Tennis legend Arthur Ashe passed away this week 25 years ago after bravely announcing to the world in April 1992 that he contracted the HIV virus. Instead of disappearing into obscurity, Ashe used his fame and resources to raise awareness and assist in the treatment of the condition.
Ashe, born July 10, 1943 in Richmond, Virginia, became adept at tennis while in elementary school. Under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, who coached the late, great tennis star Althea Gibson, Ashe entered UCLA as a decorated junior player.
After a stint in the United States Army, Ashe went into his pro tennis career and won his first Grand Slam, the US Open, in 1968. In all, Ashe won 66 titles, included singles wins at both the Wimbledon Open and the Australian Open. He is the only Black man to win the singles titles for aforementioned Grand Slam tournaments. Ashe reached the quarterfinals of the French Open twice in his career.
Just months before Ashe’s announcement, NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson revealed that he had the HIV virus. Ashe’s admission came at a time where medicine had not quite advanced to the level it has now. Believed to have contracted the illness from a blood transfusion, Ashe established the Arthur Ashe Foundation to Defeat AIDS, now an endowment, and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, which exists today in Brooklyn, New York.
Ashe was hard at work on a manuscript for his autobiography, Days of Grace, which was completed just one week before his passing on February 6, 1993. He was survived by his wife, celebrated photographer and professor Jeanne Moutoussammy-Ashe, and their daughter, Camera.
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