Althea Gibson

Who Was Althea Gibson?

Althea Gibson (1927-2003) was the African American Black tennis player to compete in the U.S. National Championships in 1950. But Black Americans were not allowed to compete in most competitions during the 1940s and 1950s. Gibson continued to compete until her abilities were undeniable, and in 1951 she made Wimbledon history as the first Black African American player to compete there. In 1958, She captured the U.S. Open title as well as the Wimbledon women’s singles and doubles titles.

Althea Gibson
Photo: wilmamag/celeblifegraphy

Early Life And Career

In Silver, South Carolina, on August 25, 1927, Althea Neale Gibson was born. Growing up in Harlem, New York, Gibson had numerous obstacles because of her color and financial status. She showed early promise in athletics, especially in basketball and tennis, despite these challenges.

Althea Gibson fell in love with tennis at a young age. But African Americans were not allowed to compete in most competitions during the 1940s and 1950s. American tennis player and professional golfer broke down racial barriers while playing and winning in spite of this.

Commercial Success

Althea Neale Gibson made history in 1950 by competing at the US National Championships as the first African American tennis player. She created history once more the next year, in 1951, when she became the first Black player to compete at Wimbledon. Gibson’s ability and capabilities were undeniable, and she went on to win important matches in the sport.

She became the first African American to win a Grand Slam singles championship in 1956 when she won the French Open. Also, she won the 1957 and 1958 U.S. Nationals (now known as the U.S. Open) and Wimbledon as a result of her achievement.

Olympic Achievements

Tennis Player Althea Gibson was a successful professional tennis player as well as an outstanding amateur player. At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics in Australia, she won gold medals in both the singles and doubles competitions, solidifying her place among the greatest athletes of all time. Before going professional in 1959, She had won 56 singles and doubles titles throughout her career.

Later Years And Hall of Fame

In 1971, Gibson announced his retirement from tennis and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Through a variety of volunteer roles, she maintained her connection to sports, and she actively promoted physical fitness. She did, however, have diminishing health and financial difficulties in her final years.

Personal Life

In 1965, Gibson wed William Darben; the two later got divorced in 1976. Sydney Llewellyn, her tennis coach during her prime, was her husband in 1983. A divorce also resulted from that marriage. She was childless.


Althea Gibson died in East Orange, New Jersey on September 28, 2003, from respiratory failure, having survived a heart attack the previous year. Her remains were interred in Orange, New Jersey’s Rosedale Cemetery by those of her first husband, Will Darben. Notwithstanding her personal struggles, Gibson’s accomplishments and influence on tennis are still honored today.

Interesting Facts

  • Title: Althea Gibson Biography
  • Full Name: Althea Neale Gibson
  • Birth Year: 1927
  • Birth Date: August 25, 1927
  • Birth City: Silver
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Female
  • Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
  • Industries: Tennis, Golf
  • Spouse: Sydney Llewellyn (m. 1983–1988), Will Darben (m. 1965–1976)
  • Grand slams won (singles): 5
  • Education: Florida A&M University, Williston School
  • Siblings: Mildred Gibson
  • Net Worth: $5 Million
  • Death Year: 2003
  • Death Date: September 28, 2003
  • Death City: East Orange
  • Death Country: United States
  • Author: Editors

Quotes By Althea Gibson

  • Being champion is all well and good, but you can’t eat a crown.
  • No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.
  • I have never regarded myself as a crusader. I don’t consciously beat the drums for any cause, not even the negro in the United States.
  • People thought I was ruthless, which I was. I didn’t give a darn who was on the other side of the net. I’d knock you down if you got in my way.