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A Major Event For The Preservation And Rememberance Of The Life And Contributions Of American Tennis Great Althea Gibson At 2019 U.S. Open

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Althea Gibson Monument Unveiled On Day One of 2019 U.S. Open

The historic occasion of  the Althea Gibson Statue Unveiling on Monday, September 26, 2019, the first day of the U.S. Open, raised so many different levels of thoughts and feelings.  The day was beautiful, the weather was good and the crowd was large, we were about to witness a tremendous turn around in the consistent lack of preservation and honor that Ms. Gibson has long deserved.

The greatness that Ms. Gibson brought to the Black community, the tennis world and America should have already afforded her legacy the dignity and respect that many who have done far less have already received.

This incredible Black woman was the first to break the color barrier of the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) in 1950, and played in the U. S. National Tennis Championships in Forest Hills. She became the first African-American player to play in Wimbledon in 1951. She won the French Open Championship in 1956. Ms. Gibson won the U.S. National Championships and Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958. These victories were especially historic because the winner’s trophy was presented to her by Queen Elizabeth.

Ms. Gibson also broke the color barrier in golf, launching her golf career in 1964 and joining the
Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

On the day of the Unveiling, Immediate Past United States Tennis Association (USTA) President Katrina Adams, and former tennis professionals Leslie Allen and Zina Garrison, all gave tribute to, and discussed the depth of what Ms. Gibson meant to them and the role that her mentorship played in their becoming successful players. Witnessing these Black women honor the fact that had there been no Althea Gibson, they would not be where they are today, paid well deserved, respectful and loving tribute to yet another history making and door opening Black American woman.

American tennis great Billie Jean King, Angela Buxton, Ms. Gibson's former doubles partner, and the creator of the monument, Eric Goulder, also discussed and paid wonderful tribute to Ms. Gibson. Of particular note was Mr. Goulder's detailing of his concept in creating the monument.  During an interview he talked about, "The bust portion sitting atop a box, the box representing the box that the world tried to keep her in, and her now sitting atop that box she is depicted having broken out of it." And that, "Her shoulder is especially depicted in the way that it is, because so many now stand on it."

Talking to Mr. Goulder brought so much more conceptual meaning to his work. Upon returning to the statue, I now saw it in a totally different light, and was also spiritually enlightened by it.

Ms. Buxton shared shared memories of her long-time friend. “We won both the French and Wimbledon doubles together with my arm around her both times at the closing ceremonies … She slowly became the Jackie Robinson of tennis and I was soon referred to as the Pee Wee Reese, who without saying a word indicated ‘This is my friend.’”


The sculpture also will activate an augmented reality experience. Developed by MRM/McCann, visitors will be able to activate exclusive content about Althea Gibson’s life and legacy by focusing the Augmented Reality (AR) Viewfinder found within the 2019 US Open app onto the sculpture.  Narrated by Billie Jean King, the additional AR experience traces Althea’s humble roots, her early interest and involvement in tennis, her career and her legacy through video footage, photos and graphics.  Fans can also view the AR experience anywhere by using the APP to place a full-size 3D “hologram” of the sculpture into their surroundings and re-live the experience again or for the very first time.component that brings Gibson's life and career to life for fans on site during the Open via the US Open mobile app.

This honor that the USTA has bestowed upon Ms. Gibson shines such a brighter light on the historic and current day value of the life of Althea Gibson. Later in the day, I stood and watched people of many different cultures stop and observe the monument, take photos in front of it or standing beside it, and reading her quote that is engraved on one of the surrounding granite blocks, "I hope that I have accomplished just one thing: that I have been a credit to tennis and my country.

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SAVE THE DATE!! 2019 US Open Althea Gibson Statue Unveiling Hosted By Katrina Adams

Thursday, July 11, 2019


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Serena Williams Posts Her Honor On Becoming The Second Black Woman On Wheaties Box

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


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BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Black Tennis - A Historical Perspective By Bob Davis

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Black Tennis Pro's Bob Davis Black History Month Minority Tennis - A Historical PerspectiveThis Black History Month perspective is a three-part article written by Bob Davis whom you will meet, and on some level come to know, through the words of his writing.  Each of the three parts are available in this post. 


At a time when Bob was a contributing editor for Tennis Life Magazine , he wrote this perspective that frankly, engagingly and historically captures the contributions, successes and struggles of Black tennis players and coaches in the world of tennis; it is still on point today.

It is always a true honor and pleasure to share the depth of historical knowledge and perspective that comes second nature to Bob. Without question I know that you will find it a must read also.

Years ago Bob was referred to me by his brother, Bill Davis, whose story is one of the most read posts here.

It is Bob's intention, along with others such as Arthur Carrington of Art Carrington Tennis Academy and Dale G. Caldwell of Black Tennis Hall of Fame to accurately preserve and present the history of Blacks in tennis. You will be able to see examples of what these gentlemen are doing to make this happen.

Bob stated to me that "The players today need to have an appreciation for the the likes of players such as Billy Davis and George Stewart and the people that pioneered the Black tennis world when we were not allowed to play USTA tournaments. Therein lay the value of The ATA (American Tennis Association), our only way to play tennis competitively."

In recounting some of the racial struggles that he, Arthur Ashe and other players endured as they entered the tennis world he said, "Something in me wishes all of these young players understood that it took that kind of perseverance, and that kind of exposure to enable them to just walk out there and send in an entry fee."

I was so captivated with my conversation with Bob that I could go on with those words and the offering would hold just as much interest. However, I will stop here and let you read his experiences and thoughts as presented in his perspective.

SYMBOLS OF CHANGE

MINORITY TENNIS – A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
PART I
THE BEGINNING

Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865. Nearly 15 years later, in 1880, the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) was founded (The name was later changed to USTA). Tennis was the dominion of the white, upper class and Blacks were neither interested, nor invited to participate. Segregation was rampant throughout America and an attitude of exclusion was pervasive in most areas of American society.

Blacks began to surface on tennis courts in about 1890 at Tuskegee Institute. Booker T. Washington, one of America’s great, black visionaries and leaders, founded Tuskegee. In his famous Atlanta Address of 1895, Booker T. Washington set forth the motivating spirit behind Tuskegee Institute. In a post Reconstruction era marked by growing segregation and disfranchisement of blacks, this spirit was based on what realistically might be achieved in that time and place. "The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now," he observed, "is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house." Because of Washington's extraordinary ability to work within the system and to maximize the possible, Tuskegee flourished to the extent only dreamed about when he met his first students on July 4, 1881.

By 1898, Blacks began to have inter-club matches with rival black clubs in New York, Philadelphia and a variety of other eastern seaboard cities. These inter-club rivalries were primarily networking opportunities; occasions for the black, college-graduated elite to commune with their colleagues from other cities. This group of clubs eventually grew in number until an organizational structure was needed. In 1916, the American Tennis Association (ATA) was created as the governing body of Black tennis in America. In the fifty years since slavery was abolished, 80% of the Black population became educated. Nearly 4 million people came out of slavery as legislated illiterates and by 1915, an elite middle-class had been formed. By today’s standards, this is a phenomenal accomplishment. When one considers the growing rate of illiteracy across America, illiteracy that transcends racial lines, we should look at this statistic with awe and wonder!

