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Richmond’s Favorite Son

Remembering Arthur Ashe

Born in Richmond in 1943, tennis legend Arthur Ashe first played at Brook Field Park, near his Northside home. Growing up in the era of segregation, he was barred from playing tennis in many segregated city parks and in whites-only tournaments. But with skill, perseverance, and grace, he overcame discrimination in the United States to become an international star.

Over the course of his career, he won fifty-one tennis titles, including three Grand Slams (Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open) and achieved a number of African-American firsts, including being the first black American to be selected for the U.S. Davis Cup team and the first to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1975, he was ranked the number one tennis player in the world.

A year later, he would return to Richmond to win the United Virginia Bank Tennis Classic, (pictured here inspecting the court with opponent Fred McNair). Richmond, for its part, had been changing too. Over the next few decades, the city would come to honor the athlete’s accomplishments. The boy who had no right to play in many city-owned parks would live to see a municipal athletic center here dedicated in his name. Four years after he died, a slightly larger facility was built in his honor in Flushing Meadows, New York. Known as Arthur Ashe Stadium, today athletes from around the world compete in the U.S. Open, held there every fall.

After his death in 1993 at the age of forty-nine, he would lie in state in the executive mansion and have his own statue on Monument Avenue.  

Richmond Times-Dispatch Collection, The Valentine February 4, 1976, Gary Burns V.86.206.05

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