Claim to Fame: Tennis player
DOB: July 10, 1943
Date of Death: February 6, 1993
Diabetes Type: 2
Arthur Ashe was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. As a young boy Ashe was always very active in sports, including tennis, basketball, and baseball. He was also an avid golfer. However, his love for tennis outweighed all the other sports. Ashe’s passion and drive for the game helped him become a prominent African-American tennis player. Throughout his career he won 3 Grand Slam titles.
In 1963, Ashe not only received a tennis scholarship to UCLA but was also selected to the U.S. Davis Cup team. In his career at UCLA, Ashe won the NCAA individual championship and also helped his team win the NCAA championship. After graduating he went on to win the U.S. Open in 1968 and Wimbledon in 1975, where he unexpectedly defeated Jimmy Connors. Ashe went on to play for several more years but was forced to retire in 1980 due to heart complications.
Ashe was a quiet but dedicated athlete whose belief in his convictions gave him the quiet strength to become a force for change. He traveled to South Africa in 1985 to not only compete, but to protest South Africa’s policy of apartheid along with his friend Nelson Mandela. He was arrested for this act. Ashe also spoke on the floor of the United Nations on World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, just months after publicly disclosing his HIV diagnosis in 1992. (In 1988 during a heart surgery, Ashe contracted HIV though a blood transfusion.) Ashe was also part of a group whose members were arrested while protesting the George Bush Administration’s treatment of Haitian refugees.
Ashe did not just take political stands. He was a role model for African-American tennis players everywhere, male and female. He helped create inner-city tennis programs for youths in Newark, Detroit, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Indianapolis. After retirement, Ashe went on to do a variety of other things—writing for Time magazine and The Washington Post; commenting for HBO and ABC Sports; founding the National Junior Tennis League; and serving as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team.
Ashe struggled with HIV for many years, yet was a vocal advocate for AIDS awareness, until his death in February of 1993 at the age of 49. Two months before his death, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery.
Today, Ashe remains the only African-American to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open, and his name resides in the Tennis Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 1985.