Althea Gibson is finally getting the recognition she deserves.
The United States Tennis Association will honor Gibson, the first black person to win a Grand Slam title, with a statue at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open, in Queens, New York.
Gibson was born in South Carolina in 1927 and lived until 2003. She broke barriers for black athletes during her tennis career, winning the French Open in 1956, as well as the women’s singles and doubles at Wimbledon in 1957 as the first black person to compete in the tournament. She won the U.S. Open (then called the United States National Championships), 1957 and 1958.
The tennis association board voted unanimously to honor Gibson with the statue, which association President Katrina Adams told The Undefeated was long overdue.
“This is something that I have wanted for a while, something that I have floated within my office, as to getting something named after Althea,” Adams said. “Recognizing for me as an African-American woman and recognizing what Althea stood for and understanding that she truly broke the color barrier for tennis — a lot of people think it’s Arthur [Ashe], but it was Althea 11 years before him.”
Tennis champion Billie Jean King played a pivotal role in getting Gibson recognition, calling her “our Jackie Robinson of tennis.” Gibson’s skills earned her a spot in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.