Arthur Ashe (July 10, 1943 - February 6, 1993) was a prominent African American tennis player who was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, USA. He is well remembered for his efforts to further social causes.
In his youth, Ashe was small and not well-coordinated. But by the time he entered high school, he starred in tennis, basketball, and football. In tennis, he won the state championship, while in football, he helped lead his team to the city championship as a speedy wide receiver.
Ashe began to attract the attention of tennis fans after being awarded a tennis scholarship at UCLA in 1963. That same year, Ashe was the first African American ever selected to the US Davis Cup team.
In 1965, Ashe won the individual NCAA championship. He was also a chief contributor in UCLA's winning the team NCAA championship in the same year. With this successful college career behind him, Ashe quickly ascended to the upper echelon of tennis players worldwide after turning professional in 1969.
By 1969, most people considered Ashe to be the best American male tennis player. He had won the inaugural US Open in 1968, and had aided the US Davis Cup team to victory that same year. Concerned that tennis pros were not receiving winnings commensurate with the sport's growing popularity, Ashe was one of the key figures behind the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). That year would prove even more momentous for Ashe, when he was denied a visa by the South African government, thereby keeping him out of the South African Open. Ashe chose to use this denial to publicize South Africa's apartheid policies. In the media, Ashe called for South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit. In 1970, he added a second Grand Slam title to his resume by winning the Australian Open.
In 1975, after several years of lower levels of success, Ashe played his best season ever by winning Wimbledon, unexpectedly defeating Jimmy Connors in the final. He remains the only black player ever to win the men's singles at Wimbledon, the US Open, or Australian Open, and one of only two black men to win a Grand Slam singles event (the other being France's Yannick Noah, who won the French Open in 1983). He would play for several more years, but after being slowed by heart surgery in 1979, Ashe retired in 1980.
After his retirement, Ashe took on many new tasks, from writing for Time magazine to commentating for ABC Sports, from founding the National Junior Tennis League to serving as captain of the US Davis Cup team. In 1983, Ashe underwent a second heart surgery. To no one's surprise, he was elected to the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.
The story of Ashe's life turned from success to tragedy in 1988, however, when Ashe discovered he had contracted HIV during the blood transfusions he had received during one of his two heart surgeries. He and his wife kept his illness private until April 8, 1992, when reports that the newspaper USA Today was about to publish a story about his condition forced him to make a public announcement that he had the disease. In the last year of his life, Arthur Ashe did much to call attention to AIDS sufferers worldwide. Two months before his death, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery and was named Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year. He also spent much of the last years of his life writing his memoir Days of Grace, finishing the manuscript less than a week before his death.
Ashe died of complications from AIDS on February 6, 1993.