Althea Gibson Notes

Althea Gibson was one of the sports world’s greatest athletes. Not only did she excel in the world of women sports, but she also excelled in the world of sports for African-Americans.


As a pioneer, she paved the way for future generations. Below is a general synopsis of her life and achievements.


·        Raised in Harlem, New York

·        Eldest of five children

·        At age 12 became the New York Paddle Tennis Champion

·        Being nearly 5-foot-11-inches tall, Gibson was able to reach balls most players missed. Her height gave her the ability to snap serves into the court at speeds far above her opponents.

·        Won 56 singles and doubles titles in the 1950s

·        Won 11 major titles in late 1950s (French Open56, Wimbledon 1957,1958; US Open singles 1957,1958; French Open doubles 1956-1958)

·        Named Babe Zaharias Woman Athlete of the Year 1957-1958

·        Became first African-American woman on Ladies Professional Golf Tour in 1962 and played through 1977 participating in 171 tournaments

·        Awarded the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award in 1991. That award is given to a distinguished citizen of national reputation and outstanding accomplishment who was a varsity letter winner in college

·        Signed $100,000 contract with the Harlem Globetrotters to play exhibition tennis during half-time at their games

·        Became an athletic instructor at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri in 1953

·        Other than playing sports, Gibson wrote an autobiography, made a record album and appeared as a slave in John Ford’s “The Horse Soldiers”

·        Served in various sporting positions in the New Jersey state government

·        Suffered aneurysms and strokes through the latter half of her life leading up to her death

·        Inducted into the:

o       National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame – 1971

o       Black Athletes Hall of Fame – 1974

o        South Carolina Hall of Fame – 1983

o        Florida Sports Hall of Fame – 1984

Compiled by Dominique Drake
Sources:,, FAMU Sports Release,