Ashe to be honored by ITHF
NEWPORT, R.I. — A champion on the tennis court and a game-changer in social justice, Arthur Ashe was one of the most influential and admired individuals of the twentieth century. After overcoming racial barriers to capture three major singles tennis titles and having utilized his success to inspire, it was naturally appropriate that Ashe would be awarded the highest honor in tennis — Hall of Fame induction. Ashe’s remarkable life has been commemorated in the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum regularly since his induction. In the year ahead, the Hall of Fame will work closely with Ashe’s daughter, Camera, to create a special tribute exhibit and complementary events in honor of the 25th anniversary of his Hall of Fame induction that will further highlight his success in tennis, as well as his achievements off the court.
“Arthur’s perseverance and athletic skill on court made him a tennis legend. His leadership ability and dedication to freedom, justice and equality played an integral role in opening minds and changing opinions around the world. In addition, he led programs to make tennis accessible and appealing to young people, and created opportunities for people to use tennis as a platform for development of positive life skills,” said Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher E. Clouser. “The mission of the International Tennis Hall of Fame is to preserve the history of the sport, and there is no better way to do that than by showcasing the stories of the legends who are responsible for that history. In the year ahead we are pleased to work with Camera Ashe and the Ashe family to honor one of the most impactful individuals to have played the sport, Arthur Ashe.”
In June, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will open a special tribute exhibit to Ashe showcasing significant memorabilia from his tennis career as well as personal mementos, which have been personally selected by his daughter, Camera. Featured items of the exhibit will be Ashe’s 1968 US Open trophies, when he won both the singles and doubles titles to become the first African-American male to capture a Grand Slam victory. Additional items celebrating his tennis career that will be displayed include his 1975 Wimbledon trophy, 1984 Davis Cup trophy, and the 1962 ATA National Championships trophy. On a more personal level, several sculptures of Ashe will be showcased and a napkin from his 25th high school reunion, which was autographed by his classmates, will be on display.
“My family and I are so pleased to partner with the Hall of Fame for this special recognition of my father’s life and work. Tennis was a passion for my dad, and he valued the fact that his success in sport gave him a platform from which he could lobby for positive changes in the world, particularly in the area of social justice,” said Camera Ashe. “I’m pleased for this opportunity to continue to deliver his important messages and to pay tribute to his career success and humanitarian work, and to highlight the connection between the two.”
Complementing the new exhibit, the Museum will continue to showcase several remarkable tribute pieces to Ashe that are on display regularly, including a Sports Illustrated cover following his 1975 Wimbledon victory over Jimmy Connors, a congratulatory telegram from Jackie Robinson to Ashe following his 1968 US Open win, and a letter from Martin Luther King, Jr., in which King expressed his “personal appreciation for support and solidarity in the fight for social justice, freedom and dignity for all the people in this country.”
In addition to the Museum exhibit, Ashe will be celebrated during Hall of Fame Weekend, which will be hosted July 8 - 10. Hall of Fame Weekend is an annual celebration centered on the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and complemented by numerous special events. At the BNP Paribas Welcome Dinner on Friday, July 8, guests will be treated to a special tribute to Ashe, including a video presentation.
Arthur Ashe was born and raised in Richmond, Va., where segregation prevented him from entering junior competitions. His tennis skills caught the attention of Dr. Robert Walter Johnson (Hall of Fame Class of 2009) who arranged for Ashe to attend high school in St. Louis, where he would have more opportunity to compete. Johnson coached Ashe through his junior years, leading into his breakout season in 1968 when he won the U.S. Amateur, won both the singles and doubles titles at the US Open, and became the first African American to play Davis Cup for the United States.
In 1969, Ashe applied for and was denied a visa to travel to South Africa to play tennis, due to the strict segregation laws. Ashe dedicated himself to fighting for equality at home and abroad and continued to re-apply for the visa, until it was eventually granted in 1973. In 1991, he saw the results of his tireless work when he traveled to South Africa as part of a 31-person delegation that was invited to witness the beginning of racial integration.
In 1979, Ashe suffered a heart attack that necessitated a quadruple bypass surgery. In 1983, he required a second heart surgery, during which he contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. Ashe’s condition was not publicly announced until 1992, when it became apparent that a newspaper was about to reveal his condition. Ashe pre-empted the newspaper by making his own announcement and then utilized the attention to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and its victims. In the last year of his life he founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, which raised money for research into treating, curing and preventing AIDS.
Just as he had in his fight for social justice, Ashe utilized his own experiences with HIV as an opportunity to make things better for others. In his memoir, Days of Grace, Ashe wrote, “I do not like being the personification of a problem, much less a problem involving a killer disease, but I know I must seize these opportunities to spread the word.” He passed away on February 6, 1993 of AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 49.
The special Arthur Ashe exhibit will open in June and may be viewed as part of standard Museum admission. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is located in Newport, Rhode Island and is open daily from 9:30 am - 5:00 pm. Admission is $11 for adults, $9 for seniors, and free for Hall of Fame Members and kids ages 16 & under.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of tennis. Since 1955, the International Tennis Hall of Fame has inducted 218 people representing 19 countries.
For additional information about the Arthur Ashe tributes or about visiting the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, visit tennisfame.com or call 401-849-3990.
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