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Althea Gibson

Selected Writings By Gibson:

I Always Wanted to Be Somebody, New York: Harper, 1958.

Related Biography: Tennis Player Alice Marble

California-born Alice Marble (1913-1990) was the first woman to capture both Wimbledon and U.S. Open singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles in the same year.

She learned her sport on the public courts of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Unable to afford a tennis racquet, she played with borrowed equipment until coach Eleanor Tennant discovered her. In exchange for lessons, Marble performed secretarial work for Tennant, who remained Marble's lifelong coach.

In 1934, while representing the United States in France, Marble collapsed on the court and was sent to a sanatorium to recover. Eight months later and against the advice of her physician, a bored Marble left the sanatorium and began to build up her strength and recover her game. The National Tennis Association officials, fearing her frailty, were reluctant to allow Marble to compete, but when in 1936 she won the national singles and mixed doubles championships, the world took notice of this serious challenger. Two years later she won Wimbledon, and in 1939 broke world records when she won the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Marble's style of rushing the net evolved from lack of confidence in her ground strokes, but led to a playing style many women, such as Althea Gibson and Martina Navratilova, would emulate.

Marble confronted many difficulties. Going against the grain, she became a football reporter for WNEW radio in New York in 1940 and developed an avid following. Four years later, during World War II, she lost a baby during pregnancy and soon after learned her husband, Captain Joseph Norman Crowley, had been killed in Germany. Early in 1945 she risked her life in several missions as an Allied spy. She was an early feminist and tirelessly fought on behalf of women, homosexuals, and African Americans. In July 1950, Marble wrote her historic editorial in American Lawn Tennis magazine, denouncing the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association's policy of excluding blacks from competition. If Marble hadn't had such courage and stature among her peers, Althea Gibson might never have been allowed to compete. "Alice Marble was a great, kind, and gracious lady," Gibson recently said in ABC Sports Online forum, "and the one person that stood up for me in the tennis world, really the world at large."

Where Is She Now?

Living in seclusion at her home in East Orange, New Jersey, Gibson, who is well into her 70s and suffers from crippling arthritis, said in a recent online forum, "I want the public to remember me as they knew me: athletic, smart, and healthy…. Remember me strong and tough and quick, fleet of footand tenacious." While avoiding the spotlight, Gibson has not disappeared altogether. As a co-founder of the Althea Gibson Foundation, she works to help inner-city youths gain an education. Of all her accomplishments, Gibson says helping children is "probably the best thing that I will ever do." The National First Ladies Library recently honored her in absentia for her leadership role in creating opportunities for minority athletes and children.

Gibson, Althea and Richard Curtis. So Much to Live For. New York: Putnam, 1968.

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Famous Sports StarsTennisAlthea Gibson Biography - Lost In Harlem, "why Not Now?", Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Attains World Dominance - CONTACT INFORMATION