(Photo: David Ashdown/Keystone/Getty Images)
On July 5, 1975, an elegant player with a powerful serve named Arthur Ashe made professional tennis history, becoming the only Black male to win the top prize at Wimbledon. Ashe began playing tennis at the age of six, received a UCLA scholarship for college and was the first Black U.S. Davis Cup team member in 1963. Two years later he won the NCAA individual and team championships, and then received his business administration degree. Ashe then won the U.S. amateur singles championship in 1968. He put his degree to use in 1969, after he won the U.S. Open, when he co-founded the Association of Tennis Professionals to raise the players’ prizes.
That same year Ashe began his battle against South Africa’s system of racial discrimination. After two heart surgeries, Ashe retired from tennis in 1980 and worked as a tennis commentator. He also wrote A Hard Road To Glory, a three-volume history of African-American athletes. In 1988, it was discovered that Ashe was HIV-positive due to blood received during his operations. In 1992, while his health deteriorated, he was handcuffed and arrested for protesting against U.S. treatment of Haitian refugees. Ashe died of AIDS on February 6, 1993; he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.
See the BET special about Arthur Ashe.