Althea Gibson

American tennis player

Althea Gibson (August 25, 1927 – September 28, 2003) was a World No. 1 American sportswoman who became the first African-American woman to be a competitor on the world tennis tour and the first to win a Grand Slam title in 1956. She is sometimes known as "the Jackie Robinson of tennis" for breaking the color barrier. Gibson was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Althea Gibson
Althea Gibson NYWTS.jpg
Gibson in 1956
Country (sports) United States
Born(1927-08-25)August 25, 1927[1]
Silver, Clarendon County, South Carolina, US
DiedSeptember 28, 2003(2003-09-28) (aged 76)
East Orange, New Jersey, US
Height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)[2]
Int. Tennis HoF1971 (member page)
Career record0–0
Highest rankingNo. 1 (1957)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian OpenF (1957)
French OpenW (1956)
WimbledonW (1957, 1958)
US OpenW (1957, 1958)
Career record0–0
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian OpenW (1957)
French OpenW (1956)
WimbledonW (1956, 1957, 1958)
US OpenF (1957, 1958)
Grand Slam Mixed Doubles results
Australian OpenSF (1957)
French OpenQF (1956)
WimbledonF (1956, 1957, 1958)
US OpenW (1957)


Althea Gibson was born at 9:00 am EDT on August 25, 1927 in Silver, Clarendon County, South Carolina to Daniel and Annie Bell Gibson. Althea had two siblings, a brother, Daniel Jr. (known as "Bubba") and a sister, Mildred.

Gibson played tennis while going to school for an education. In 1946, she moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, to work on her tennis game with Dr. Hubert A. Eaton and enrolled at Williston High School.

In 1958, Gibson retired from amateur tennis. Before the open era of tennis began, there was no prize money, other than an expense allowance, and no endorsement contracts. To begin earning prize money, tennis players had to give up their amateur status. As there was no professional tour for women, Gibson was limited to playing in a series of exhibition tours.

According to Lance Tingay of The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Gibson was ranked in the world top ten from 1956 through 1958, reaching a career high of No. 1 in those rankings in 1957 and 1958.[3] Gibson was included in the year-end top ten rankings issued by the United States Tennis Association in 1952 and 1953 and from 1955 through 1958. She was the top-ranked U.S. player in 1957 and 1958.[4] In 1957 Althea became the first African American woman to win Wimbledon. She won again in 1958. In 1958, she appeared as the celebrity challenger on the TV panel show "What's My Line?".

In retirement, Gibson wrote her autobiography and in 1959 recorded an album, Althea Gibson Sings, as well as appearing in the motion picture, The Horse Soldiers. In 1964, she became the first African American woman to play in the Ladies Professional Golf Association. However, she was too old to be successful and only played for a few years.

In 1971, Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 1975, she was appointed the New Jersey state commissioner of athletics. After 10 years on the job, she went on to work in other public service positions, including serving on the governor's council on physical fitness. In later years, she suffered two cerebral aneurysms and, in 1992, a stroke. A few years later, Gibson called her former doubles partner Angela Buxton and told her she was considering suicide, as she was living on welfare and unable to pay for rent or medication. Buxton arranged for a letter to appear in a tennis magazine. Buxton told Gibson nothing about the letter, but the latter received nearly US $1 million from around the world.[5]

Gibson was married twice. Her first marriage to William Darben took place on October 17, 1965, but the couple was divorced in 1976, eleven years later. Darben died in 1995. She was also married to Sydney Llewellyn on April 11, 1983 and was divorced from him in 1988.

On September 28, 2003, at the age of 76, Gibson died in East Orange, New Jersey due to infections. She was buried there in the Rosedale Cemetery, at Orange, New Jersey.

On the opening night of the 2007 US Open, the 50th anniversary of Gibson's victory at the US Championships in 1957 (now the US Open), Gibson was inducted into US Open Court of Champions.[6][7] She was a 1994 inductee of the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey and 2009 inductee of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. In September 2009, the City of Wilmington, NC named its new community tennis complex the Althea Gibson Tennis Center.