In any event, it was this continuing attitude of separation that caused a group of black professionals to form the American Tennis Association (ATA) in 1916. The primary mission of the ATA was the formation of a circuit of black clubs and tournaments across the country. This new organization permitted the black elite to travel from city to city, network amongst their peers and enjoy the game of tennis. These separate but unequal tennis societies continued without conflict for nearly 25 years. While blacks enjoyed the social and the networking opportunities provided by the ATA, the USLTA enjoyed the pristine, private, country club environment that offered the same opportunities to it’s constituency.

In many ways, this elite Black society was born of necessity. Blacks were determined to do for themselves what the segregated governing society refused to do for them. Significantly, these elite middle-class Blacks were graduates of Black colleges and universities and were educated in the Arts and Sciences. They became doctors, lawyers and educators and, because there was no access to professional sports at that time, went to college to develop the foundations for lifetime careers.

And so, Black business – and Black tennis flourished during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The ATA held its first national championship in 1917 in Baltimore, MD. Tally Holmes and Lucy Slowe emerged as the winners of that historic event. It was obvious that the ATA had gotten off to a resounding start and now emphasis was being placed on increasing the number of new clubs and the creation of junior development programs. By the mid-1930’s there were more than 100 member-clubs, many of them private, black-owned tennis and golf country clubs. This idyllic serenity was about to undergo a change as players began to improve and the desire to compete at the highest levels of the sport took on greater importance. The very first confrontation came in 1929 when Reginald Weir and Gerald Norman were denied entry into the National Indoors in New York City. Both paid their entry fees, but upon presenting themselves to play in the event, were denied the opportunity to participate. Formal complaints were filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the following response was received from the USLTA: “….the policy of the USLTA has been to decline the entry of colored players in our championships… In pursuing this policy we make no reflection upon the colored race but we believe that as a practical matter, the present methods of separate associations should be continued.” Neither Weir nor Norman were permitted to play, but it was now clear that the cauldron was being stirred.


PART II
THE EMERGENCE OF A BLACK CHAMPION

Role models within black communities were also easy to find during the forty’s and fifty’s. Segregation prevented successful Blacks from moving into the white, suburban communities, so “inner-city” children resided alongside doctors, lawyers and other legitimate businesspeople. Bandleader Duke Ellington, lightweight boxing champion Beau Jack, New York Giants baseball player Hank Thompson and other world-class entertainers lived within one block of my family’s New York City apartment.

In 1940, Donald Budge, the finest white player in America, took it upon himself to go into Harlem, in New York City, to play an exhibition match at the Black owned Cosmopolitan Tennis Club. He played against the top black player of the day, Jimmy McDaniel. The fact that McDaniel lost the match handily is no more than a footnote to the significance of Budge's appearance. It was the first time that a black player was able to test his skills against a white player; to gauge his strokes, strategy and knowledge of the sport against the best in the world. A white player had taken a stand in support of equal opportunity. Players, you see, have never been the problem; it has always been the administration struggling to break with tradition.

In 1946, a crude, street-tough, 19 year-old named Althea Gibson attracted the attention of two physicians, Dr. Hubert Eaton and Dr. R. Walter Johnson. An arrogant teenager, Althea lost in the finals of the ATA Women’s National Championships but her strength and athletic prowess was undeniable. She won the junior national titles in 1944 & 1945 and now, in her first year playing in the adult division, immediately became a serious challenge to the best ATA women players. By 1949, more than 30 years after the formation of the ATA, Althea began to challenge the collective imagination of the Black tennis community. She was seen as one outstanding player who had the potential to break the color barrier. But, there were problems! Blacks understood that a flaw attributed to one colored athlete would be attributed to all people of color. And Althea had flaws! She had not graduated from high school and her social graces were severely lacking. To Althea, competition was WAR! A loss would see her head straight for the locker room; no handshake, no “nice-match”, no smiles or other generally accepted niceties typically associated with tennis. These “flaws” would need to be corrected lest those that would follow her be burdened with her baggage. In fact, it was generally believed that if her “flaws” weren’t repaired, no one would be allowed to follow her. At the urging of world boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, Althea moved to Wilmington, NC to live with Dr. Eaton and his family as she studied to secure a high school diploma. This proximity to Dr. Eaton would also provide an opportunity to instill the manners and perspective that she would need to succeed. Summers had been well spent in training at Dr. Johnson’s home in Lynchburg, VA. By this time, Althea had become the class-of-the-field. She began to raise national awareness when, as a high school sophomore, she won 9 ATA tournaments without a loss. The overall strategy worked and in 1949, at the age of 22, Althea received her high school diploma and her graduation ring (paid for by welter-weight champion of the world, Sugar Ray Robinson).

The recognition that she received would pressure the USLTA to accept her entries into the Eastern Indoors and the National Indoors in 1949. She reached the quarterfinals of both events and now hoped to play the grass court circuit that led up to the USLTA National Championships at Forest Hills, New York. (In the pre-U.S. Open era, the U.S. National Championships were held on grass courts not far from today’s National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows). But, the USLTA had not yet decided if it would allow this “colored” woman to be the first of her race to play in America’s most prestigious tournament.

Racial prejudice, to many people of color, is a very confusing experience. Many people wondered how Pancho Segura, a man of color from Guayaquil, Equador, stricken with Rickets during childhood, was so easily welcomed into this lily-white environment. He was considerably darker in color than Althea, yet his acceptance never questioned. His bout with rickets caused his legs to be severely bowed and he was quite pigeon-toed. In fact, Billy Talbert and Segura, ranked number one and three in America respectively, represented the USLTA in an exhibition in Harlem in 1945. Talbert disposed of Jimmy McDaniels 6-2, 6-1, while Pancho beat Lloyd Scott, 6-2, 6-2. Pancho thrilled the Cosmopolitan crowds with his two fisted (baseball-like) style. In spite of his infirmities, Pancho was quite a good player. His earliest success came as a student at the University of Miami, where he won the NCAA singles championships three times in a row (from 1943 to 1945), a feat not matched in the twentieth century. I mention this only as a point of interest because Althea held no animosity towards Pancho; or anyone else for that matter. His unconditional acceptance into the white, inner-circle, indeed his affiliation with the USLTA was, and remains, somewhat of a curiosity.

Now, a nearly two decades after Don Budge stood his ground and broke with tradition, one of America’s finest women players would stand up for Althea. Alice Marble, one of the finest white players in America would challenge the administration to allow her to compete. She wrote an impassioned letter to the American Lawn Tennis Magazine in 1950 that was primarily responsible for Althea’s ability to play in and win Wimbledon and the U.S. National Titles in 1957 & 58.

This letter, given the time, context and author eloquently exposed the prejudice more clearly as anything before or since.

The letter read:

“On my current lecture tours, the question I am most frequently expected to answer is no longer: What do you think of Gussie’s panties? For every individual who still cares whether Gussie Moran has lace on her drawers, there are three who want to know if Althea Gibson will be permitted to play in the Nationals this year. Not being privy to the sentiments of the USLTA committee, I couldn’t answer their questions, but I came back to New York determined to find out. When I directed the question at a committee member of long standing, his answer, tacitly given, was in the negative. Unless something within the realm of the supernatural occurs, Miss Gibson will not be permitted to play in the Nationals.

