A good night for history. And in the past… some people have done extraordinary things. They make their mark in the world, or blaze the way, on certain occasions. Today marks the anniversary of one of those days. In 1957, Althea Gibson won Wimbledon. Women’s singles. Of course, every year someone wins THAT. But. She was the first African American to win a championship at London’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. That must have really been something.
She was born on August 25, 1927…. down in Silver, South Carolina. Somehow, Gibson moved to the Harlem section of New York City. What’s where she grew up. And it was there that she began playing tennis as a teenager.
She was good. Really good. Gibson went on to win the national black women’s championship twice. But as you can imagine, in the 1940s, tennis was largely segregated.
But then, other people do extraordinary things. Behind the scenes. And in walks four-time U.S. Nationals winner Alice Marble. She thought Gibson was good too. So she advocated on Gibson’s behalf in the world of tennis. And before long, Althea Gibson was invited to make her U.S. Open debut in 1950.
She did a whole bunch of tennis-winning, starting in 1956. She won the singles title at the French Open. Then Wimbledon. Then the U.S. Open. And more and more. During the 1950s, Gibson won 56 singles and doubles titles, including 11 major titles. Like I said, she was snap-happy-good.
In 1958, Gibson retired from amateur tennis. But she didn’t stop there. In 1960, she toured with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. Which sort of cracks me up. (She was 5’11’’ by the way.) But she didn’t stop there again. In 1964, Gibson joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour. And, she was the first black woman to do that too.
She did a lot more for sports during her life…. including serving as New Jersey’s commissioner of athletics from 1975 to 1985. But she did a lot for equality too. She played at a time when racism and prejudice were widespread. Not only in sports, but also in society. Gibson was often compared to Jackie Robinson as one of those people to break new ground.
Sadly, Althea Gibson died at age 76 from respiratory failure on September 28, 2003…. at a hospital in East Orange, New Jersey.
So yes, a little glimpse of history. It is a good thing to look back sometimes… so we can remember just how the ball bounces.
Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
— Henry David Thoreau
“If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”
– Jim Rohn
The secret of success is to do the common thing uncommonly well.”
— John D. Rockefeller Jr.