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Ashe, Arthur (10 July 1943–06 February 1993), tennis player, author, and political activist, was born Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr., in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Arthur Ashe, Sr., a police officer, and Mattie Cunningham. Tall and slim as a young boy, Ashe was forbidden by his father from playing football; he took up tennis instead on the segregated playground courts at Brookfield Park, near his home. By the time he was ten he came under the tutelage of a local tennis fan and physician from Lynchburg, Walter Johnson. Johnson had previously nurtured Althea Gibson, who would become the first African American to win Wimbeldon, in 1957 and 1958, and his second protégé would prove no less successful....

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Atkinson, Juliette Paxton (15 April 1873–12 January 1944), tennis player, was born at Rahway, New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Jerome Gill Atkinson, a physician, and Kate McDonald. She and her younger sister, Kathleen, taught themselves to play lawn tennis at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. They carried their own net, poles, stakes, rackets, and balls, erecting and dismantling their court each trip. For social reasons, they joined the Kings County Tennis Club about 1891. Club tournaments soon roused their competitive instincts. “Julie” first entered open tournaments during 1893, winning two of three handicap events in the New York City area and losing in the first round of the Middle States Championship at Mountain Station, New Jersey. Atkinson and Helen Hellwig, the club’s best women players, entered the 1894 National Championship at Wissahickon, Pennsylvania, and won the women’s doubles, while Atkinson and Eddie Fischer captured the mixed doubles title. In the singles, Atkinson lost a close struggle in the semifinals to Bertha Townsend Toulmin, the champion of 1888 and 1889. Hellwig, however, defeated Toulmin in the all-comers final and then vanquished Aline Terry, the defending titleholder, in a five-set challenge round to become U.S. champion. (Customarily women’s matches were the best of three sets, but from 1891 through 1901 their finals and challenge rounds were the best of five sets.) Later, Atkinson bested Hellwig in five sets to win the 1894 Middle States crown....

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Browne, Mary Kendall (03 June 1891–19 August 1971), tennis player and golfer, was born in Ventura County, California, the daughter of Albert William Browne, a rancher and Spanish-American War captain, and Neotia Rice. She attended Los Angeles (Calif.) Polytechnic High School. Her older brother Nathaniel Borrodail Browne, an excellent tennis competitor, taught Mary a sound all-court style and sharpened her volleying and smashing skills in practice by stationing her at the net to parry his hardest drives....

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Budge, Don (13 June 1915–26 January 2000), tennis player, was born John Donald Budge in Oakland, California, the son of John “Jack” Budge, a Scottish ex-professional soccer player who managed a laundry in Oakland, and Pearl Kincaid Budge. Don's older brother Lloyd, later a tennis instructor, taught him the rudiments of the game, but the preteenager preferred baseball, football, and basketball. Although he was only five feet six inches tall, at University High School in Oakland he became a forward on the varsity basketball team....

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Bundy, May Godfray Sutton (25 September 1887–04 October 1975), tennis player, was born in Plymouth, England, the daughter of Adolphus Ade G. Sutton, an English navy captain, and Adelina E. Godfray. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was six. On the clay court built by one of her two older brothers and a sister on the family ranch near Pasadena, California, Bundy at age ten followed in the footsteps of three of her four older sisters by becoming a tennis enthusiast. Beginning tournament play in 1898, Bundy won the prestigious Southern California Women’s Singles Championship in 1899 at age twelve. Because she was the strongest, quickest, and most determined of the sisters, by 1901 she emerged as the best of the quartet, leading to the often-heard quip in California that it took a Sutton to beat a Sutton....

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Campbell, Oliver Samuel (25 February 1871–11 July 1953), tennis player, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Frederick Hudson Campbell, a dry goods merchant who died in 1872, and Emily Barber. “Ollie” was raised amidst affluence in Brooklyn. He began playing lawn tennis at age twelve and entered his first public tournaments shortly before his fifteenth birthday. Despite his youth, he performed well in adult competition. When he lost to the experienced Harry Slocum, after winning one set, in the first round of the U.S. championship at the Newport (R.I.) Casino, Campbell became the youngest to play in national mens singles until ...

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Connolly, Maureen Catherine (17 September 1934–21 June 1969), tennis player, was born in San Diego, California, the daughter of Martin J. Connolly, a chief petty officer in the navy, and Jassamine Wood, a church organist. Connolly graduated from Cathedral High School in 1951. Although initially passionate about horses, she switched her energies to tennis while on the University Heights playground in San Diego, California. There a local tennis pro, Wilbur Folsom, observed her natural ability. While Folsom changed her into a right-handed player, Eleanor Tennant developed Connolly’s talents. Tennant, who had helped develop the tennis talents of champions Alice Marble and ...

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Dwight Davis Left, at the swearing-in of the new secretary of war, James Good, right, 1929. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96839).

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Davis, Dwight Filley (05 July 1879–28 November 1945), tennis player and U.S. secretary of war, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of John Tilden Davis, a dry goods merchant and banker, and Maria Jeanette Filley. The family’s financial success and public-mindedness made it a leader on the St. Louis business, education, and social scenes. Following preparatory school at Smith Academy in St. Louis, Davis attended Harvard University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1900. While in college, he gained national prominence as a singles and doubles tennis player. In his junior and senior years he was the runner-up in the U.S. men’s singles championship, and in those same two years and the year after he and his partner, ...

