As a tennis player, Arthur Ashe was one of the best of his time. His legacy, on the other hand, will be the positive changes in society as a whole. Though at his best he was for many the very definition of tennis, tennis never defined Arthur Ashe. As a child growing up in segregated Richmond, Virginia, Arthur's physical stature did little to indicate his future career as a professional athlete.
Another tragic event that did not stop Arthur from greatness was his mother's passing while Arthur was only six years old. Though heartbroken, Arthur's memory of his beloved mother was a source of inspiration throughout his life. Upon graduation from high school, Arthur was good enough to earn a tennis scholarship to UCLA. It was at UCLA that Arthur became recognized for his tennis ability on a national level, including an individual and team NCAA championship in 1965. He was growing as a person as well, graduating in 1966 with a BA in Business Administration. Ashe was selected in 1963 to represent the United States in Davis Cup play, an honor in which he took great pride.
In doing so, he also became the first African-American to be selected to play for the American team. In one year when he won the US Open and played a key role in the United States winning the Davis Cup. At a time when tennis? popularity was growing by leaps and bounds, the amount of prize money being offered to the players was lagging. Ashe and several other players formed in 1969, what later became known as the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals). It is from this small and visionary beginning that today's top players enjoy the large sums of prize money for which they compete. Later that year, as the #1-ranked American Arthur applied for a visa to play in the South African Open.
His visa was denied because of the color of his skin. Though Arthur was well aware that this would probably be the case, he decided to take a bold stand. Numerous prominent individuals and organizations, both in and out of the tennis world, quickly supported his call for expulsion from South Africa from the tennis tour and Davis Cup play. In effect, he raised the world's awareness to the oppressive form of government (apartheid) of South Africa. Buoyed by Arthur Ashe's initial efforts, blacks in South Africa slowly but surely began to see change come about in their country.
By the mid-1970?'s, people began to whisper that perhaps Arthur was spending too much time on his causes and not enough time on his game. It was from these doubts that Arthur began to refocus on his game, determined to reach the level of play he once enjoyed. In 1975, at the age of 31, Arthur Ashe enjoyed one of his finest seasons ever and one of the shining moments of his career by winning Wimbledon. He also attained the ultimate ranking of #1 in the world. Arthur Ashe retired in 1980, making a smooth transition into the second-half of his life. He became a father in 1986, when his daughter Camera Elizabeth arrived.
During a doctor's exam in 1988, however, the Ashe's lives were irrevocably changed. While in the hospital for brain surgery, Arthur received the overwhelming news that he was HIV-Positive. Arthur received this virus through a heart surgery in 1983. Arthur made his condition known to the world through a scheduled a press conference on the morning of April 8, 1992. The knowledge that his life and the lives of his family members would forever be altered was foremost on Arthur's mind.
Arthur Ashe passed away on February 6, 1993, having raised awareness of AIDS to a level where paranoia was no longer the overriding emotion and while also an amazing tennis player, and while helping to end apartheid in South Africa.