Local Ties to Althea Gibson
Most tennis fans know the name Althea Gibson.
Broke the color barrier in tennis
Dominated tennis in the 1950s
First Black player to win the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open Singles Championships
Associated Press Athlete of the Year
After her eight-year tennis career — which featured 11 Grand Slam titles — she maintained a close relationship with the sport at a community level. Much of her community work, and her ties to the sport, were in the Middle States tennis community.
When Brendan Byrne was Governor of New Jersey in 1974, the Governor's Mansion was located at Morven in Princeton, N.J. Byrne was a tennis enthusiast, and during his tenure (1974-82), Gibson became the honorary resident tennis pro at the grounds. The Princeton mansion had a beautiful tennis court at the time. (The mansion was home to five governors and has since been converted into a museum.)
Byrne and Gibson played many friendly games together over the years. He appointed Gibson to be State Commissioner of Athletics in 1975 — a role she held for 10 years and the first woman to hold the position. She was also on the State's Athletics Control Board and the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness.
Gibson was a resident of East Orange, New Jersey for nearly 20 years and had paved the way for so many throughout her lifetime. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and Black Athletes Hall of Fame. She was also honored with an induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2009.
Gibson’s run through the pro ranks in the 1950s was truly historic. She was the first Black player to win the French Open (1956), Wimbledon (1957-58) and U.S. Open (1957-58) Championships. Maybe most iconic is her 1950 debut at Forest Hills at age 23, where she was the first Black player (male or female) ever to compete at the event.
A detailed feature story about Gibson and her history in tennis can be found here.
Althea Gibson Local TiesJune 07, 2021Most tennis fans know the name Althea Gibson. She broke the color barrier in tennis, dominated tennis in the 1950s and was the first Black player to win the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open Singles Championships. What many don't know is that after her eight year tennis career, much of her community work, and her ties to the sport, were in the Middle States tennis community. Read More
My CommunityJune 02, 2021Ron Nano is the CEO and President of Legacy Youth Tennis and Education in Philadelphia and serves on the NJTL USTA National Committee. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month came to an end on May 31, but the conversation about inclusivity and the importance of community will continue. So as we move into June, we’re sharing this essay, which celebrates family, culture, and all that falls in between. Read More
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