Arthur Ashe Wiki, Biography
Arthur Ashe (July 10, 1943 – February 6, 1993) was an American professional tennis player who won three Grand Slam singles titles. He started to play tennis at six years old. He was the first black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team, and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. He retired in 1980. He was ranked world No. 1 by Rex Bellamy, Bud Collins, Judith Elian, Lance Tingay, World Tennis and Tennis Magazine (U.S.) in 1975.
That year, Ashe was awarded the ‘Martini and Rossi’ Award, voted for by a panel of journalists, and the ATP Player of the Year award. In the ATP computer rankings, he peaked at No. 2 in May 1976. Ashe is believed to have acquired HIV from a blood transfusion he received during heart bypass surgery in 1983. He publicly announced his illness in April 1992, and began working to educate others about HIV and AIDS. He founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health before his death from AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 49 on February 6, 1993. On June 20, 1993, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by United States President Bill Clinton.
Arthur Ashe was born in Richmond, Virginia, to Arthur Ashe Sr. (d. 1989) and Mattie Cordell Cunningham Ashe on July 10, 1943. He had a brother, Johnnie, who was five years younger than he. The brothers were born into a family that claimed direct descent from Amar, a West African woman who was enslaved and brought to America in 1735 aboard a ship called The Doddington. Ashe family members were enslaved by North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe.
In March 1950, Ashe’s mother Mattie died from complications related to a toxemic pregnancy (now known as pre-eclampsia) at the age of 27. Ashe and his brother were raised by their father who worked as a handyman and salaried caretaker/Special Policeman for Richmond’s recreation department.
Ashe Sr. was a caring father and strict disciplinarian who encouraged Arthur to excel both in school and in sports, but forbade him to play American football, a popular game for many boys, due to his son’s slight build, something that meant Arthur’s childhood nicknames were “Skinny” and “Bones”.
The Ashes lived in the caretaker’s cottage in the grounds of 18-acre Brookfield park, Richmond’s largest blacks-only public playground, which had basketball courts, four tennis courts, a pool, and three baseball diamonds. Ashe started playing tennis at seven years of age and began practicing on the courts where his natural talent was spotted by Virginia Union University student and part-time Brookfield tennis instructor Ron Charity, who as the best black tennis player in Richmond at the time began to teach Ashe the basic strokes and encouraged him to enter local tournaments.
In October 1976, Ashe met photographer and graphic artist Jeanne Moutoussamy at a United Negro College Fund benefit. Moutoussamy, who is of mixed Indo-Guadeloupean and African-American heritage, is the daughter of architect John Moutoussamy. On February 20, 1977, they were married in the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City in a ceremony officiated by Andrew Young, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
In December 1986, Ashe and Moutoussamy adopted a daughter they named Camera, after her mother’s profession.
On February 6, 1993, Ashe died from AIDS-related pneumonia at New York Hospital at 3:13 p.m., at age 49. His funeral was held at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center in Richmond, Virginia, on February 10. The governor Douglas Wilder, who was a friend of Ashe, allowed his body to lie in state at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond. More than 5,000 people lined up to walk past the casket. Andrew Young, who had performed the service for Ashe’s wedding in 1977, officiated at his funeral. Over 6,000 mourners attended. Ashe requested that he be buried alongside his mother, Mattie, who died in 1950, in Woodland Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
On February 12, 1993, a memorial service for Ashe was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. In Richmond, Virginia, where his statue by sculptor Paul DiPasquale is on Monument Avenue, his legacy lives on.
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