He said nothing of the sort, of course. The attitude of the committee will be that Miss Gibson has not sufficiently proven herself. True enough, she was a finalist in the National Indoors, the gentleman admitted – but didn’t I think the field was awfully poor? I did not. It is my opinion that Miss Gibson performed beautifully under the circumstances. Considering how little play she has had in top competition, her win over a seasoned veteran like Midge Buck seems to me a real triumph. Nevertheless the committee, according to this member, insists that in order to qualify for the Nationals, Miss Gibson must also make a strong showing in the major eastern tournaments to be played between now and the date set for the big do at Forest Hills. Most of these major tournaments – Orange, East Hampton, Essex, etc, - are invitational, of course. If she is not invited to participate in them, as my committee member freely predicted, then she obviously will not be able to prove anything at all, and it will be the reluctant duty of the committee to reject her entry at Forest Hills. Miss Gibson is over a very cunningly wrought barrel, and I can only hope to loosen a few of its staves with one lone opinion.

I think it’s time we faced a few facts. If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it’s also time we acted a little more like gentle people and less like sanctimonious hypocrites. If there is anything left in the name of sportsmanship, it’s more than time f\to display what it means to us. If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it’s only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts, where tennis is played. I know those girls, and I can’t think of one who would refuse to meet Miss Gibson in competition. She might be soundly beaten for a while – but she has a much better chance on the courts than in the inner sanctum of the committee, where a different kind of game is played.” In closing, Miss Marble wrote: “I am beating no drums for Miss Gibson as a player of outstanding quality. As I said, I have seen her only in the National Indoors, where she obviously did play her best and was still able to display some lovely shots. To me, she is a fellow tennis player and, as such, deserving of the chance I had to prove myself. I’ve never met Miss Gibson but, to me, she is a fellow human being to whom equal privileges ought to be extended. Speaking for myself, I will be glad to help Althea Gibson in any way I can. If I can improve her game or merely give her the benefit of my own experiences, as I have many other young players, I’ll do that. If I can give her an iota more of confidence by rooting my heart out from the gallery, she can take my ford for it: I’ll be there.”

This impassioned letter was singularly responsible for Althea’s acceptance into several qualifying tournaments and for her admittance into the 1950 U.S Nationals. Althea easily won her first round match and lost in the second round of the Nationals to Louise Brough, a three- time Wimbledon Champion and the 1947 United States Champion. The 9-7 third set loss to Brough put everyone on notice that a serious, new contender had arrived. Althea had broken the color barrier! She went on to win the French Open singles and doubles and the Wimbledon doubles titles in 1956. She became the undisputed best player in the world by winning Wimbledon and the U.S National singles titles in 1957 and 1958. Althea retired to pursue a career in professional golf and as an entertainer, but before leaving this page I want to say to Althea Gibson (whom I have known, admired, played tennis with and whom I have called a friend since I was a kid) “Althea, you did us proud!”




Althea was also a celebrity of world-class proportions in her adopted hometown of New York City. She became a product spokesperson for the Ward Baking Company and (At left) was greeted on the steps of City Hall by Mayor Robert Wagner. Like Jackie Robinson before her, Althea had finally become “somebody.” She won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1957 and 1958 – something that no Black woman has ever done before….or since.











PART III

THE THIRD GENERATION


At the end of Althea’s career, Dr. Johnson realized that his dream of helping to produce a world champion was successful. But, he had something else up his sleeve… For the past several years, he had been grooming other talented youngsters at his home in Lynchburg, Virginia. Each summer, a group of the most talented minority youth from across the country would gather at his home to train and play tournaments. I was selected as the northeastern candidate and this is how I met the next world champion, Arthur Ashe. We were a talented group but it soon became clear that Arthur was something special. He was a quiet, determined youngster and was developing a formidable tennis game. In Dr. Johnson’s opinion, Arthur was perfect to lead the charge because he was unflappable. Insults, flagrant cheating and verbal abuse would roll off of Arthur’s back without effect. The mission was clear; win quietly and respond to nothing but the tennis ball. It was further made clear that any of us that reacted to the bad calls; any of us that argued; any of us that responded to the verbal slurs or challenged the fairness of the situation, would be sent home immediately. Although none of us were sent home for violations of these rules, those of us from the big, northern cities had to bite our tongues. Arthur, on the other had was born and raised in the segregated south. His father was the public park attendant at the tennis courts across the street from his home and he couldn’t play on those courts because he was black. He seemed to understand that he was destined for greatness and that his icy-cool demeanor was a key to success. We were made to understand that an outburst by one of us, would be seen as a negative characteristic of the entire group. Tournament directors would be able to say, “See, I knew they’d act that way if we let them into the tournament!” There were many youngsters placed in that situation over the years, but, none of us ever allowed those words to be uttered.

After civil rights legislation was enacted in 1964, history would show that the black elite moved to exclusive, suburban communities. Some people believe that this suburban exodus was the beginning of the decline in the growth of black tennis as well as a slowing of the positive growth in the black community. Others believe that the ability to live beside and emulate positive role models, along with the forced creation of a homogeneous community, were positive aspects of segregation. Black businessmen, both legitimate and otherwise, were guaranteed to be successful - as a direct result of segregation. Any Black that opened a grocery store, produce stand or repair store was certain to capture the business of the local constituency, because those customers were not permitted to patronize white-owned stores. This environment provided fertile ground for entrepreneurs; legitimate businessmen and hustlers alike.

It is into this era that Arthur Ashe emerged as a standout tennis player. In some ways, Arthur was a most unlikely role model and world champion. He was slender, almost frail looking. He was mild-mannered; always appearing to be passive, unemotional and reserved. Did he possess the strength, focus and determination to overcome the alienation of segregation, along with the rejection and degradation that was sure to be in his future? Wouldn’t someone from the north - someone with a more aggressive personality - someone who would defy the system have a better chance to overcome the odds? History would show that Arthur was the perfect candidate. He was simply better than the rest of us. He was a likeable young man and if you were not a hard-core racist, you would find Arthur friendly, personable and non-confrontational. Even in his memoirs, “Days of Grace”, one can sense his absence of anger. Concerning his inability to play tournament tennis in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, Arthur said: “I remember the kindly white tennis official, Sam Woods, who would not allow me to play in municipal tournaments in Richmond, and all the other not-so-kindly officials who barred my way so that I finally played in only one official tennis tournament while I was a junior in Virginia.”

