A Force On and Off the Court
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EXIT of the Day
Exit 75 I-95s,in Richmond Virginia To: I-64
"From what we get, we can make a living. What we give however, makes a life."
Does anyone know this quote? If so, you probably know that one of the greatest tennis players ever uttered those words. That tennis player is named Arthur Ashe. Ashe may have gotten famous for tennis, but his legacy is so much wider. Using tennis to leverage his message, Arthur Ashe became a crusading advocate for equality and justice.
Returning to his quote, Arthur gave so much. But Arthur would be the first to admit that so many gave of themselves for him, Arthur, to succeed.
Arthur Ashe is buried in Richmond’s Woodland Cemetery. Somewhat notably, Arthur Ashe is buried next to a woman that is not his wife. If you want to visit their graves, start to bear right to exit at upcoming Exit 75 to Interstate 64 and then onto the Mechanicsville Turnpike. The side trip is only about 3 miles, 6 miles there and back.
Arthur Ashe was born in segregated Richmond Virginia in 1943. When Arthur was seven his mom died. This left Arthur’s father to have to care for him and his sister. The future professional player was discovered and taught by a local tennis star named Ron Charity. Ron was also black.
Ron encouraged Arthur to compete locally, despite not being allowed to even walk on the court in certain racially segregated tennis clubs.
Ron Charity then brought young Arthur to a fellow tennis coach named Doctor Robert Walter Johnson.
A Lynchburg, Virginia native, Dr Johnson, was already famous for coaching the first African American tennis great. That tennis great was a woman named Althea Gibson.
In the 1950’s Althea Gibson had won Wimbledon, the US Open and several other so-called Grand Slam events. The five foot eleven New Jersey phenom was the first Black tennis player to shatter the color barrier.
Yet she was not widely known beyond tennis. That distinction would be left for Arthur Ashe, Dr Johnson’s next big tennis ingenue.
Johnson helped tweak Ashe’s game making him better. In 1963, Ashe became the first African- American tennis player to be part of the United States’ Davis Cup Team. He accepted the trophy insisting his father stand beside him.They were a team — on and off the court.
Ashe then received a tennis scholarship to University of California Los Angeles. This was after Ashe was awarded many awards such as being featured in Sports Illustrated and winning the National Junior Indoor Tennis title. Again, he was the first African-American to win that title.
From 1966 to 1969 during the Vietnam war, Arthur took a hiatus to serve in the United States Army. He turned professional the same year he was discharged from the military.
During his pro career, Arthur won multiple awards and received endless recognition for his game. Arthur Ashe’s career consisted of multiple victories in the Grand Slams. His first win in a Grand Slam was in 1968 while still in the Army. That victory happened at a little thing called the United States Open. Two years later he won again. This time in the Australian Open.
After two defeats in following two years he was crowned champion again at the US Open. This was in 1975.
Ashe also had multiple other awards over his career. Many of the awards occurred while being the first African-American in the sport to accomplish them. This gave him the stature to speak out about racial injustice. He became friends and advocated with many of the towering Civil Rights leaders of his day.
By the end of his career, Ashe had an amazing winning percentage of 75%. Arthur was victor in 75% of all tennis meets which include winning innumerable elimination rounds to become the event champion.
In 1977, Arthur married Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.
Jeanne is a photographer and activist. She is best known for her work in magazines, newspapers, and several photography books. She later became a leading AIDS advocate.
During retirement, Arthur was outspoken about racial inequality and became a well -respected journalist and editorial writer in his own right. He also was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He and wife Jeanne adopted a daughter and in 1988, mourned the death of his father.
A few years later Arthur Ashe very publicly announced he had AIDS. Ashe had contracted HIV years earlier in a tainted blood transfusion from a heart operation.
Arthur Ashe died in 1993 in New York Hospital from pneumonia and complications due to AIDS. In an era where people concealed their HIV affliction, Arthur represented the wider heterosexual threat from the deadly scourge.
At his request, Arthur was buried in Richmond, Virginia. He is buried there beside his Mom, Eliza — a Mom who will share eternity with her son… but a Mom who missed in life seeing all her remarkable son would accomplish. And all he would give.
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