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Arthur Ashe Biography

Growing Up, Early Lessons, The Amateur Years, Chronology, Ranked Number One, Center Court

1943-1993

American tennis player

Arthur Ashe's 1993 memoir, aptly titled Days of Grace, is a reflection on his brief but rich life as a champion tennis player, a father, an African-American man, and a compassionate and courageous human being. As the first African American to win a major men's tennis title and to be ranked number one internationally, Ashe used his position and reputation to speak out against inequities not only in the world of professional sports, but also against injustices wherever he saw them. That would prove to be a sacrifice more than simply a good deed. Ashe himself admitted in 1989 that had he focused only on tennis he could have been a better competitor. At the same time, it was clear by his words and actions that he didn't want to be remembered only for all his "firsts" as a black athlete but also as an African-American man who had fulfilled his "duties as a citizen," as he noted in his memoir. When he died at age 49 of AIDS-related pneumonia, thousands of mourners from all over the world attended his funeral.

Sketch by Jane Summer

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Famous Sports StarsTennis