Arthur Ashe was the first African American tennis player ever selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the only black man to ever win the singles title at Wimbleton, The U.S. Open or Australian Open. He was the winner of three Grand Slams, and was inducted into three halls of fame, and was listed 30th in Tennis Magazines 40 Greatest Players of the Tennis Era.
Alongside his athletic accomplishment, Ashe utilized his standing in the sports community to wage war against inequality. When he was denied a visa by the South African government, thereby keeping him out of the South African Open, Ashe used this denial to publicize South Africa’s apartheid policies. In the media, Ashe called for South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit.
After his retirement, Ashe took on many new tasks, including writing for Time magazine, commentating for ABC Sports, founding the National Junior Tennis League, and serving as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team. He was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.
In 1988, Ashe fell ill after contracting HIV from the blood transfusions he received during heart surgery. In the last year of his life, Ashe did much to call attention to AIDS sufferers worldwide. Two months before his death, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery and was named Sports Illustrated magazine’s ‘Sportsman of the Year.’ He also spent much of the last years of his life writing his memoir Days of Grace, finishing the manuscript less than a week before his death.
Arthur Ashe was 50 when he died of AIDS in 1993.