Gibson became the first African American woman to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour, in 1964.[8] Her best finish on the tour was a tie for second after a three-way playoff at the 1970 Len Immke Buick Open.[9] Gibson retired from professional golf at the end of the 1978 season.[10]

Grand Slam finalsEdit

Wins (5)Edit

Althea Gibson's 1956 Wimbledon trophy, the first for an African American
Year Championship Opponent in Final Score in Final
1956 French Championships   Angela Mortimer Barrett 6–0, 12–10
1957 Wimbledon   Darlene Hard 6–3, 6–2
1957 U.S. Championships   Louise Brough Clapp 6–3, 6–2
1958 Wimbledon (2)   Angela Mortimer Barrett 8–6, 6–2
1958 U.S. Championships (2)   Darlene Hard 3–6, 6–1, 6–2

Runner-up finishes (2)Edit

Year Championship Opponent in Final Score in Final
1956 U.S. Championships   Shirley Fry Irvin 6–3, 6–4
1957 Australian Championships   Shirley Fry Irvin 6–3, 6–4

Women's and mixed doubles (11)Edit

Wins (6)Edit

Year Championship Event Partner Opponents in Final Score in Final
1956 French Championships Women's doubles   Angela Buxton   Darlene Hard
  Dorothy Head Node
6–8, 8–6, 6–1
1956 Wimbledon Women's doubles   Angela Buxton   Fay Muller
  Daphne Seeney
6–1, 8–6
1957 Australian Championships Women's doubles   Shirley Fry Irvin   Mary Bevis Hawton
  Fay Muller
6–2, 6–1
1957 Wimbledon (2) Women's doubles   Darlene Hard   Mary Bevis Hawton
  Thelma Coyne Long
6–1, 6–2
1957 U.S. Championships Mixed doubles   Kurt Nielsen   Darlene Hard
  Bob Howe
6–3, 9–7
1958 Wimbledon (3) Women's doubles   Maria Bueno   Margaret Osborne duPont
  Margaret Varner Bloss
6–3, 7–5

Runners-up (5)Edit

Year Championship Event Partner Opponents in Final Score in Final
1956 Wimbledon Mixed doubles   Gardnar Mulloy   Shirley Fry Irvin
  Vic Seixas
2–6, 6–2, 7–5
1957 Wimbledon Mixed doubles   Neil Fraser   Darlene Hard
  Mervyn Rose
6–4, 7–5
1957 U.S. Championships Women's doubles   Darlene Hard   Louise Brough Clapp
  Margaret Osborne duPont
6–2, 7–5
1958 Wimbledon Mixed doubles   Kurt Nielsen   Lorraine Coghlan Green
  Bob Howe
6–3, 13–11
1958 U.S. Championships Women's doubles   Maria Bueno   Darlene Hard
  Jeanne Arth
2–6, 6–3, 6–4

Grand Slam singles tournament timelineEdit

Tournament 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 Career SR
Australia A A A A A A A F A 0 / 1
France A A A A A A W A A 1 / 1
Wimbledon A 3R A A A A QF W W 2 / 4
United States 2R 3R 3R QF 1R 3R F W W 2 / 9
SR 0 / 1 0 / 2 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 0 / 1 1 / 3 2 / 3 2 / 2 5 / 15

A = did not participate in the tournament

SR = the ratio of the number of Grand Slam singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played

Related pagesEdit


  1. "Althea Gibson". ITF Tennis. Retrieved November 15, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. "Althea Gibson". International Tennis Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 4, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. Collins, Bud (2008). The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book. New York, N.Y.: New Chapter Press. pp. 695, 703. ISBN 978-0-942257-41-0.
  4. United States Tennis Association (1988). 1988 Official USTA Tennis Yearbook. Lynn, Massachusetts: H.O. Zimman, Inc. p. 261.
  5. Celebrity Jews in the news
  6. "USTA To Honor Althea Gibson on Opening Night". August 15, 2007. Retrieved August 28, 2007. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)[dead link]
  7. Dillman, Lisa (August 27, 2007). "Williams sisters part of Gibson tribute". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 4, 2007. Retrieved August 28, 2007. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. Honoring Pioneers - Althea Gibson
  9. 1970 Len Immke Buick Open results
  10. Althea Gibson career record - at

Other websitesEdit