attack, an event that surprised the public in view of his high level of fitness as an athlete. His condition drew attention to the hereditary aspect of heart disease. Ashe underwent a quadruple coronary-bypass operation, performed by Dr. John Hutchinson on December 13, 1979. Ashe reported that Dr. Hutchinson removed veins from his legs and implanted them in his chest to take over the functions of his clogged arteries. A few months after the operation, Ashe was on the verge of making his return to professional tennis. While on a family trip in Cairo, Egypt, Ashe saw his dreams of returning quickly fade away. He was running one afternoon when chest pain struck again. Ashe stopped running and returned to see physician and close friend Douglas Stein, who had accompanied the family on the trip. Stein urged Ashe to return to New York City so he could be close to his cardiologist and surgeon.

In 1988, Ashe discovered he had contracted HIV during the blood transfusions he had received during one of his two heart surgeries. He and his wife kept his illness private until April 8, 1992, when reports that the newspaper USA Today was about to publish a story about his condition forced him to make a public announcement that he had the disease. In the last year of his life, Ashe did much to call attention to AIDS sufferers worldwide. Two months before his death, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery and was named Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year. He also spent much of the last years of his life writing his memoir Days of Grace, finishing the manuscript less than a week before his death.

Ashe died from complications from AIDS on February 6, 1993.

Civil rights leader

Arthur, the first African-American male to win a Grand Slam event, was an active civil rights supporter. He was a member of a delegation of 31 prominent African-Americans who visited South Africa to observe political change in the country as it approached racial integration.

He was arrested on January 11, 1985, for protesting outside the South African embassy in Washington D.C during an anti-apartheid rally. He was also arrested again on September 9, 1992, outside the White House for protesting on the recent crackdown on Haitian refugees.


  • "From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life."
  • "For every hour spent on the playing field, two should be spent with a book."
  • "Let me put it this way: I think Republicans tend to keep the ball in play, Democrats go for broke."
  • "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 the cost."
  • During his battle with AIDS, one of his fans asked, "Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?" Ashe replied, "The world over — 50,000,000 children start playing tennis, 5,000,000 learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5,000 reach the Grand Slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to the semifinals, 2 to the finals. When I was holding a cup, I never asked God 'Why me?' And today in pain I should not be asking God, 'Why me?'"
  • "Clothes and manners do not make the man; but when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance."
  • "You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy.
  • "If one's reputation is a possession, then of all my possessions, my reputation means most to me."
  • "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."
  • "I respected the way they stood tall against the sky and insisted on being heard in matters other than Track and Field -- on matters of Civil Rights and social responsibility. I couldn't help but admire them." --- on the Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos when they did the Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City (as quoted by Samuel L. Jackson at the 2008 Espys)


Grand Slam singles finals

Wins (3)

Year Championship Opponent in Final Score in Final
1968 US Open Tom Okker 14–12, 5–7, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3
1970 Australian Open Dick Crealy 6–4, 9–7, 6–2
1975 Wimbledon Jimmy Connors 6–1, 6–1, 5–7, 6–4

Runner-ups (4)

Year Championship Opponent in Final Score in Final
1966 Australian Championships Roy Emerson 6–4, 6–8, 6–2, 6–3
1967 Australian Championships Roy Emerson 6–4, 6–1, 6–4
1971 Australian Open Ken Rosewall 6–1, 7–5, 6–3
1972 US Open Ilie Năstase 3–6, 6–3, 6–7, 6–4, 6–3

All finals


Wins (33)

1. 1968 U.S. National Championships, USA
2. August 29, 1968 US Open, New York City, USA Grass Tom Okker 14–12, 5–7, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3
3. January 19, 1970 Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia Grass Dick Crealy 6–4, 9–7, 6–2
4. 1970 Berkeley, California
5. 1970 Paris, France
6. 1971 Charlotte, USA
7. 1971 Paris, France
8. 1971 Stockholm, Sweden

  • 1972 – Louisville WCT, Montreal WCT, Rome WCT, Rotterdam WCT
  • 1973 – Chicago WCT, Washington
  • 1974 – Barcelona WCT, Bologna WCT, Stockholm
  • 1975 – Barcelona WCT, Dallas WCT, Los Angeles, Munich WCT, Rotterdam WCT, San Francisco, Stockholm - WCT, Wimbledon
  • 1976 – Columbus WCT, Indianapolis WCT, Richmond WCT, Rome WCT, Rotterdam WCT
  • 1978 – Colombus, Los Angeles, San Jose


References and external links

Further reading

  • Deford, Frank; Ashe, Arthur (1975). Arthur Ashe: Portrait in Motion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Rampersad, Arnold; Ashe, Arthur (1993). Days of Grace: A Memoir. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Towle, Mike (2001). I Remember Arthur Ashe: Memories of a True Tennis Pioneer and Champion of Social Causes by the People Who Knew Him. Cumberland House Publishing.


  • Wimbledon 1975 Final: Ashe vs. Connors Standing Room Only, DVD Release Date: October 30, 2007, Run Time: 120 minutes, ASIN: B000V02CTQ.

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