Althea Gibson


Born: August 25th, 1927 in Claredon County, South Carolina
Died: September 28th, 2003 (at age 76) in East Orange, New Jersey
Nationality: American
Famous For: Being the first African-American in the L.P.G.A.
Awards: Grand Slam Title

Althea Gibson is profoundly known for her remarkable skills in tennis that broke the discriminatory color barrier that was notable in both golf and tennis. She is also remembered for having been the first African-American tennis player that played in Wimbledon in 1957. In the same year she played and won the Championship trophy that was presented to her by Queen Elizabeth. She became the first lifetime woman to gain the title of Female Athlete of the year. Her career pipeline represents an ambitious multi-talented persona.

Early Life and Career

In the early 19th to mid-20th century when sports was introduced in the United States, many young people delved in the new openings. It had become a trending way to retain a good healthy regime. Public programs brought opportunities to youths and children in the poor parts of the states who could not get a chance to play in the elite grounds. This way Althea Neale Gibson, born on August 25th, 1927 in silver city, South Carolina, found her way. She had continually built up on the skill, she played paddle tennis in sponsored public programs and won numerous tournaments: some backed by the Police Athletic League and other by Parks Department. During these games, a musician, Buddy Walker discovered Althea’s passion and skills while playing table tennis and thought she would be an excellent performer in long tennis. He took her to Harlem River Tennis Courts where she started to excel exceptionally.

By 1942, Gibson had become a member of Harlem Cosmopolitan Tennis Club for African Americans. With organizations such as American Tennis Association, it was possible for African Americans to participate in tennis and Althea lead the herd. She won the girls’ singles tournament and again in 1944 and 1945. Later her charisma was also noticed by a wealthy businessman from South Carolina who supported her in furthering her education and practicing tennis as well. As such, she attended Florida A&M University and graduated in 1953. From 1947 to 1956, Althea Gibson had won ATA women’s single tournaments each year. However, by 1958 Gibson had begun considering giving up on amateur tennis to offer lesson instead because she was in great debt. She had even started training on her vocals and actually produced a music album.

Golfing Career

At 33 years old she turned to golf. She would hit a golf ball over 200 yards and club professionals were enthralled by her eye coordination, timing, strength and spirit. She would practice golf the whole day and in no time the Englewood golf club recognized her and made her the first African American member. Julius Boros is the golfer accredited in helping her perfect her bunker shots and putting. In 1963, she joined the LPGA tour as the first African American player. However, she started off with a substandard 84 stroke per round but improved to 77.5 and surprisingly led with an opening round of 69 in the Thunderbird Open. Discrimination was a major challenge which disheartened her greatly; she was not permitted to use facilities and hotels disregarded her overtly.

It was at the greatest point in her golfing career that she drifted from the tour. However, the State of New Jersey appointed her commissioner of Athletics. In 1992, at age 65 she suffered from cerebral aneurism which developed into a stroke. Althea Gibson died on September 28th, 2003 and was buried in Rosedale Cemetery.