Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. (July 10, 1943 – February 6, 1993) was a professional tennis player, born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. During his career, he won three Grand Slam titles, putting him among the best ever from the U.S. Ashe, an African American, is also remembered for his efforts to further social causes.
Ashe was coached by Ronald Charity, and later coached by Walter Johnson. Tired of having to travel great distances to play caucasian youths in segregated Richmond, Virginia, Ashe accepted an offer from a Saint Louis, Missouri tennis official to move there and attend Sumner High School. Young Ashe was recognized by Sports Illustrated for his playing.
Ashe was awarded a tennis scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1963. That same year, Ashe became the first African American ever selected to the United States Davis Cup team.
In 1965, Ashe won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) singles title and contributed to UCLA’s winning the team NCAA tennis championship. While at UCLA, Ashe was initiated as a member of the Upsilon chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
In 1968, Ashe won the United States Amateur Championships and the inaugural US Open and aided the U.S Davis Cup team to victory. He is the only player to have won both of these amateur and open national championships in the same year. Concerned that tennis professionals were not receiving winnings commensurate with the sport’s growing popularity, Ashe supported formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals. That year would prove even more momentous for Ashe when he was denied a visa by the South African government, thereby keeping him out of the South African Open. Ashe used this denial to publicize South Africa’s apartheid policies. In the media, Ashe called for South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit.
In 1969, Ashe turned professional. In 1970, Ashe won his second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open.
In 1975, Ashe won Wimbledon, unexpectedly defeating Jimmy Connors in the final. He played for several more years, but after being slowed by heart surgery in 1979, Ashe retired in 1980.
Arthur, the first African-American male to win a Grand Slam event, was an active civil rights supporter. He was a member of a delegation of 31 prominent African-Americans who visited South Africa to observe political change in the country as it approached racial integration.
He was arrested on January 11, 1985, for protesting outside the South African embassy in Washington, D.C. during an anti-apartheid rally. He was also arrested again on September 9, 1992, outside the White House for protesting on the recent crackdown on Haitian refugees.