Arthur Ashe Revisited
Came across this NYTimes obituary on its website. It may be a bit long but it can never be long enough to capture the life of one of tennis' greats!!!
February 8, 1993
Arthur Ashe, Tennis Star, Is Dead at 49
By ROBIN FINN
Barton Silverman/The New York Times
Arthur Ashe, 1979.
Arthur Ashe, a tennis champion who spent his years in the sport fighting discrimination and then spent the final year of his life seeking to broaden public awareness on the subject of AIDS, died Saturday. He was 49.
A New York Hospital administrator, Judith Lilavois, said Ashe died at 3:13 P.M. of pneumonia, a complication of AIDS. He was admitted to the hospital on Friday.
Yesterday, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said that Ashe's body would lie in state at the executive mansion in Richmond tomorrow from 5 to 9 P.M. Ashe's wife, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, said that her husband's funeral would be Wednesday at 1 P.M. at the Arthur Ashe Youth Center in Richmond, where he was born, and that he would be buried at Woodland Cemetery.
Ashe was the only black man to win Wimbledon and the United States and Australian Opens.
Militant in his convictions but mild in his manner, this slim, bookish and bespectacled athlete never thought himself a rebel and preferred information to insurrection.
Dedicated to Helping Others
Since he believed his singular success carried inherent responsibilities, Ashe, during his decadelong professional tennis career and beyond it, dedicated himself to dismantling the barriers of poverty, privilege, racism and social stereotyping. Even the fact of his own mortality became a cause celebre, and Ashe, in the headlines again, conducted his final campaign against the ravages of AIDS.
Ashe, who said he believed he contracted H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, through a transfusion of tainted blood during his second round of heart-bypass surgery in 1983, first learned of his infection after he entered New York Hospital for emergency brain surgery in September 1988. He was hospitalized after he suffered paralysis of his right arm, the one that served up 26 aces the day he became the 1968 United States Open champion. The surgery and a subsequent biopsy revealed the presence of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection linked to AIDS.
In recent weeks, Ashe had been hospitalized with pneumocystis pneumonia, according to an AIDS researcher. Two weeks ago, he stayed in Manhattan, where he lived, rather than travel to Boston to receive an award.
He appeared short of breath in a videotape that he made to be shown in the place of his appearance. But Ashe was as passionate as ever, speaking of a visit to South Africa he had made and how a young boy had told him that he was the first free black man he had ever seen.
Disclosed Illness Under Duress
Ashe chose not to publicize his condition, preferring to protect his family's privacy and being well aware of the inevitable demands such a disclosure would place on a man of his celebrity.
He did not disclose his condition until April 8, 1992, and then only after being told that USA Today intended to publish an article about his illness as soon as it could confirm it. But after making his public admission, Ashe spent the rest of his days campaigning for public awareness, including a speech on the floor of the United Nations on World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
When he made his reluctant admission, Ashe said: "I have good days and bad days. My ratio of good days to bad days is about six to one. I don't think anybody in my stage of this would be able to go through with no bad days. But I didn't want to go public now because I am not sick."
Sick, in Ashe's terminology, meant being bedridden and nonfunctional. As an avid golfer, prominent speaker, occasional columnist for The Washington Post, television commentator for HBO and ABC, author of a three-volume history of the black athlete in America, and a noted participant in countless civic projects and protests, Ashe hardly went into retreat in the four years that followed his AIDS diagnosis.
Compiling the 1,600-page treatise "A Hard Road to Glory," published in 1988, was a major project.
Ever in icy control on the tennis court, Ashe was just as assiduous about remaining in control of himself and his emotions in his off-court life.
Foundation Fights AIDS
Just before being stricken by a mild heart attack, his third, last September, Ashe assembled tennis luminaries at the United States Open to begin a 15-month, $5 million fund-raising effort on behalf of his namesake foundation to combat AIDS. With that project safely in the works, he traveled to Washington, where he was part of a group whose members were arrested while protesting the Bush Administration's treatment of Haitian refugees.
For Ashe, the handcuffs were nothing new; this longtime friend to Nelson Mandela and the first black athlete to be granted a visa (but not hotel accommodations) to compete in South Africa, in 1973, was arrested in 1985 as he protested South Africa's policy of apartheid.
But devoting himself to becoming a human billboard in the fight against AIDS was something Ashe always understood he would eventually accept with his usual poise.
Only the fact that the timing of his public pledge to help eradicate AIDS was beyond his control bothered him. As the father of a daughter -- Camera, now 6 -- Ashe didn't want his limited time to be spent working overtime, which happened to be his only way of working, to help halt the spread of this disease. He did not want his to become a one-issue existence.
But once the announcement was a fait accompli, Ashe's initial anger dissipated and he seemed almost relieved: nothing like a valid cause to set Ashe's competitive juices simmering.
"The foundation was something I always knew I wanted to do, long before I went public on April 8," said Ashe, who continued to refer to that date as the beginning of his life as an AIDS activist and the end of his relatively "unfettered" existence as a former tennis champion with a sports, business and family agenda.
Gonzalez Is Role Model
The shy yet eloquent Ashe, who listed the tennis star Pancho Gonzalez as his only sports idol, did not set out to become a role model for young black athletes. But because he dared to stand by his convictions, that is precisely what happened.
Unlike baseball's Jackie Robinson, who acted as conduit for the rites of passage of a stream of deserving black baseball players, Ashe was the only prominent black tennis player of his era. It was a position that left him feeling ostracized at times, he said, by both blacks and whites.
"It's an abnormal world I live in," he told Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford in 1966. "It's like I'm floating down the middle. I'm never quite sure where I am. It does bother me that I'm in this predicament, but I don't dwell on it, because I know it will resolve itself."
