Althea Gibson was a professional golfer and tennis player from the United States who was one of the first Black athletes to cross the color line in international tennis. She was the first African American to win a Grand Slam title in 1956. (the French Championships).
She won Wimbledon and the US Nationals (the predecessor to the US Open) the following year, then won both again in 1958, and was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year both years. She won 11 Grand Slam tournaments in total, including five singles, five doubles, and one mixed doubles title.
Gibson was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Bob Ryland, a tennis contemporary and former coach of Venus and Serena Williams, described her as “one of the greatest players who ever lived.” “Martina [Navratilova] was unable to make contact with her. I believe she will triumph over the Williams sisters.” She was also the first Black player to participate on the Women’s Professional Golf Tour in the early 1960s. Here are some of her quotes:
“Being champion is all well and good, but you can’t eat a crown.”― Althea Gibson
“In the field of sports you are more or less accepted for what you do rather than what you are.”― Althea Gibson
“I always wanted to be somebody. If I made it, it’s half because I was game enough to take a lot of punishment along the way and half because there were a lot of people who cared enough to help me.”― Althea Gibson
“Shaking hands with the Queen of England was a long way from being forced to sit in the colored section of the bus going into downtown Wilmington, North Carolina.”― Althea Gibson
“In sports, you simply aren’t considered a real champion until you have defended your title successfully. Winning it once can be a fluke; winning it twice proves you are the best.”― Althea Gibson
“NO MATTER WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU MAKE, SOMEBODY HELPED YOU.”― ALTHEA GIBSON
“I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I just want to be reasonably successful and live a normal life with all the conveniences to make it so.”― Althea Gibson
“I think I have done enough for sports and made enough of a name for myself to deserve some sort of backing – most of the other girls have it.”― Althea Gibson