His success as a Davis Cup player and his U.S. Open and Wimbledon titles are legendary. But, his recognition at tennis became the tool that he would use to challenge society to end the racial injustice that plagued the planet. He made several trips to South Africa (against the wishes of many Black leaders in America) to pressure the government to end apartheid. He marched on Washington in support of the fair treatment of Haitian refugees. His life was dedicated to the elevation of his people. He focused a great deal of his attention on education. He encouraged youngsters to become doctors and lawyers. He wanted youngsters to attend and graduate from college instead of putting all of their energy into athletics. He realized that less than 1% of varsity athletes ever signed a professional sports contract. At the same time, he made many attempts to create a system that produced a pipeline of young black players that could use tennis as a vehicle to take them to college. One such program was a collaboration with Nick Bollettieri. The Ashe-Bollettieri “Cities” Tennis Program (ABC) taught tennis to more than 10,000 children. The program attempted to impress upon them the value of preventive health education and the importance of staying in school. Hundreds from this program (which later became the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation) went on to college on either academic or athletic scholarships. It was one of the programs that made Arthur most proud. Before Arthur died, he got a glimpse of Venus and Serena Williams, two young girls that would, for a short time, take over the reins of leadership after his voice was silenced. But, Arthur would not live to see the emergence of James Blake. James possessed many qualities that would enamor him to the tennis community at large. He is handsome, articulate and Harvard University educated. More importantly, he is thoughtful, non-confrontational and non-threatening. James, if he is so inclined, will be the heir-apparent to Arthur’s throne; the voice of Black tennis. Because, you see, like Arthur, the voice of James Blake is the only one that is likely to resonate with the powers that be.


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TWITTER FILES: A Definite Must See! "Althea And Arthur" Documentary On CBS Sports Network Monday, February 18th

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


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BLACK TENNIS HISTORY: The Black Tennis Hall Of Fame

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


Mission Statement

The Black Tennis Hall of Fame is a non-profit, privately funded organization dedicated to preserving the history of African American tennis and honoring those who made exemplary contributions to the sport, with special consideration extended to those who overcame racial barriers.


Dr. Dale G. Caldwell, Founder

The Black Tennis Hall of Fame (BTHOF) was founded by
Dr. Dale G. Caldwell. He is the Founder and CEO of Strategic Influence, LLC and the creator of the “Intelligent Influence” framework for individual and organizational success. Dr. Caldwell graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Economics; received an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and, earned an Ed.D. in Education Administration from Seton Hall University. He has served on the Board of Directors of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), and as the USTA’s liaison to the American Tennis Association (ATA). He is a visionary that is determined to help the ATA return to its former status and to generate renewed interest in tennis in urban communities across America and elsewhere.

The BTHOF honors individuals who have broken through the barriers of race and class to achieve success in the wonderful sport of tennis.
 

Robert Davis, Executive Director
Tennis has become the world’s second most popular sport largely because of the geographic, cultural, stylistic and racial diversity of its professionals. The sport has developed passionate fans of different backgrounds because of this diversity. Unfortunately, diversity was not always encouraged by the sport’s leadership. Most people are familiar with the tennis and life successes of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. However, because of racial discrimination in tennis and America, few people know the incredible story of the many talented players who were not allowed to compete in major tennis tournaments because of their race.

 For over fifty years prior to Gibson’s victories, blacks had been competing in club and regional tournaments. Banned from entering segregated events, African American tennis enthusiasts in 1916 formed their own organization, the ATA, to provide blacks with the opportunity to play competitive tennis on a national level. Their struggle to gain equal access to tennis paralleled the struggle of all blacks to gain equal access to American society.

Presiding over the BTHOF is one of its own inductees, Mr. Robert Davis. If not for Davis, much of the early history of blacks in tennis (Black Tennis History) might have been lost. He has been relentless is preserving the history and the photos of the men and women who played the sport ... and fought for that right. And maybe the BTHOF might not be where it is today if not for the nurturing by Davis, who now serves as executive director. In this capacity, he has managed the day-to-day operations of this organization dedicated to recording and promoting tennis history. However, Davis could certainly play the game. He was a two-time ATA national champion and winner of numerous other titles. But it is what he has done in the background that has made the biggest impact. In more than 40 years dealing in the business end of the sport, Davis has a long history of working with children to provide guidance and opportunity in the game of tennis. He helped create, and served as National Program Director for the Ashe/Bollettieri “Cities” Tennis Program. A driving force of the program, and what later became known as the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation, Davis was instrumental in introducing more than 20,000 inner city children to tennis.

The Black Tennis Hall of Fame (BTHOF) was founded to honor the achievements of those individuals who achieved success in tennis and life in spite of the many barriers that they faced, as well as those who helped them achieve those successes. We honor these individuals by permanently inducting them into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.


Source(s)

Black Tennis History
The Herald Tribune

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WNBA INSPIRATION AWARD: 2012 Olympics Gold Medal Recipient Venus Williams Is Honored

Monday, September 10, 2012


NEW YORK — The United States’ female Olympians have been honored by WNBA with its Inspiration Award.

The women, who won 58 of the Americans’ 104 medals at the London Games, were celebrated at the league’s Inspiring Women Luncheon on Monday as WNBA President Laurel Richie praised them for their accomplishments

“You have captured the nation through your passion, dedication and hard work, and I suspect quite the bit of sacrifice,” Richie said. “You are an inspiration to the next generation of young girls who we know were glued to their TV sets and their iPads and iPods and all other devices, and they watched you compete. ... You have shown what women can be as athletes and what athletes can be as citizens.”

Tennis star Venus Williams — who earned her fourth Olympic gold, including her third in doubles with her sister Serena — credited Title IX and players such as Althea Gibson and Billie Jean King with paving the way for her opportunities.

“We all believe in women’s sports, we believe in women athletes,” Williams said. “Young women need to know they can achieve, and sports makes life better. It helps women be more successful, more confident. I am so proud to be amongst all these wonderful athletes who are role models.”

WNBA President Laurel Richie and American tennis superstar Venus Williams

Photos by Getty Images
Source:  WAPO Sports



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Black History Month: Minority Tennis - A Historical Perspective, Part III

Friday, February 26, 2010

Part I - The Beginning
Part II The Emergence Of A Black Champion



PART III

THE THIRD GENERATION


At the end of Althea’s career, Dr. Johnson realized that his dream of helping to produce a world champion was successful. But, he had something else up his sleeve… For the past several years, he had been grooming other talented youngsters at his home in Lynchburg, Virginia. Each summer, a group of the most talented minority youth from across the country would gather at his home to train and play tournaments. I was selected as the northeastern candidate and this is how I met the next world champion, Arthur Ashe. We were a talented group but it soon became clear that Arthur was something special. He was a quiet, determined youngster and was developing a formidable tennis game. In Dr. Johnson’s opinion, Arthur was perfect to lead the charge because he was unflappable. Insults, flagrant cheating and verbal abuse would roll off of Arthur’s back without effect. The mission was clear; win quietly and respond to nothing but the tennis ball. It was further made clear that any of us that reacted to the bad calls; any of us that argued; any of us that responded to the verbal slurs or challenged the fairness of the situation, would be sent home immediately. Although none of us were sent home for violations of these rules, those of us from the big, northern cities had to bite our tongues. Arthur, on the other had was born and raised in the segregated south. His father was the public park attendant at the tennis courts across the street from his home and he couldn’t play on those courts because he was black. He seemed to understand that he was destined for greatness and that his icy-cool demeanor was a key to success. We were made to understand that an outburst by one of us, would be seen as a negative characteristic of the entire group. Tournament directors would be able to say, “See, I knew they’d act that way if we let them into the tournament!” There were many youngsters placed in that situation over the years, but, none of us ever allowed those words to be uttered.

