On the first day of the US Open, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Billie Jean King National Tennis Center unveiled a sculpture of tennis trailblazer and icon, Althea Gibson.
Almost 69 years to the day, on August 25, 1950, Gibson broke barriers by becoming the first Black woman to play at the U.S. National Championships at Forest Hills. Gibson went on to shatter many glass ceilings and rake up a myriad of victories including becoming the first Black woman to win Wimbledon and U.S. titles, two years in a row.
During the ceremony to reveal the statue, USTA President Patrick Galbraith said, “Althea Gibson’s talent, strength and unrelenting desire to achieve made her a great champion. She made tennis a better place, by opening doors and opening minds, doing so with grace and dignity. She is receiving a recognition she richly deserves.”
Former USTA President Katrina Adams, who led the charge to honor Gibson said, “Today, we honor Althea’s journey, we honor her success, we honor her courage. We salute the path that she paved for me and for all other persons of color—including the great Arthur Ashe—by unveiling this incredible monument in the shadow of the stadium that bears his name. Today, we unveil a monument that will honor the courage and commitment of the great Althea Gibson for generations to come.”
The sculpture was created by artist Eric Goulder and includes an Augmented Reality (AR) viewfinder within the 2019 US Open app. The AR experience follows Gibson’s life, career and legacy and includes video footage, photos, a 3D hologram of the sculpture that fans can project, and other graphics. The entire experience is narrated by another tennis legend, Billie Jean King. King was present at the ceremony and spoke about the honor saying, “Welcome home Althea Gibson. A lot of us have waited a long time for today to happen. We’ve finally gotten over the finish line.”
Gibson’s friend and former doubles partner, Angela Buxton, was also in attendance to share fond memories of the legend. The sculpture is a bust of the icon with a quote emblazoned on it from Gibson that reads, “I hope that I have accomplished just one thing: that I have been a credit to tennis and my country.”