But Ashe served as a beacon for future generations of black tennis players.
"He's always been for black players someone to look up to and someone who says, 'You can do it, it doesn't matter where you come from or how you look,' " said Zina Garrison-Jackson, a product of Houston's public parks system who reached a career-high ranking of No. 4 in the world in 1989.
"Arthur showed you what is possible to be accomplished," she said. "I always wanted to follow in his footsteps, and nobody can forget that he made the footsteps: I can really appreciate the time that he made his breakthrough in. It was harder then for a minority player to break in, especially in our sport, but he did it to the hilt."
According to Pam Shriver, a many-time Grand Slam doubles champion and herself a frequent commentator on a wide range of topics, Ashe's example of grace under pressure was not lost on the women players campaigning for equality in their workplace. "He was a voice for all the minorities, and that goes for women, too," she said. "He brought a level of conscience to the game, whether he was speaking on South Africa or inner-city minorities or exclusionary policies anyplace. Arthur's influence on tennis didn't fade after he left the sport."
Began Tennis at Age 7
Arthur Ashe, the son of a parks policeman, was born in Richmond on July 10, 1943. His mother died when he was 6. His father died in 1989.
He played his first tennis at the age of 7 on the courts at Brookfield Park, the segregated playground adjacent to his home. By the time he was 14, he had found a patron in Dr. Walter Johnson, a Lynchburg, Va., physician with two decades of experience in assisting black tennis prodigies.
Ashe reached the semifinals of the junior national championships on his first attempt in 1958. He won the indoor singles title in 1960 and 1961, and completed his high school years at Sumner High School in St. Louis in order to train full-time there with Richard Hudlin.
In 1962, as the fifth-ranked junior in the nation, Ashe received a full scholarship to U.C.L.A. While a student there, he attracted the attention of Gonzalez and Pancho Segura, both of whom helped refine Ashe's serve-and-volley game and the unflappable temperament that vaulted him to three Grand Slam tournament singles titles. They also encouraged his penchant for experimentation: At one time, Ashe accumulated 16 variations of the backhand in his stroke repertory.
In 1963, he joined the United States Davis Cup Team, and by 1966, the year of his graduation from U.C.L.A. with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, he was described by the renowned tennis teacher, Harry Hopman, as "the most promising player in the world."
Ashe, while still a 25-year-old amateur fulfilling a three-year Army stint, ushered in the Open era by winning the 1968 United States Open at Forest Hills. He defeated Tom Okker in the final, marking the first time a black man had won a Grand Slam event, one of the sport's four major tournaments. In 1970, he won the Australian Open.
In 1975, making his final-round opponent even more manic than usual by calmly closing his eyes and meditating through every changeover, he defeated Jimmy Connors in the Wimbledon final. Ashe also collected doubles titles at the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon.
The Grand Slam titles and ensuing endorsement contracts helped make Ashe, who earned $1,584,909 in prize money, tennis's first black millionaire, but wealth didn't distract him from the social issues of his day. In 1973, on his third attempt, he was granted a visa to South Africa, and helped integration efforts there. In 1974 he helped found the Association of Men's Tennis Professionals, a players union, and served as its president until 1979. He played on the Davis Cup team for 10 years, won three championships, and later served as its captain from 1981-84 after heart problems forced his retirement in 1980.
Ashe suffered his first heart attack in July 1979, just after conducting a clinic for underprivileged children in New York City. In December of that year, he underwent a quadruple-bypass operation, and in 1983 he underwent a double bypass, at St. Luke-Roosevelt Hospital. Ashe discovered he had AIDS 18 months after Federal health officials recommended the testing of any patients who had received blood transfusions between 1978 and 1985.
In 1988, the same year he learned he had AIDS, Ashe helped create inner-city tennis programs for youths in Newark, Detroit, Atlanta, Kansas City and Indianapolis. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., in 1985, and last year Mayor David N. Dinkins, a longtime friend, proclaimed Aug. 30, the date of Ashe's kickoff for his $5 million AIDS fund-raiser, Arthur Ashe Day in New York City.
Ashe served on the board of directors of Aetna Life & Casualty and the United States Tennis Association, as chairman of the National Heart Association in 1981-82, and had recently rejoined the Board of Trustees of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. He also held corporate posts with Head Sports USA and Le Coq Sportif USA.
A memorial service will be held in New York City on Friday. Details have not been completed.
Chronology: "Arthur Ashe in the Spotlight"
Aug. 1, 1963: Becomes the first black to be named to a United States Davis Cup team.
June 21, 1965: Leads U.C.L.A. to the N.C.A.A. tennis championship.
Aug. 25, 1968: Becomes the first black to win United States men's singles championships.
Sept. 9, 1968: Wins the first United States Open title.
Dec. 12, 1968: Is ranked No. 1 by the United States Lawn Tennis Association.
June 30, 1969: Is banned from South African championships.
Jan. 26, 1970: Becomes the first black to win the Australian Open.
Nov. 24, 1973: Becomes the first black to reach final of the South African Open.
1974-1979: President of the Association of Tennis Professionals.
July 5, 1975: Becomes the first black to win the men's singles title at Wimbledon.
Dec. 21, 1979: Undergoes quadruple bypass heart surgery.
April 16, 1980: Announces his retirement from competitive tennis.
Sept. 7, 1980: Named captain of the Davis Cup team. The United States wins championships under him in 1981 and 1982.
June 21, 1983: Undergoes double bypass heart surgery.
March 21, 1985: Named to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
1988: His three-voloume history "A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African Athlete" is published.
April 8, 1992: Announces he contracted the AIDS virus from a blood transfusion during heart bypass surgery. He said he tested positive for H.I.V. three and a half years earlier while hospitalized for a bacterial invection in his brain. (Source: The Associated Press)