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ARTHUR ASHE

American tennis player (1943-1993)

As a child growing up in segregated Richmond, Virginia, Arthur's physical stature did little to indicate his future career as a professional athlete.  "Skinny as a straw," Arthur derived countless hours of pleasure reading and listening to music with his mother, Mattie.  He also showed a suprising flair for tennis from the first time he picked up a racquet.  At the age of six, Mattie passed away suddenly, though heartbroken Arthur's memory of his beloved mother was a source of inspiration throughout his life. 

Upon graduation from high school, Arthur was good enough to earn a tennis scholarship to UCLA.  It was at UCLA that Arthur became recognized for his tennis ability on a national level, culminating with an individual, and team NCAA championship in 1965.   He was growing as a person as well, graduating in 1966 with a B.A. in Business Administration.  "Success is a journey, not a destination."  "The doing is often more important than the outcome." 

Ashe was selected in 1963 to represent the United States in Davis Cup play, an honor in which he took great pride.  In doing so, he also became the first African-American selected to play for the American team.  The relevancy of these accomplishments was not lost on Ashe.  His determination to succeed "despite" being an outcast in a historically white sport opened the door for many African-Americans who have followed him in professional tennis. 

By the mid-1970's, people began to whisper that perhaps Arthur was spending too much time on causes and not enough time on his game.  It was from these doubts that Arthur began to refocus on his game, determined to reach the level of play he once enjoyed.  In 1975, at the age of 31, Arthur Ashe enjoyed one of his finest seasons ever, and one of the shining moments of his career by winning the Wimbledon.  He also attained the ultimate ranking of #1 in the world. 

In 1988, while in the hospital for brain surgery, Arthur received the overwhelming news that he was HIV-Positive.  He had contracted the virus through a tainted transfusion during his two heart surgeries, almost certainly the second in 1983.  Arthur Ashe passed away on February 6, 1993, having raised awareness of AIDS to a level where paranoia was no longer the overriding emotion.   More than merely a great tennis player, Arthur Ashe left a mark on this world in a number of social causes that ensure that his legacy will endure.

 

Revised: July 18, 2013.