Arthur Ashe was a skinny little kid who learned tennis on the public courts in Richmond, VA during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Little did anyone know at the time that this African-American would make such a significant impression on what was the mostly white sport of tennis for the rich and famous. As he did everything in his life, Ashe took on the world with grace and dignity.
Ashe graduated at the top of his high school class and earned a scholarship to UCLA where he won the NCAA individual and team titles. He was the first African-American man named to the U.S. Davis Cup team, and the first (and only) to reach world No. 1. He was president of the ATP, served as captain of the Davis Cup team, and has been inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame. Sadly, Ashe’s life was cut short when, in 1993 at the age of 49, he passed away from complications of AIDS.
With all that Ashe accomplished in his 10-year tennis career, he is also remembered for everything he did away from tennis off the court. In 1969, Ashe saw inequities in the prize money being offered, so he and several other players formed what is now known as the Association of Tennis Professionals. Later that year, he was denied a visa to play a tournament in South Africa because of his skin color, and he took a stand against apartheid. Prominent individuals and organizations, both in and out of tennis, stood behind him as he single handedly raised the world’s awareness of the oppressive form of government in South Africa.
The legacy of Arthur Ashe lives on in the charities he founded, including the National Junior Tennis League, the ABC Cities Tennis Program, the Athlete-Career Connection, the Safe Passage Foundation, and AAFDA. Ashe has also been appropriately honored by the United States Tennis Association, when they named center court at the new U.S. Open facility Arthur Ashe Stadium. The tennis world is a much better place because of him.
"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome" - Arthur Ashe.