A credit to his race: the human race
February 19, 2008 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Arthur Ashe's words and legacy. Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) was the first (and only) black man to win Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the US Open tennis tournaments and a very vocal civil rights activist and leader. Last week on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, Brian had on Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe[embedded audio player] and they were remembering a moment on Martin Luther King Day 1993, when Arthur called into the show from his hospital room (he died three weeks later). His views from Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Muhammad Ali and the 1966 and 1992 Los Angeles riots are at once eloquent and riveting.
posted by psmealey (7 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The 2008 Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest: “How do you exemplify the ideals of Arthur Ashe?”
posted by three blind mice at 8:27 AM on February 19, 2008

I recommend a wonderful book: John McPhee's 'Levels of the Game.' It recounts 'play-by-play' Ashe's game against Clark Graebner in the semi-final match in the 1968 U.S. Open Championship, not to mention their own biographies woven throughout.

Lest we forget the Arthur Ashe Monument on Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA. His memorial stands up against those of Confederate participants of the Civil War that line the boulevard.

The honor of his memory is recalled each year at the ESPY Awards by the granting of The Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
posted by ericb at 9:04 AM on February 19, 2008

I saw Ashe speak once at my high school. This was kind of a third tier boys boarding prep school in Virginia. Not Choate by a long shot, but a place where upper middle class professionals and businessmen with aspirations sent their kids. (But it was a big step up from the public schools and my financially struggling parents busted ass to send me there, something I failed utterly to appreciate at the time. Typical.)

Anyway, the story as I heard it was that one of the school's big alumni boosters was a Richmond attorney who had kind of taken the teenaged Ashe under his wing back in the day and let him practice on his own courts because he couldn't use the public courts at the time, and he still came every couple years to this guy's old school to talk to the students. I have no idea how that fits into the biography in the second link, but it made sense to me because otherwise I have no idea why he would have wanted to spend his time talking to a bunch of wannabe preppy white boys at some poser boarding school in the sticks.

I can confirm he was a very charismatic and powerful speaker. My favorite bit was after his talk when he was strolling back across campus with the headmaster and a few other bigwigs and a handful of us boys were tagging along in the background. Ashe asked the headmaster how many minority students we had and he answered with some very small number. I seem to recall "eight." And we spent a good couple hours trying to figure out how the hell he'd come up with that number. We finally concluded that he must have been counting the son of a very well off Filipino doctor, and the jewish kid whose brother was the sports guy on our local TV station. Ah good times. But overall, yeah, Ashe, well deserving of our remembrance and admiration.
posted by Naberius at 9:08 AM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Arther Ashe was one of my first idols/heroes.

Thanks for this.
posted by batmonkey at 10:24 AM on February 19, 2008

Excellent reading. Thank you.
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 3:01 PM on February 19, 2008

It wasn't until I read some of the comments on the WNYC site that I remembered that there was a fair bit of anger targeted at him by those that felt he did not do enough to use his status as an icon to try to destigmatize AIDS. For that, I have no response. I can only guess that he decided (as many people do) to try to face the terrible illness privately, but there were some pretty ugly things said about it at the time.

Looking back at that era with the benefit of 15-20 years worth of hindsight, the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS just seemed a lot more complicated back then than they are today. Maybe he's to be forgiven for not getting out in front of that one. Goodness knows he did give a lot of himself in almost everything he did.
posted by psmealey at 4:34 PM on February 19, 2008

That was a great story of a great man. I had no idea.
posted by bendy at 1:21 AM on February 20, 2008

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