After civil rights legislation was enacted in 1964, history would show that the black elite moved to exclusive, suburban communities. Some people believe that this suburban exodus was the beginning of the decline in the growth of black tennis as well as a slowing of the positive growth in the black community. Others believe that the ability to live beside and emulate positive role models, along with the forced creation of a homogeneous community, were positive aspects of segregation. Black businessmen, both legitimate and otherwise, were guaranteed to be successful - as a direct result of segregation. Any Black that opened a grocery store, produce stand or repair store was certain to capture the business of the local constituency, because those customers were not permitted to patronize white-owned stores. This environment provided fertile ground for entrepreneurs; legitimate businessmen and hustlers alike.

It is into this era that Arthur Ashe emerged as a standout tennis player. In some ways, Arthur was a most unlikely role model and world champion. He was slender, almost frail looking. He was mild-mannered; always appearing to be passive, unemotional and reserved. Did he possess the strength, focus and determination to overcome the alienation of segregation, along with the rejection and degradation that was sure to be in his future? Wouldn’t someone from the north - someone with a more aggressive personality - someone who would defy the system have a better chance to overcome the odds? History would show that Arthur was the perfect candidate. He was simply better than the rest of us. He was a likeable young man and if you were not a hard-core racist, you would find Arthur friendly, personable and non-confrontational. Even in his memoirs, “Days of Grace”, one can sense his absence of anger. Concerning his inability to play tournament tennis in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, Arthur said: “I remember the kindly white tennis official, Sam Woods, who would not allow me to play in municipal tournaments in Richmond, and all the other not-so-kindly officials who barred my way so that I finally played in only one official tennis tournament while I was a junior in Virginia.”

His success as a Davis Cup player and his U.S. Open and Wimbledon titles are legendary. But, his recognition at tennis became the tool that he would use to challenge society to end the racial injustice that plagued the planet. He made several trips to South Africa (against the wishes of many Black leaders in America) to pressure the government to end apartheid. He marched on Washington in support of the fair treatment of Haitian refugees. His life was dedicated to the elevation of his people. He focused a great deal of his attention on education. He encouraged youngsters to become doctors and lawyers. He wanted youngsters to attend and graduate from college instead of putting all of their energy into athletics. He realized that less than 1% of varsity athletes ever signed a professional sports contract. At the same time, he made many attempts to create a system that produced a pipeline of young black players that could use tennis as a vehicle to take them to college. One such program was a collaboration with Nick Bollettieri. The Ashe-Bollettieri “Cities” Tennis Program (ABC) taught tennis to more than 10,000 children. The program attempted to impress upon them the value of preventive health education and the importance of staying in school. Hundreds from this program (which later became the Arthur Ashe Safe Passage Foundation) went on to college on either academic or athletic scholarships. It was one of the programs that made Arthur most proud. Before Arthur died, he got a glimpse of Venus and Serena Williams, two young girls that would, for a short time, take over the reins of leadership after his voice was silenced. But, Arthur would not live to see the emergence of James Blake. James possessed many qualities that would enamor him to the tennis community at large. He is handsome, articulate and Harvard University educated. More importantly, he is thoughtful, non-confrontational and non-threatening. James, if he is so inclined, will be the heir-apparent to Arthur’s throne; the voice of Black tennis. Because, you see, like Arthur, the voice of James Blake is the only one that is likely to resonate with the powers that be.



The author, Bob Davis, currently owns and operates Coastal Tennis and Sports, LLC in Bradenton, Florida.


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Black History Month: Minority Tennis - A Historical Perspective, Part II

Friday, February 19, 2010

PART I - The Beginning


PART II

THE EMERGENCE OF A BLACK CHAMPION



Role models within black communities were also easy to find during the forty’s and fifty’s. Segregation prevented successful Blacks from moving into the white, suburban communities, so “inner-city” children resided alongside doctors, lawyers and other legitimate businesspeople. Bandleader Duke Ellington, lightweight boxing champion Beau Jack, New York Giants baseball player Hank Thompson and other world-class entertainers lived within one block of my family’s New York City apartment.

In 1940, Donald Budge, the finest white player in America, took it upon himself to go into Harlem, in New York City, to play an exhibition match at the Black owned Cosmopolitan Tennis Club. He played against the top black player of the day, Jimmy McDaniel. The fact that McDaniel lost the match handily is no more than a footnote to the significance of Budge's appearance. It was the first time that a black player was able to test his skills against a white player; to gauge his strokes, strategy and knowledge of the sport against the best in the world. A white player had taken a stand in support of equal opportunity. Players, you see, have never been the problem; it has always been the administration struggling to break with tradition.

In 1946, a crude, street-tough, 19 year-old named Althea Gibson attracted the attention of two physicians, Dr. Hubert Eaton and Dr. R. Walter Johnson. An arrogant teenager, Althea lost in the finals of the ATA Women’s National Championships but her strength and athletic prowess was undeniable. She won the junior national titles in 1944 & 1945 and now, in her first year playing in the adult division, immediately became a serious challenge to the best ATA women players. By 1949, more than 30 years after the formation of the ATA, Althea began to challenge the collective imagination of the Black tennis community. She was seen as one outstanding player who had the potential to break the color barrier. But, there were problems! Blacks understood that a flaw attributed to one colored athlete would be attributed to all people of color. And Althea had flaws! She had not graduated from high school and her social graces were severely lacking. To Althea, competition was WAR! A loss would see her head straight for the locker room; no handshake, no “nice-match”, no smiles or other generally accepted niceties typically associated with tennis. These “flaws” would need to be corrected lest those that would follow her be burdened with her baggage. In fact, it was generally believed that if her “flaws” weren’t repaired, no one would be allowed to follow her. At the urging of world boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, Althea moved to Wilmington, NC to live with Dr. Eaton and his family as she studied to secure a high school diploma. This proximity to Dr. Eaton would also provide an opportunity to instill the manners and perspective that she would need to succeed. Summers had been well spent in training at Dr. Johnson’s home in Lynchburg, VA. By this time, Althea had become the class-of-the-field. She began to raise national awareness when, as a high school sophomore, she won 9 ATA tournaments without a loss. The overall strategy worked and in 1949, at the age of 22, Althea received her high school diploma and her graduation ring (paid for by welter-weight champion of the world, Sugar Ray Robinson).

The recognition that she received would pressure the USLTA to accept her entries into the Eastern Indoors and the National Indoors in 1949. She reached the quarterfinals of both events and now hoped to play the grass court circuit that led up to the USLTA National Championships at Forest Hills, New York. (In the pre-U.S. Open era, the U.S. National Championships were held on grass courts not far from today’s National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows). But, the USLTA had not yet decided if it would allow this “colored” woman to be the first of her race to play in America’s most prestigious tournament.

