Althea Gibson was an American athlete and Hall of Fame
tennis champion. She was the first African-American to
compete in the U.S. tennis championships, in 1950, after
winning a series of titles in the all-black American
Tennis Association. She was also the first black to
compete in Wimbledon in 1951. Ms. Gibson went on to
become the first black woman to win a major tennis
crown by winning the French Championship in 1956.
The following year, she became the first black to
win the Wimbledon women's singles title, and the first
African-American to win the U.S. Nationals at Forest
Hills, New York. She successfully defended both her
Wimbledon and U.S. titles in 1958. In 1957, Gibson
became the first African-American to be named Associated
Press female athlete of the year. She was honored with
the award again in 1958.
She won a total of 56 tournaments, including
11 Grand Slam events, five of which were Grand
Slam singles titles, six were doubles. Her doubles
titles included wins at the French, Wimbledon,
United States and Australian championships.
Following her tennis career, she became the first
African-American to play in the Ladies
Professional Golf Association (LPGA).
In later years, Althea served as state
commissioner of athletics in New Jersey
(1975-85), then served on the state athletics
control board until 1988, and the governor's
council on physical fitness until 1992.
Her autobiography, I Always Wanted to be Somebody,
was published in 1958.
October 17th, 1965, Gibson married William Darben.
They had no children and divorced in August of
1976. Her second marriage was to her former tennis
coach, Sydney Llewellyn, and took place April 11th,
1983, but lasted less than 3 years, and also
produced no children. After her second divorce,
she rekindled her friendship with her first husband,
and they remained close until his death.
Biographical fast facts
Date, time and place of birth: August 25, 1927,
at 9:00 a.m.*, Silver, South Carolina, U.S.A.
Date, place and cause of death: September 28, 2003,
East Orange General Hospital, East Orange, New Jersey, U.S.A.
Father: Daniel Gibson
Mother: Annie Bell (Washington) Gibson
Burial site: Rosedale Cemetery, 367 Washington Street,
Orange, New Jersey, U.S.A.
Note that some sources report Gibson was buried in
Montclair, New Jersey. This is due to the fact that
Rosedale Cemetery covers a large area which straddles
the borders of Montclair, Orange, and West Orange,
Error corrections or clarifications
* Source: Birth certificate
Be aware, some sources erroneously report
Althea was born in "New York City in 1928."
While Ms. Gibson was certainly raised
in Harlem, New York, she was not born there,
nor was she born in 1928.
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