Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. (July 10, 1943 – February 6, 1993) was a prominent 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.
In his youth, Ashe was small and decided to start playing tennis. He was coached by Ron 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 inaugural U.S. Open and aided the U.S Davis Cup team to victory. 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.
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 U.S. 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.
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.
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. After a quadruple coronary-bypass operation, he appeared to have made a full recovery, but was obliged to give up competitive tennis.
The story of Ashe's life turned from success to tragedy in 1988, however, when 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, Arthur 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.
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.