Racial prejudice, to many people of color, is a very confusing experience. Many people wondered how Pancho Segura, a man of color from Guayaquil, Equador, stricken with Rickets during childhood, was so easily welcomed into this lily-white environment. He was considerably darker in color than Althea, yet his acceptance never questioned. His bout with rickets caused his legs to be severely bowed and he was quite pigeon-toed. In fact, Billy Talbert and Segura, ranked number one and three in America respectively, represented the USLTA in an exhibition in Harlem in 1945. Talbert disposed of Jimmy McDaniels 6-2, 6-1, while Pancho beat Lloyd Scott, 6-2, 6-2. Pancho thrilled the Cosmopolitan crowds with his two fisted (baseball-like) style. In spite of his infirmities, Pancho was quite a good player. His earliest success came as a student at the University of Miami, where he won the NCAA singles championships three times in a row (from 1943 to 1945), a feat not matched in the twentieth century. I mention this only as a point of interest because Althea held no animosity towards Pancho; or anyone else for that matter. His unconditional acceptance into the white, inner-circle, indeed his affiliation with the USLTA was, and remains, somewhat of a curiosity.

Now, a nearly two decades after Don Budge stood his ground and broke with tradition, one of America’s finest women players would stand up for Althea. Alice Marble, one of the finest white players in America would challenge the administration to allow her to compete. She wrote an impassioned letter to the American Lawn Tennis Magazine in 1950 that was primarily responsible for Althea’s ability to play in and win Wimbledon and the U.S. National Titles in 1957 & 58.

This letter, given the time, context and author eloquently exposed the prejudice more clearly as anything before or since.

The letter read:

“On my current lecture tours, the question I am most frequently expected to answer is no longer: What do you think of Gussie’s panties? For every individual who still cares whether Gussie Moran has lace on her drawers, there are three who want to know if Althea Gibson will be permitted to play in the Nationals this year. Not being privy to the sentiments of the USLTA committee, I couldn’t answer their questions, but I came back to New York determined to find out. When I directed the question at a committee member of long standing, his answer, tacitly given, was in the negative. Unless something within the realm of the supernatural occurs, Miss Gibson will not be permitted to play in the Nationals.

He said nothing of the sort, of course. The attitude of the committee will be that Miss Gibson has not sufficiently proven herself. True enough, she was a finalist in the National Indoors, the gentleman admitted – but didn’t I think the field was awfully poor? I did not. It is my opinion that Miss Gibson performed beautifully under the circumstances. Considering how little play she has had in top competition, her win over a seasoned veteran like Midge Buck seems to me a real triumph. Nevertheless the committee, according to this member, insists that in order to qualify for the Nationals, Miss Gibson must also make a strong showing in the major eastern tournaments to be played between now and the date set for the big do at Forest Hills. Most of these major tournaments – Orange, East Hampton, Essex, etc, - are invitational, of course. If she is not invited to participate in them, as my committee member freely predicted, then she obviously will not be able to prove anything at all, and it will be the reluctant duty of the committee to reject her entry at Forest Hills. Miss Gibson is over a very cunningly wrought barrel, and I can only hope to loosen a few of its staves with one lone opinion.

I think it’s time we faced a few facts. If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it’s also time we acted a little more like gentle people and less like sanctimonious hypocrites. If there is anything left in the name of sportsmanship, it’s more than time f\to display what it means to us. If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it’s only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts, where tennis is played. I know those girls, and I can’t think of one who would refuse to meet Miss Gibson in competition. She might be soundly beaten for a while – but she has a much better chance on the courts than in the inner sanctum of the committee, where a different kind of game is played.” In closing, Miss Marble wrote: “I am beating no drums for Miss Gibson as a player of outstanding quality. As I said, I have seen her only in the National Indoors, where she obviously did play her best and was still able to display some lovely shots. To me, she is a fellow tennis player and, as such, deserving of the chance I had to prove myself. I’ve never met Miss Gibson but, to me, she is a fellow human being to whom equal privileges ought to be extended. Speaking for myself, I will be glad to help Althea Gibson in any way I can. If I can improve her game or merely give her the benefit of my own experiences, as I have many other young players, I’ll do that. If I can give her an iota more of confidence by rooting my heart out from the gallery, she can take my ford for it: I’ll be there.”

This impassioned letter was singularly responsible for Althea’s acceptance into several qualifying tournaments and for her admittance into the 1950 U.S Nationals. Althea easily won her first round match and lost in the second round of the Nationals to Louise Brough, a three- time Wimbledon Champion and the 1947 United States Champion. The 9-7 third set loss to Brough put everyone on notice that a serious, new contender had arrived. Althea had broken the color barrier! She went on to win the French Open singles and doubles and the Wimbledon doubles titles in 1956. She became the undisputed best player in the world by winning Wimbledon and the U.S National singles titles in 1957 and 1958. Althea retired to pursue a career in professional golf and as an entertainer, but before leaving this page I want to say to Althea Gibson (whom I have known, admired, played tennis with and whom I have called a friend since I was a kid) “Althea, you did us proud!”

Althea was also a celebrity of world-class proportions in her adopted hometown of New York City. She became a product spokesperson for the Ward Baking Company and (At left) was greeted on the steps of City Hall by Mayor Robert Wagner. Like Jackie Robinson before her, Althea had finally become “somebody.” She won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1957 and 1958 – something that no Black woman has ever done before….or since.



The author, Bob Davis, currently owns and operates Coastal Tennis and Sports, LLC in Bradenton, Florida.




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Zina Garrison Settles Discrimination Suit Against USTA

Friday, September 18, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Zina Garrison Settles USTA LawsuitNEW YORK -- Former Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison has settled her racial discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Tennis Association.

Papers filed in federal court on Wednesday show that a deal was signed on Aug. 27, though its terms were not disclosed.

U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier said the association is happy the case was resolved and was looking forward to working with Garrison in the future.

Garrison filed her lawsuit in February, saying she was treated unfairly because she was paid a lower salary than Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe and was held to higher standards.

Attorneys on both sides did not immediately return messages for comment.

The USTA announced in December 2007 that 2008 would be Garrison's final season at the helm.

Garrison, the first black captain of the U.S. Fed Cup team, replaced Billie Jean King in 2004. As a player, Garrison was the 1990 Wimbledon runner-up, becoming the first black woman since Althea Gibson in 1958 to reach a Grand Slam singles final.


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Meritorious Or Not, Garrison's Lawsuit Contains Hurtful Words

Saturday, March 14, 2009



Black Tennis Pro's Zina Garrison Sues USTAAs a player, Zina Garrison was known for her speed. She was pigeon-toed, not at all imposing. But when she was on the other side of the net, there seemed to be four Zinas, one for every corner of the court.

In her own way, she was a pioneer among African-American female tennis players, sandwiched between Althea Gibson, whom she befriended in the last years of the legend's life, and the Williams sisters. In fact, she was a bit of a prequel to Venus and Serena Williams, emerging from Houston's inner-city public courts to become a junior national champion who rose to as high as No. 4 in the world.

Unlike the Williamses, Garrison never won a Grand Slam singles title. Yet she won 14 singles and 20 doubles titles, finishing with a solid 587-270 singles record. Her personal highlight reel features a 1989 triumph over Chris Evert in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, a win that sent Evert into retirement. Then there was Garrison's run through Wimbledon the following year. She eliminated French Open champion Monica Seles in the quarters and the world No. 1 Steffi Graf in the semis before losing to friend and mentor Martina Navratilova in the final.

