Tennis Legend Arthur Ashe in U.S. Commemorative Stamp
Arthur Ashe, humanitarian and world class tennis star, will be immortalized on a commemorative postage stamp to be issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2005.
The announcement came during the unveiling of the stamp image as part of the Arthur Ashe Kids' Day presented by Hess, which kicks off the 2004 U.S.
Open. The ceremonies took place in the Stadium bearing the tennis legend's name. Ashe's image, a photo by Michael O'Neill used on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine naming Ashe 1992 Sportsman of the Year, is the first Sports Illustrated cover photo ever featured on a postage stamp.
"Arthur Ashe was a man who was unafraid to redefine the boundaries of his world," said Henry A. Pankey, Vice President, Emergency Preparedness, U.S.
Postal Service, at the unveiling. "Through his efforts -- on and off the court -- he pushed us all to make the world a better place."
As the first African American man to win Grand Slam tennis Tournamentsâ€”Wimbledon, and the United States and Australian Opensâ€”Ashe followed his on-court accomplishments with a lifetime of activity devoted to humanitarian endeavors. His commitment to social issues led him to establish foundations that help disenfranchised youth, and support the fight against AIDS, which he had contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. Ashe also organized efforts to oppose South Africa's apartheid rule, a rule that ended in 1994.
Before succumbing to AIDS-related pneumonia in 1993, Ashe spoke before the United Nations General Assembly and urged nations to increase their efforts and funding in the war against AIDS. He acquired the disease following a tainted blood transfusion.
Born July 10, 1943 in Richmond, VA, Ashe learned to play tennis on Blacks-only Brook Field playground under the tutelage of local black tennis great Ron Charity. Recognizing his son's talent, Arthur Ashe, Sr. supported his training while raising Arthur and his brother John without their mother, who died in 1950.
Several years later, Ashe's father married Lorene Kimbrough, adding her two children, Robert and Loretta, to their combined family. Though racial barriers excluded Ashe from tennis competitions in the South, his tenacity and enthusiasm for the sport never flagged. Seeking other opportunities to compete, Ashe spent a year in St. Louis before attending UCLA.
Eventually Ashe played in the world's foremost tennis championships, acquiring a long list of wins, among them three Grand Slam tournaments. Ashe became the first African American to represent the United States on the Davis Cup team, playing in 32 Davis Cup matches and winning 27 during his tennis career. A heart attack and ongoing heart problems, however, forced him to retire from competition in 1980, but not from tennis. As the first African American to captain the Davis Cup team, Ashe led the team to win the cup in 1981 and 1982.
Earning numerous honors throughout his life, Ashe was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985, and hailed Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1992. He died Feb. 6, 1993. Four years after his death, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) named the new 23,000-seat U.S. Open tennis facility Arthur Ashe Stadium and Commemorative Garden at its opening ceremony in Flushing Meadow, New York City.
Ashe is survived by his beloved wife, photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, and their daughter, Camera, now 17 years old.