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Althea Gibson

Florida A&M University


An exceptional athlete with a formidable serve, Althea Gibson (b.1927) won 56 titles in her career. A courageous champion, Gibson became the first black player in international tennis.

Gibson grew up in Harlem where she first attracted attention playing paddle tennis. Switching to tennis at age 13, Gibson went on to win 10 successive national championships sponsored by the all-black American Tennis Association. Two ATA officials, Dr. Hubert Eaton and Dr. Robert Johnson, nurtured Gibson’s career and enabled her to attend Florida A&M University. Through her mentors’ efforts, aided by an impassioned statement from Alice Marble, Gibson played at the U.S. Championships in 1950 and then at Wimbledon in 1951.

After earning her B.S. in 1953 and briefly retiring from tennis, Gibson came roaring back in 1956, winning the French Open women’s singles and doubles titles and Wimbledon doubles title – the first black player to win a Grand Slam event. In both 1957 and 1958, Gibson took the U.S. Open and Wimbledon singles crowns, becoming the No. 1 player in the world.

Gibson turned professional in 1959 and later pursued a variety of interests including a 10-year term as New Jersey State Athletic Commissioner. Awarded numerous honors, Gibson became the first woman recipient of the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award in 1991.

Althea Gibson
Career Highlights
    11 Grand Slam titles (5 Singles, 5 Doubles, 1 Mixed Doubles)
    Ranked in USTA Top 10 for six years, No.1 in 1957, 1958
    American Tennis Association (ATA) Junior Champion 1944, 1945
    ATA Singles Champion 1947-1956
    ATA Mixed Doubles Champion 1948-1950, 1952-1955
    First black to play tennis in a USTA-sanctioned event, reaching quarterfinals in 1949 Eastern Indoor Championships
    U.S. Singles Champion 1957, 1958
    U.S. Mixed Doubles Champion 1957
    Wimbledon Singles Champion 1957, 1958
    Wimbledon Doubles Champion 1956, 1957, 1958
    French Singles Champion 1956
    French Doubles Champion 1956
    Australian Doubles Champion 1957
    U.S. Clay Court Singles and Doubles Champion 1957
    Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year 1957, 1958
    U.S. Wightman Cup Team Member 1957, 1958 (5-1 record)
    Gold Medalist in singles, 1959 Pan American Games
    World Professional Tennis Champion 1960
    Author, I Always Wanted to Be Somebody
    Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame 1971
    Inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame 1980
    Winner of the NCAA Theodore Roosevelt Award 1991
Other 1995 Inductees
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