Now comes the flipside – an ugly lawsuit against the USTA alleging racial discrimination in the organization's treatment of Garrison in her five-year tenure as Fed Cup caption.

Captain Garrison was 5-5 in Fed Cup matches and never reached a final. But there were highlights there, too. Just maybe not enough for the USTA, which chose not to bring her back at the end of 2007. They let her coach one more year, giving her a No. 2 "coach," Mary Joe Fernandez, who was also publicly announced as her successor. Last year, in essence, Garrison wasn't even a lame duck. She had no legs.

Race suits are never pretty, even when they are clear, easy and incontrovertible – which this one isn't. Most often they disintegrate into he said/she said affairs, where both sides are ultimately bruised. Or they're settled and only the lawyers win.

This isn't the USTA's only brush with alleged racial discrimination. It is also being sued by former administrator Marvin Dent in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Dent, who is black, alleges he was bypassed for the position of director of tennis at the National Tennis Center in favor of Whitney Kraft, who is white. Dent also alleges a pattern of discrimination at the USTA, which it has denied.

Three years ago, the USTA entered into a consent decree with New York's attorney general that forced it to create an open process for hiring chair umpires. That followed a suit by two black umpires, alleging the USTA allowed racist comments directed toward African-American umpires. The decree lasted two years.

Garrison alleges unequal treatment relative to her counterpart, U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe – specifically unequal pay and unequal resources. She also argues that while she was never given more than one-year deals, Fernandez, with as much coaching experience as me, was signed for three years out of the box – and at a salary higher than Garrison's, the lawsuit alleges.

Garrison claims that the USTA may seek to justify Fernadez's deal by saying she is required to take on additional public duties.

But perhaps more disturbing are the alleged comments attributed to Sara Fornaciari, the Fed Cup chair. If true, they embody the underlying thread of racism that still must be eliminated.

Garrison alleges in the suit that Fornaciari "routinely referred to Garrison as the 'Black Ghost,' to impugn Garrison's reliability."

At a Fed Cup semifinal in Stowe, Vt., in July 2007, Fornaciari allegedly told Garrison after a media interview: "That was the most intelligent media comment I have ever heard you give."

Garrison took it to imply that she was "generally inarticulate and stupid," according to the suit.

In August that same year, Garrison alleges that Fornaciari told her to go to a tent at a USTA sectional event because she might "get a lot of minority business." Garrison says in the suit she was "troubled by the implication that she could network only with other minorities."

Some of the allegations may seem benign, but they tugged at Garrison, who writes that she later called Fornaciari to say she was unhappy with the tone of her comments.

"In response," says the suit, "Fornaciari launched into a vitriolic attack against Garrison and other African-Americans, including the Williams sisters. She told Garrison she was trying to 'help' her, stating, 'Let's face it. You can't talk. Nobody ever knows what you are saying.' "

Garrison challenged the tone of Fornaciari's remarks, but Fornaciari, according to the suit, "became irate and announced in a loud and angry tone, 'I will never speak to another black person again.' "

The USTA would not make Fornaciari available but had a statement:

"The USTA takes all allegations of discrimination seriously and takes pride in its numerous diversity initiatives and achievements," USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said.

"The USTA elected not to renew Ms. Garrison's Fed Cup captaincy based on her performance, and strongly denies any allegation of discrimination asserted by Ms. Garrison.

"During Ms. Garrison's five-year tenure as captain, the United States Fed Cup team did not advance to the Fed Cup final, its longest drought in the competition's 45-year history."

The suit also alleges that Garrison was also blamed for not being able to regularly recruit the Williams sisters, the two top American players, to play the Fed Cup (more than once, one or both of them would commit to playing, only to be sidelined by injury, which the suit alleges the USTA viewed with suspicion); and that in replacing Garrison the USTA wanted a "public face" and concluded she did not have "the look" it wanted for the team.

Like some other sports, and numerous corporations, the USTA likes to tout its "diversity initiatives," whatever they may be. That's all well and good, but when the words from the men and women charged with leading these initiatives and their enterprises represent the antithesis of what those initiatives aim to achieve, it tells me we still have a very long way to go.

And some places are not getting there fast enough.


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Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, MD: 2009 Inductee To International Tennis Hall Of Fame

Monday, February 23, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Dr. Robert W. Johnson 2009 International Tennis Hall Of FameDr. Robert Walter Johnson "Whirlwind", already inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, has been named an inductee with the class of 2009 into the International Tennis Hall Of Fame. Dr. Johnson received his nickname for his football prowess, however, he was best known for his contributions in the development of tennis programs in the United States.

ITHF Class of 2009 Announcement:

Robert Walter Johnson "Whirlwind"

Born: April 16, 1899

Died: June 28, 1971

Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia, United States

Citizenship: United States

Inducted: 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Dr. Robert W. Johnson 2009 International Tennis Hall Of Fame
Black Tennis Pro's Dr. Robert Johnson 2009 International Tennis Hall of Fame InducteeDr. Robert “Whirlwind” Johnson (1899-1971) is considered the man most responsible for launching the careers of world tennis greats Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, the nation's first African-American tennis champions. During a time of racial separation, Johnson, through quiet diplomacy, was able to open the doors of tournament competition to young African-Americans barred from mainstream competition. He persevered, despite the racial barriers of that time, and through whispered entreaties and legal challenges he helped pave the way for minorities to gain entrance into tournaments and excel at the highest levels of the game. For more than 20 years, Johnson’s home in Lynchburg, Virginia became the destination for talented black tennis players to receive training and to participate in integrated tournaments and exhibitions with the likes of Pauline Betz Addie and Bobby Riggs. He provided food, equipment, financial support and guidance throughout their development.


Through the American Tennis Association (ATA), which was formed in 1916, Johnson created the ATA Junior Development Program. In the 1950s and 1960s, he sponsored, trained and nurtured hundreds of African-American juniors - and several white juniors - at his Lynchburg home, where he had a tennis court in his backyard. He initiated the integration of black tennis at the junior level, and ultimately at the highest levels of the game, working as coach, trainer, sponsor and fundraiser – and courageously approaching tournament directors and lobbying for his players’ full participation. He was also publisher of the ATA’s annual program, distributed at the national championships, and his vehicle for informing the membership of the achievements of his junior players.Black Tennis Pro's Dr. Robert W. Johnson 2009 International Tennis Hall Of Fame

The names of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe (both Hall of Famers) and their life achievements will long be remembered in the world of tennis; they were the African-American trailblazers and became champions of the sport through their discipline and perseverance. However it was Johnson’s vision and innovative groundwork that gave Gibson and Ashe – and all future black champions – the training ground and road map to succeed.

