Strong Rooted Volume II: June 14, 2018
Althea Gibson was born in Clarendon County, South Carolina, on August 25, 1927. When we think about the sport of tennis, most of us think about Serena and Venus Williams. Both of them are forces to be reckoned with, but Ms. Gibson paved the way for them to do what they do on the tennis courts.
At an early age, Gibson realized that she wanted to play sports but wasn’t sure what sport she wanted to play. School was a struggle for her early on, and as a result, she found herself playing table tennis when she ditched classes. Almost immediately, her skill at table tennis was talked about in the neighborhood, and she would play for money. It was playing table tennis where she was discovered and introduced to the sport of tennis and began playing on the Harlem River Tennis Courts. From there, Gibson moved up to The American Tennis Association and won ten straight championships from 1947-1956. Gibson grew frustrated with the sport because of the racial boundaries imposed on her. Thanks to another tennis great and writer, Alice Marble, who wrote about what a shame it was that an athlete like Gibson would be kept from competing based on race.
In 1953 Gibson was number seven of the top ten players in the United States, but she wasn’t allowed to compete until 1956, when she won the French Open. Gibson would go on to win Wimbledon singles and doubles in 1957 and The U.S. Open in 1958. Because of her frustration with the sport of tennis, she turned to golf, but was not as successful and tried to make a tennis comeback, but again was not as successful. Gibson retired from the sport in 1971.
After having a stroke and dealing with other health issues, Gibson died of respiratory failure on September 28, 2003.
Ms. Gibson, for your sacrifices, efforts, and amazing sportsmanship, we salute you and thank you.