37 Facts About Althea Gibson


Althea Neale Gibson was an American tennis player and professional golfer, and one of the first Black athletes to cross the color line of international tennis.


At a time when racism and prejudice were widespread in sports and in society, Althea Gibson was often compared to Jackie Robinson.


Althea Gibson was born on August 25,1927, in the town of Silver, in Clarendon County, South Carolina, to Daniel and Annie Bell Althea Gibson, who worked as sharecroppers on a cotton farm.


Althea Gibson quickly became proficient in paddle tennis, and by 1939, at the age of 12, she was the New York City women's paddle tennis champion.


Althea Gibson quit school at the age of 13 and, using the boxing skills taught to her by her father, engaged in a life of what she would later refer to as "street fighting", girls basketball, and watching movies.


In 1940 a group of Althea Gibson's neighbors took up a collection to finance a junior membership and lessons at the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem.


At first, Althea Gibson didn't like tennis, a sport she thought was for weak people.


Althea Gibson won the ATA national championship in the girls' division in 1944 and 1945, and after losing in the women's final in 1946, won her first of ten straight national ATA women's titles in 1947.


In 1951 Althea Gibson won her first international title, the Caribbean Championships in Jamaica, and later that year became one of the first Black competitors at Wimbledon, where she was defeated in the third round by Beverly Baker.


In 1956, Althea Gibson became the first African-American athlete to win a Grand Slam tournament, the French Championships singles event.


Althea Gibson won the doubles title, partnered with Briton Angela Buxton.


Althea Gibson reached the quarter-finals in singles at Wimbledon and the finals at the US Nationals, losing both to Shirley Fry.


Althea Gibson was the first Black champion in the tournament's 80-year history, and the first champion to receive the trophy personally from Queen Elizabeth II.


In 1958, Althea Gibson successfully defended her Wimbledon and US National singles titles, and won her third straight Wimbledon doubles championship, with a third different partner.


Althea Gibson became the first Black woman to appear on the covers of Sports Illustrated and Time.


In late 1958, having won 56 national and international singles and doubles titles, Althea Gibson retired from amateur tennis.


Althea Gibson Sings was released in 1959, and Gibson performed two of its songs on The Ed Sullivan Show in May and July of that year, but sales were disappointing.


Althea Gibson worked as a sports commentator, appeared in print and television advertisements for various products, and increased her involvement in social issues and community activities.


In 1964, at the age of 37, Althea Gibson became the first African-American woman to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour.


Althea Gibson retired from professional golf at the end of the 1978 season.


In 1976 Althea Gibson made it to the finals of the ABC television program Superstars, finishing first in basketball shooting and bowling, and runner-up in softball throwing.


Althea Gibson attempted a golf comeback, in 1987 at age 60, with the goal of becoming the oldest active tour player, but was unable to regain her tour card.


Althea Gibson ran multiple other clinics and tennis outreach programs over the next three decades, and coached numerous rising competitors, including Leslie Allen and Zina Garrison.


Althea Gibson came in second behind Dodd, but ahead of Assemblyman Eldridge Hawkins.


Althea Gibson went on to manage the Department of Recreation in East Orange, New Jersey.


Althea Gibson served on the State Athletic Control Board and became supervisor of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.


Althea Gibson married her best friend Rosemary Darben's brother William in 1965.


Althea Gibson's income helped supplement the proceeds she received through various sponsorship deals.


Althea Gibson reached out to multiple tennis organizations requesting help, but none responded.


Althea Gibson survived a heart attack in 2003, but died on September 28 that year from complications following respiratory and bladder infections.


Althea Gibson's body was interred in the Rosedale Cemetery, Orange, New Jersey, near her first husband Will Darben.


In 1980 Althea Gibson became one of the first six inductees into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame, placing her on par with such pioneers as Amelia Earhart, Wilma Rudolph, Gertrude Ederle, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, and Patty Berg.


Althea Gibson received a Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1988.


Althea Gibson's accomplishments were more revolutionary because of the psychosocial impact on Black America.


On opening night of the 2007 US Open, the 50th anniversary of her first victory at its predecessor, the US National Championships, Althea Gibson was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions.


The Althea Gibson Foundation identifies and supports gifted golf and tennis players who live in urban environments.


Big Boy Films has acquired the life rights to Althea Gibson's memoir, I Always Wanted To Be Somebody and a biography on her by Francis Clayton Gray and Yannick Rice, Born To Win: The Authorized Biography of Althea Gibson.