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Black News and News Makers in History: Arthur Ashe, Jr.

African American news - Amazing African Americans in History - Arthur Ashe, Tennis ProArthur Ashe, Jr., a social activist and professional tennis player who won three Grand Slam titles, was the first African American to win the U.S. Open. Ashe is the only African American tennis player to win the men's singles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, or U.S. Open.

Born on July 5, 1943 in Virginia, Arthur Ashe, Jr. was raised by his father from the age of six after his mother died of heart disease. He began to play tennis at age six on the courts where his father was caretaker. He received a college scholarship to play tennis at UCLA and became the first African American tennis player selected to be on the U.S. Davis Cup team.

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

From 1966 through 1968, he served in the U.S. Army at the rank of first lieutenant.

In 1968, he won the U.S. Amateur Championships and the inaugural U.S. Open and assisted the U.S. Davis Cup team to their victory. He is the only player to have won both of these amateur and open national championships in the same year.

That same year, he was also denied entry into South Africa where he was to play in a tournament and used the event to publicize the apartheid policies there and asked that South Africa be expelled from the professional tennis tournament circuit.

He graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration and, in 1969, turned professional in tennis. In 1970, he won the Australian Open, his second Grand Slam title, and in 1975, won the Wimbledon final.

In 1979, he had a quadruple bypass surgery after suffering a heart attack. His condition drew attention to the hereditary aspect of heart disease. After his recovery, as he was preparing to return to playing tennis, he experienced chest pain while running. He retired a year later, but continued as captain of the U.S. David Cup team and began writing for Time magazine and commentating for ABC Sports. He also founded the National Junior Tennis League.

In 1983, he underwent a second heart surgery to correct the first surgery.

He continued to work toward racial integration in South Africa and, in 1985, was arrested in Washington, D.C. outside the South African embassy for protesting.

In 1985, he was voted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He also founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS.

In 1988, he learned he had contracted HIV due to blood transfusions needed during his second heart surgeries. This was not public knowledge until 1992.

In 1992, he again was arrested for civil rights activities, this time for protesting against the crackdown on Haitian refugees.

He did speak out for AIDS sufferers and, shortly before his death in 1993, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery. He was also named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine. He finished his memoir, Days of Grace, just days before his death.

After his death, Arthur Ashe's body lay in state at the governor's mansion in his home state of Virginia. The last time this someone lay in state was for Stonewall Jackson of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

In his honor, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.  Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York was named after him.  IN 2005, a U.S. postage stamp was issued to commemorate his life--the first stamp ever to feature the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine.  The ESPY Awards now give an Arthur Ashe for Courage award to an athlete who has shown courage in situations of adversity.  Numerous schools have been named after him.  There are many other honors.

Arthur Ashe, Jr. can be remembered as a great professional tennis player and for his efforts to further social causes.  He remains the only African American man to ever win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, or Australian Open and he is one of only two men of African ancestry to win a Grand Slam singles title.  He has been ranked as one of the 21 best players of all time.

Some quotes include:

  • "Success is a journey, not a destination."[
  • "True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost."
  • "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."
  • "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)
  • "From what we get, we make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." (paraphrasing Winston Churchill -"You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give")[
  • "I believe I was destined to do more than hit tennis balls"
  • “If I were to say, God, why me? about the bad things, then I should have said, God, why me? about the good things that happened in my life.”
  • When he received a letter from a fan which conveyed:  ”Why did God have to select you for such a bad disease?” Ashe replied, "Listen. 50 million children around the world start playing tennis. 5 million learn to play tennis. 500,000 learn professional tennis. 50,000 come to the circuit. 5000 reach The Grand Slam. 50 reach Wimbledon. 8 reach the Quarterfinals. 4 to the Semifinals. 2 to the Finals. When I was holding the Cup I never asked God: Why me? So why now in pain should I be asking Him: Why me?”

Excerpts from http://arthurashefacts.com/ and Wikipedia.

 
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