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Biography

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Overview (4)

Born in Silver, South Carolina, USA
Died in East Orange, New Jersey, USA  (respiratory failure)
Birth NameAlthea Neale Gibson
Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Mini Bio (2)

She was the first to break the color barrier of the American Lawn Tennis League in 1950 and played in the U.S. National Tennis Championship in Forest Hills. She became the first African-American player to play in Wimbledon in 1951. She won the French Championship in 1956. She won in Wimbledon in 1957, the trophy presented to her by Queen Elizabeth. She successfully defended her Wimbledon title in 1958. She won the U.S. National Tennis Championship at Forest Hills in 1957 and 1958. She retired from Tennis in 1958 and played for a while with the Harlem Globetrotters. She also broke the color barrier in golf, launching her golf career in 1964 and joining the LPGA.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Emmanuel Valerio

Althea Gibson is likely the most important African American athlete in the history of professional sport. Her contributions to sport include becoming the first African American player in a major US tournament and at Wimbledon, and also the first African American LPGA player. Gibson was well known for her "serve and volley" style of playing, and her reach and strong serve.

She was born on August 25, 1927 in Silver, South Carolina, growing up in the Harlem section of New York City during the Great Depression, where she first took up playing sports by playing billiards and basketball. At the age of nine she took up playing table tennis, and took up tennis after a suggestion from a Police Athletic League supervisor. At the age of fifteen, with the sponsorship of boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, she became the New York Black Girls' Champion. Her success led to a sports scholarship to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Gibson's tennis career in college was disappointing, as she even considered quitting sports and joining the army.

Her early career comprised of competing in tournaments held by the American Tennis Association, a tennis league for African American athletes. In 1950, three years after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, Gibson became the first African American player in the National Tennis Championship. In 1951, Gibson made history when she was invited to Wimbledon, becoming the first African American player to play in the tournament. The following year she was ranked in the top ten female tennis players in the world. In 1956, she won a singles title in the French Open and US Open, and became the first African American winner of a singles title in Wimbledon in 1957.

Gibson played tennis in the years before Billie Jean King, when female players still made significantly less than their male counterparts, and decades before modern athletes who make most of their money from endorsements. She ventured into singing, recording an album, and also into acting, with a small role as a maid in the 1959 John Wayne film The Horse Soldiers. After retiring from professional tennis, Gibson took up golf, becoming the first African American player for the LPGA. Her golfing career was nowhere near as successful as her tennis, as she never won a title, but she did manage to rank number three in 1967. After retiring from professional golf in 1977, Gibson held many important government athletics positions in New Jersey from 1975 until 1992. Gibson spent her final years suffering from financial and health problems, and became a recluse. Gibson died on respiratory failure in East Orange, New Jersey at the age of 76.

Althea Gibson was a pioneer, at a time when black athletes were denied access to country clubs and hotels. Her success broke barriers for many prominent female athletes, from Billie Jean King to Venus to Serena Williams, who have named Althea Gibson as a major inspiration.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jay Jeffrey

Spouse (2)

Sydney Rhoden Llewellyn (11 April 1983 - 1988) ( divorced)
William A. Darben (17 October 1965 - 1976) ( divorced)

Trivia (8)

Born at 9:00 am - EDT
Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year 1957 & 1958
Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2001.
Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 200-202. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
Inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Pictured on a nondenominated USA commemorative postage stamp in the Black Heritage series, issued 23 August 2013. Price of the stamp on date of issue was 46¢.
Inducted into the Florida A&M University Sports Hall of Fame in 1976 (inaugural class).

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