Sketch by Paul DiPasquale
Accession number: 1997.9.3
Arthur Ashe was born in Richmond, Virginia, on July 10, 1943. He learned to play tennis at the Richmond Racket Club, a club established for area African Americans. At the time, Richmond's public facilities—schools, theaters, restaurants, and even tennis courts—were racially segregated.
Ashe practiced hard. In 1960 and 1961, he won the Junior Indoor Singles Championship and was ranked 28th in the country, even though he was still in high school. He attended UCLA on a tennis scholarship and went on to win both the U.S. Amateur Tennis Championship and the U.S. Open. In 1968, Ashe became the first African-American member of the Davis Cup Team and helped the United States win its first championship in five years. In 1975, Ashe upset heavily favored Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon and won the World Championship Tennis (WCT) singles title over Bjorn Borg.
Arthur Ashe suffered a heart attack in 1979, and his career turned in a different direction. He was named captain of the U.S. Davis Cup Team and, although inactive as a player, worked hard from the sidelines. He was named president of the Association of Tennis Professionals and co-founder of the National Junior Tennis League. After his retirement from tennis, Ashe appeared on television as a sports commentator and wrote a syndicated newspaper column. He wrote several books on tennis, including his autobiography, Off the Court.
But Arthur Ashe was more than a tennis champion. He was an outspoken advocate of racial justice, both in the United States and overseas. He raised money for many charitable causes and worked to end apartheid in South Africa. In 1988, he wrote A Hard Road to Glory, a three-volume history of the black athlete in America.
In April 1992 Arthur Ashe announced that he was infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS. He died of pneumonia on February 6, 1993, leaving behind his wife, Jeanne, and daughter, Camera.
In this video, 2010 Blanton Scholars William Chapman and Reuben Han discuss Paul DiPasquale's statue of Arthur Ashe.