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Dwight, James (14 July 1852–13 July 1917), tennis player, author, and administrator, was born in Paris, France, the son of Thomas Dwight, a lawyer, and Mary Collins Warren. Both parents were of elite Boston, Massachusetts, families. The Dwights returned to Boston when James was two years old so that his brother Thomas could prepare for college. James grew up on Beacon Street, attending Epes Sargent Dixwell’s school and graduating with a B.A. from Harvard College in 1874. At Harvard he played on class football teams for four years and captained a cricket team. Following his brother Thomas’s example and a Warren family tradition, Dwight entered Harvard Medical School. He was hampered by illnesses and did not receive his M.D. until 1879. During his internship at Boston Lying-In Hospital he suffered rheumatic fever and quit the practice of medicine. Throughout his life, however, he was addressed as “Doctor.”...

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Althea Gibson. Watercolor and pencil on board, 1957, by Boris Chaliapin. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine.

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Gibson, Althea (25 August 1927–28 September 2003), tennis player and professional golfer, was born in Silver, South Carolina, to Daniel Gibson and Annie Bell Gibson, sharecroppers. In 1930 the family moved from the rural South to the urban North, relocating in Harlem, where her three sisters and brother were born. Althea frequently skipped school and repeatedly ran away from home, and this resulted in regular whippings from her father. Feisty and determined, Althea preferred to spend her time in bowling alleys and pool halls. Althea was an outstanding all-around athlete—she played any kind of ball sport, excelling at paddle tennis and basketball. A self-described tomboy, Althea also played football, and her father taught her how to box, a skill she used to navigate recurrent assaults from boys and girls....

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Gonzalez, Pancho (09 May 1928–03 July 1995), tennis player, was born Richard Alonzo Gonzalez in Los Angeles, California, the son of Manuel Gonzalez, a painter of houses and Hollywood movie sets, and Carmen Alire, a seamstress. Gonzalez’s parents, who emigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico, and settled in a poor section of Los Angeles, were determined to give their seven children a decent childhood in the dangerous barrios of South Los Angeles. After a boyhood accident on a scooter that left Gonzalez with a scar on his cheek several inches long, his parents refused to give the twelve-year-old the bicycle that he wanted. Instead, his mother bought him a 51-cent tennis racket. The restless, energetic Gonzalez quickly discovered his natural athletic ability and became obsessed with the game of tennis, which he learned in the public courts of Exposition Park near the Los Angeles Coliseum....

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Helen Hull Jacobs. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Jacobs, Helen Hull (06 August 1908–02 June 1997), tennis player and author, was born in Globe, Arizona, the daughter of Roland H. Jacobs, a businessman, and Eula Hull Jacobs. Her mother, a Missourian with roots in the South, was a direct descendant of ...

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Johnston, William M. (02 November 1894–01 May 1946), tennis player, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Robert Johnston, an electric plant mechanic, and Margaret Burns. Johnston disliked his French-sounding middle name and never revealed it publicly. He played tennis first in 1905; when schools remained shut for several months following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, he played constantly. For the next few years Johnston, Johnny Strachan, Roland Roberts, Ely Fottrell, Clarence “Peck” Griffin, and other talented juniors improved their tennis skills and were coached by nationally famous players ...

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Larned, William Augustus (30 December 1872–16 December 1926), tennis player, was born in Summit, New Jersey, the son of William Zebedee Larned, a wealthy Summit landowner and New York lawyer, and Katharine Penniman. Although he did not graduate from Cornell University, while a student he won the 1892 intercollegiate tennis singles championship....

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Molla Bjurstedt Mallory Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115952).

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Mallory, Molla Bjurstedt (06 March 1884–22 November 1959), tennis player, was born Anna Margrethe Bjurstedt in Oslo, Norway, the daughter of a Norwegian army officer (parents’ names are unknown), and grew up in Christiana, Norway. She began playing tournament tennis at age ten, and in a country where few people participated in the sport, she won the Norwegian national women’s singles championship eight times between 1904 and 1914. In 1904 she entered the world mixed doubles championship in Stockholm with Swedish crown prince Gustav Adolph as her partner, but they lost in the first round of the tournament. Mallory attended a private school in Wiesbaden, Germany, to learn German and later went to school in Paris to learn French. She also studied massage therapy at the Orthopedic Institute in Christiana and went to London in 1908 to work as a masseuse. There, she played in several London tournaments without success, finding the competition much keener than in Norway. In the summer of 1911, Mallory and her sister, Valborg, played in several tournaments in Germany, gaining experience that helped Mallory win a bronze medal in outdoor tennis at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. She played well but lost to Marguerite Broquedis of France, the gold medalist, in the semifinals, 6–3, 2–6, 6–4. When she left Norway for the United States in 1914, she held the women’s singles championship and, with her sister, the Norwegian women’s doubles championship....

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Alice Marble. Color carbro print, 1939, by Robert F. Cranston. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.