From the International Hall of Fame Citation for Arthur Ashe:
“In 1968, the first year amateurs and professionals could compete against each other in major events, the US Open was won by Arthur Ashe, a man who enjoyed a storied career between the lines and a dignified life as an ambassador of equality and goodwill; a life that tragically ended in 1993 after he contracted HIV from a blood transfusion following heart bypass surgery.
Younger generations of tennis fans may only recognize Ashe’s name as the one that adorns the stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, NY, site of the US Open, or that starting in 1993 the USTA has kicked off the tournament with Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, a remembrance and celebration of the sport’s most elegant and thoughtful ambassador. Ashe rose from segregation and racial roadblocks to become the first African-American male to win the US Open (1968), Australian Open (1970), and Wimbledon (1975). In 1963 he was the first African-American chosen to play Davis Cup for the United States, and in ten years representing his country, helped the US win five championships (1963, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1978).
Ashe was much more than a storied tennis player; he was an activist, author, educator, and a tireless campaigner for civil rights and racial equality, not only in the United States but worldwide, particularly against the apartheid systems of South Africa. “Arthur was a voice for all the minorities, and that goes for women, too,” Pam Shriver told the New York Times in Ashe’s obituary. “He brought a level of conscience to the game, whether he was speaking on South Africa or inner-city minorities or exclusionary policies anyplace. Arthur’s influence on tennis didn’t fade after he left the sport.” Further evidence of Ashe’s convictions came in 1972, when helped found the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the organization that unionized the professional tour and protected the interests of its players.”
The soft-spoken but highly principled Ashe has been showered with honors, tributes, and accolades in life and death. Among the most prominent came in 1993 when he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. ESPN’s ESPY Awards presents the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to a person in the sports world that exhibits courage in the face of adversity. His alma mater, UCLA opened The Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center in 1997. In 2007, USA Today listed Ashe as one of the Most Inspiring People of the Last 25 Years.
On his website, Ashe is quoted as saying, “Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner. Even if you’re behind, a sustained look of control and confidence can give you a mental edge that results in victory.”
For the full citation, click here.