Personal Biography
  • Graduated from Lincoln University in 1924
  • Named to the Negro All American Football Team in 1924
  • Attended Meharry Medical School in Nashville, TN
  • Completed his medical residency & moved to Lynchburg, VA in 1933
  • Served on the Lynchburg Commission on Interracial Cooperation & was active during the Civil Right’s Movement
  • Founder of the American Tennis Association’s (A.T.A.) Junior Development Program in the early 1950’s
  • Dr. Johnson’s Junior Development Program produced the first African-American major tennis champions - Althea Gibson & Arthur Ashe
Testimonials

“As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Althea Gibson?s wins at Wimbledon and the US Open, it seems natural to discuss Dr. Robert Johnson?s involvement in creating new opportunities for African-American tennis players. An active member in the tennis community, Dr. Johnson?s efforts led to greater possibilities for players like Althea and Arthur Ashe. I support his nomination for the International Tennis Hall of Fame for his contributions and efforts.”
- Serena Williams

"Without Whirlwind, neither Althea Gibson nor Arthur Ashe would have become the first African-Americans to win major tennis titles. Both acknowledged the significance of his role in their development several times during their storied lives."
- Alan G. Schwartz, March 31, 2003
USTA Chairman of the Board &
President 2003 - 2004

“Needless to say, our sport, our country, indeed the world community became a better place because of Althea and Arthur’s achievements. Dr. Johnson made it possible for them to succeed. His extraordinary role should be remembered, appreciated and applauded not just by African Americans, but also by everyone who strives for equality and justice. Let’s start by creating a major contributor’s spot for him at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He deserves the honor.”
- John McEnroe, from the foreword of the book “Whirlwind: The Godfather of Black Tennis”

“Dr. Johnson was a major force in the careers of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, through his guidance, training and generosity. He also helped many other players on the tour through his wisdom and generous ways.”
- Billie Jean King, March 7, 2006


Sources:
The Legacy of Dr. R Walter Johnson
International Tennis Hall Of Fame

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Althea Gibson One Of 13 Inductees To New Jersey Hall Of Fame

Friday, February 6, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Althea Gibson New Jersey Hall of FameAlthea Gibson, the first African-American to win a grand slam title, which happened to be Wimbledon, is one of 13 inductees chosen for the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

The winners were chosen by New Jersey residents, who had months to pick their favorites online, and by the hall's voting academy, made up of 100 state organizations. All inductees have deep ties to the state.

"This group of hall of famers embodies the spirit of New Jersey, a combination of drive, determination and creativity that has led them to greatness," Governor Jon S. Corzine said in a statement.

The remaining 12 that will accompany Ms. Gibson are Paul Robeson, Walt Whitman, Guglielmo Marconi, Carl Sagan, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Jon Bon Jovi, Jerry Lewis, Shaquille O'Neal, Phil Rizzuto, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Carlos Williams

The induction ceremony will be held in May at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

Black Tennis Pro's Althea Gibson New Jersey Hall of Fame


New Jersey Hall of Fame


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The U. S. Open Has Officially Begun: A Tribute to Althea Gibson

Monday, August 27, 2007

I've always loved the written word, whether I've been reading or writing it. It is on nights like this that I'm reminded why I love it so much. When the visual is not available, or when our ability to be present is not an option, it is the written recording of events that allow us to mentally transport ourselves to that time and place, and be present at any given moment in time. And what a moment in time we witnessed last night, the opening events of the 2007 U. S. Open. Okay, here's the blow-by-blow.


First up a great marching band from Brooklyn, New York called the "Brooklyn Steppers." They were very good, had a lil' bit of that Grambling thang working.

Up next New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg thanked a few folks and eventually introduced the NYPD Cadets and the U. S. Open's procession of flags representing all of the countries taking part in this year's tournament.

In celebrating Althea Gibson being the first African American player to win a grand slam title, the USTA honored other African American women who have had the privilege and pleasure to celebrate other firsts. The announcer introduced honoree and host Phylicia Rashaad, the first African-American woman to win a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Broadway Play. Ms. Phylicia flowed out looking as beautful as ever. What a gracioius lady. I love the words that she opened with, "What a night! It's awe inspiring to stand here in this place where dreams have come true, lives have been changed and history has been written........" She then told us that "Althea Gibson was the first American of African descent to win the U. S. Nationals, now known as the U. S. Open. One of sports unsung heroes, her victory paved the way for some of the games finest players and she was an inspiration to women everywhere. To celebrate this milestone, let's take a look at why the Althea Gibson story must be told."

At that point sportscaster Mary Carillo narrated footage that had been put together on Althea Gibson's life. A number of celebrities and athletes spoke during the footage, to include Serena Williams, Bill Cosby, Billie Jean King and James Blake. At the end of the footage, during which the theme music to Jurassic Park music was playing (?) Yeah, it's great music, but it's too linked to the movie, anyway.......I saw this statement that Althea Gibson made and thought it so fitting, "If I have made it, it's half because I was game enought to take a lot of punishment along the way, and half because there were a lot of people who cared enough to help me.
Afterwards, Ms. Rashaad introduced a personal friend of Althea Gibson's, fomer New York City Mayor David Dinkins. He spoke with conviction about what was really going on in America with civil rights struggles for Black people from lynchings to segregated WWII barracks, and a ten years to come Brown vs. The Board of Education. It was hard times when Althea Gibson was growing up trying to make her mark in the world.

Phylicia Rashaad returned and introduced an incredible group of women and noted their firsts:

Dr. Mae Jamison,
1st African-American Female Astronaut, Space Shuttle Endeavor

Dr. Debi Thomas
1st African-American Female Olympic Medalist, Figure Skating

Ms. Sharon Pratt
1st African-American Female Mayor of a Major U. S. City

Ms. Yolanda Adams
1st African-American Female AMA Contemporary/Inspirational Artist Award

Ms. Vonetta Flowers
1st African-American Female Olympic Gold Medalist, Two-Woman Bobsled

Ms. Ella Bully-Cummings
1st African-American Female Chief of Police, Detroit Police Department

Ms. Sheila Crump Johnson
1st African-American Female Ownership in 3 Pro Sports Teams, Sole Owner of PGA Tour Championship Golf Courses

Ms. Traci Green
1st African-American Female Head Coach, Harvard University

Ms. Nikki Giovanni
1st African-American Female to Win The Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award

Ms. Loretta Claiborne
1st African-American Female to Win The Arthur Ashe Courage Award

Ms. Susan L. Taylor
1st African-American Female to Win The Henry Johnson Fisher Award

Ms. Lynette Woodard
1st African-American Female Member of The Harlem Globetrotters

Ms. Cynthia Cooper
1st African-American Female To Score 2500 Career Points in WNBA History

Ms. Roberta Flack
1st African-American Female Student Teacher in a Predominately White School and the 1st Musician Ever to Win Back-to-Back Grammys for Record of the Year

Ms. Zina Garrison
1st African-American Female Olympic Medalist, Tennis

Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun
1st African-American Female Elected to U. S. Senate (Democrat, Illinois)

Ms. Jackie Joyner-Kersey
1st African-American Female to Win Back-to-Back Olympic Gold, Heptathlon

What an incredible group of women. I cried more each time one of them and their achievements was announced, it was incredible. The honorees seemed very happy, which made it even better.

And then...and then....the final honoree, 18-time Grammy winner Aretha Franklin came out and demanded some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. She rocked the house.

Read the rest of this post...........

Posted by Shelia
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