Life After Tennis
In 1958, Gibson published her autobiography I Always Wanted to Be Somebody. She began a career in music and theater. Sugar Ray Robinson had bought her a saxophone when she was a youngster, and she had a sultry singing voice, with which she enchanted the crowd at the 1957 Wimbledon ball. (She sang the romantic "I Can't Give You Anything but Love.") In 1959 she cut an album, Althea Gibson Sings, and she made a John Ford movie, The Horse Soldiers, co-starring John Wayne and William Holden. In 1959 Gibson turned professional and played a couple of exhibition basketball games touring with the Harlem Globetrotters. Making another incursion into a formerly elite sport, she became the first black member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association and played tournaments until 1967. The following year she published a second autobiography, So Much to Live For.
In the 1970s she coached women's and girls' sports, and from 1975 to 1977 became New Jersey athletic commissioner for boxing and wrestling. In 1977 she ran unsuccessfully in a three-way Democratic primary for the New Jersey Senate. She also served on the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness. A series of strokes limited her mobility and she retired in 1992. While mentally agile, Gibson suffers from arthritis and is confined to a wheelchair. When in the late 1990s friends, fans, and colleagues realized that the former champion was nearly destitute, they began a series of fundraisers, which netted $25,000 for the woman who had broken the tennis color barrier.