Timeline Description: Althea Gibson (born August 25, 1927) is the first African-American to find international renown in the world of tennis, and later, to play professional golf. Gibson broke athletic barriers for African-American women and excelled in her sports, winning the Grand Slam in 1956 and both Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals in 1957 and 1958. In the early 1960s, after retiring from tennis, she was the first African-American woman to compete in women's professional golf.
|August 25, 1927||Althea Gibson Is Born
Althea Gibson was born to poor sharecroppers in the town of Silver, South Carolina. The family was impacted by the Great Depression early, as cotton farmers suffered the impact of the financial downturn earlier than many others.
|1930||Family Moves to Harlem
In response to the economic strains of the Depression, the family moved to Harlem, New York. Althea's parents had three more children in their apartment in Harlem. The street was part of a Police Athletic League Play area, and children had access to the street for organized play during the day. Althea learned to play paddle tennis in the street in front of her home.
|1939||New York City Paddle Tennis Champion
By 12 years old, Althea was the New York City Paddle Tennis champion. She competed in the women's league, rather than with children of her own age, and quickly became successful.
|1941||Won Girls' American Tennis Association New York State Championship
In 1940, neighbors joined together to pay for a membership to Harlem's Cosmopolitan Tennis Club for Althea, then 13 years old. The following year, she won the Girls' American Tennis Association championship for the state of New York.
|1944||Won Girls' American Tennis Association National Championship(1944 and 1945)
As a teenager, Gibson continued to succeed on the tennis court. In both 1944 and 1945, she won not only her state title, but also the American Tennis Association National Championships. With these titles in hand, new opportunities opened up for her.
|1946||Moved to Wilmington, NC
Following her success with the Girls' American Tennis Association Championships, Gibson gained new supporters, sponsors and mentors with an interest in African-American tennis players. With their support, she moved to North Carolina to finish high school.
|1947||Won Women's American Tennis Association National Championship
In 1947, Gibson succeeded at winning the Women's National Championship. She continued to excel, and expanded the options for competition. By 1949, she had earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Florida.
|1949||Played in U.S. Tennis Association Indoor Championships
Althea Gibson secured a place in the U.S. Tennis Association Indoor Championships. She was the first African-American woman and only the second African-American to play in the USTA Championships. In 1950, she was the first African-American to play in the U.S. National Championships, now the U.S. Open.
|1956||Wins French Grand Slam
In 1956, Gibson won both the Singles and Doubles championships at the French Grand Slam. She was the first African-American of either gender to win a Grand Slam title. She reached the semi-finals at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals that year as well.
|1957||Wins Wimbledon and U.S. Nationals
In 1957, Gibson was the first African-American to win Wimbledon, receiving her trophy from Queen Elizabeth II. She was welcomed home with a ticker tape parade. She won her first U.S. Nationals title the same year.
|1958||Wins Wimbledon and U.S. Nationals
Gibson repeated her 1957 wins in 1958. She made the covers of both Sports Illustrated and Time this year. While she was remarkably successful as a tennis player, the amateur tennis circuit provided few opportunities for financial gain.
|1957||Named Female Athlete of the Year(1957 and 1958)
The Associated Press named Althea Gibson female athlete of the year in both 1957 and 1958. She attempted a singing career in these years, and shortly after, went professional; however, professional tennis was not a successful choice for Gibson.
|1964||Joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour
Gibson became the first African-American to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour (the LPGA). Racial discrimination was a significant problem. Gibson was not allowed in some of the clubs associated with the golf courses, or in some hotels.
|1970||A Career in Athletics(1970s)
During the 1970s, Althea Gibson tried unsuccessfully to pay tennis in the opens, and later to resume her golf career. She worked for various athletic organizations, including Pepsi Cola's Mobile Tennis Project, and the women's athletics department in Essex County, New Jersey.
|1978||Retired from Professional Golf
Gibson officially retired from professional golf in 1978. She worked through the 1980s, but began to struggle with health and financial problems in the 1990s. Fundraising efforts in the tennis community provided her with more than one million dollars.
|September 28, 2003||Althea Gibson Died
Althea Gibson died at 76 years old from natural causes related to age. She was buried next to her first husband in New Jersey.