- NAME: Althea Gibson
- OCCUPATION: Golfer, Tennis Player
- BIRTH DATE: August 25, 1927
- DEATH DATE: September 28, 2003
- Did You Know?: Althea Gibson became the first African-American tennis player to compete at the U.S. National Championships in 1950, and the first black player to compete at Wimbledon in 1951.
- Did You Know?: As a young girl in Harlem, New York, Althea Gibson was a local table tennis champion. Her skills were eventually noticed by musician Buddy Walker, who invited her to play tennis on local courts.
- Did You Know?: After Althea Gibson won the women's singles and doubles at Wimbledon in 1957, a ticker tape parade was held in her honor when she returned home to New York City.
- Did You Know?: Althea Gibson had won 56 singles and doubles championships by the time she turned pro in 1959.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Silver, South Carolina
- PLACE OF DEATH: East Orange, New Jersey
- Full Name: Althea Neale Gibson
- AKA: Althea Gibson
Best Known For
Althea Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to compete at the U.S. National Championships in 1950, and the first black player to compete at Wimbledon in 1951. She also broke racial barriers in professional golf.
Arthur Ashe - Mini Biography (3:35)
A short biography on Althea Gibson, the first African-American to win a Grand Slam tournament. After retiring, she became the first African-American on the Ladies Professional Golf Association circuit.
Arthur Ashe was the first African-American male to win men's single titles at Wimbledon. Off the court, he became an anti-apartheid activist and brought attention to HIV/AIDs before succumbing to the disease in 1993.
Serena Williams was only 3 years old when she and her sister, Venus, started playing tennis. Since turning pro, she's won countless Grand Slam titles and two Olympic gold medals.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Measuring 5-feet 11-inches, and possessing superb power and athletic skill, Gibson seemed destined for bigger victories. In 1956, it all came together when she won the French Open. Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles followed in both 1957 and 1958. (She won both the women's singles and doubles at Wimbledon in 1957, which was celebrated by a ticker tape parade when she returned home to New York City.) In all,
Gibson powered her way to 56 singles and doubles championships before turning pro in 1959.
For her part, however, Gibson downplayed her pioneering role. "I have never regarded myself as a crusader," she states in her 1958 autobiography, I Always Wanted to Be Somebody. "I don't consciously beat the drums for any cause, not even the negro in the United States."
As a professional, Gibson continued to win—she landed the singles title in 1960—but just as importantly, she started to make money. She was reportedly paid $100,000 for a playing a series of matches before Harlem Globetrotter games. For a short time, too, the athletically gifted Gibson turned to golf, making history again as the first black woman ever to compete on the pro tour.
But failing to win on the course as she had on the courts, she eventually returned to tennis. In 1968, with the advent of tennis' Open era, Gibson tried to repeat her past success. She was too old and too slow-footed, however, to keep up with her younger counterparts.
Following her retirement, in 1971, Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She stayed connected to sports, however, through a number of service positions. Beginning in 1975, she served 10 years as commissioner of athletics for New Jersey State. She was also a member of the governor's council on physical fitness.
But just as her early childhood had been, Gibson's last few years were dominated by hardship. She nearly went bankrupt before former tennis great Billy Jean King and others stepped in to help her out. Her health, too, went into decline. She suffered a stroke and developed serious heart problems. On September 28, 2003, Gibson died of respiratory failure in East Orange, New Jersey.
© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
profile name: Althea Gibson profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
After the Civil War, many of the country's best and brightest black advocates, artists, entrepreneurs and intellectuals moved to the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. Thanks largely to the efforts of these residents, Harlem became both the cradle of a cultural revolution and the heart of the civil rights movement. Meet some of the many people who gave—and continue to give—this neighborhood a voice, simply by calling it home.
Famous Harlem Residents 62 people in this group
Who was the first African-American boxing champ? How about World Cycling champ? Who was the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal? What year did Jackie Robinson break baseball's color barrier? Who was Althea Gibson and what first did she achieve? Detail our collection of pioneering African-American athletes for the answers to these and many more questions, and explore our African-American Firsts: Athletes photos gallery.
African-American Firsts: Athletes 37 people in this group
Browse our collection of African-American Firsts: Awards & Honors, including Oprah Winfrey, who became the first recipient of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002; Floyd Patterson; the youngest heavyweight champion in history and the first heavyweight to regain his title following a loss; Shani Davis, who became the first black athlete at the Winter Olympics to win a gold medal in an individual sport in 2006; and Henry Armstrong, who became the first boxer to hold three different weight division titles at the same time in 1938. Explore full biographies, photo galleries, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
African-American Firsts: Awards & Honors 43 people in this group