Arthur Ashe (July 10, 1943 - February 6, 1993) was a prominent African American professional tennis player. During his playing career, he won three Grand Slam titles. Ashe is also remembered for his efforts to further social causes.
In 1965, Ashe won the individual NCAA championship and was a chief contributor in UCLA’s winning the team NCAA tennis championship. By 1969, most people considered Ashe to be the best American male tennis player. He had won the inaugural US Open in 1968, and had aided the US Davis Cup team to victory that same year. In 1975, Ashe played his best season ever by winning Wimbledon, unexpectedly defeating Jimmy Connors in the final. He remains the only African American player ever to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon, the US Open, or Australian Open, and one of only two men of black African ancestry to win a Grand Slam singles event.
After his retirement, Ashe took on many new tasks, from writing for “Time” magazine to commentating for ABC Sports, from founding the National Junior Tennis League to serving as captain of the US Davis Cup team. He was elected to the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.
The story of Ashe’s life turned from success to tragedy in 1988, however, when Ashe discovered he had contracted HIV during the blood transfusions he had received during one of his two heart surgeries. In the last year of his life, Arthur Ashe did much to call attention to AIDS sufferers worldwide. Two months before his death, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery and was named Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year. He also spent much of the last years of his life writing his memoir “Days of Grace”, finishing the manuscript less than a week before his death.