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Althea Gibson: Tennis Champion & Sports Pioneer

Born in South Carolina, Gibson was raised in Harlem, New York where she excelled in tennis, but also competed in golf and basketball. At age 20, she won the first of ten straight national championships for African-Americans awarded by the American Tennis Association, the then governing body for black tournaments.

In 1953, she graduated from Florida A&M University on a tennis and basketball scholarship. With the color barrier recently lifted, she was able to compete against the best, and her game improved to where she won the Italian Open in 1955. The following year, she won her first of the 4 Grand Slam events in Paris by capturing the French Open singles and doubles titles. She followed this by becoming the first black person to win a Wimbledon Championship doubles title with Englishwoman, Angela Buxton.

At Wimbledon in 1958, Gibson won her first of two straight singles championships and back home in the United States, she was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City and an official welcome at City Hall. She responded by winning the US Open. For her performance that year, Gibson earned the No. 1 ranking in the world and was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year award.

In 1958, after defending her Wimbledon singles title and winning her third consecutive Wimbledon doubles championship, she repeated as the US Open singles champion. Once again, she earned the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year award. In 1971, Althea Gibson was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame and in 1975 she was appointed the New Jersey state commissioner of athletics.

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