Coby Whitmore painting of Arthuir Ashe beside yours truly at a young age.
My Idol, ARTHUR ASHE
I’ve just finished reading a wonderful new biography of the world-renowned tennis player, Arthur Ashe. The book, “Arthur Ashe: A Life” was written by Raymond Arsenault, professor and leading civil rights historian.
Arsenault says in his Preface:
“As the first black man to reach the upper echelon of a notoriously elitist and radically segregated sport,Ashe exhibited an extraordinary strength of character that eventually made him the most beloved and honored figure in tennis. . . .
Today, twenty-five years after Ashe’s death in 1993 . . . I offer Arthur Ashe, A Life as an attempt to do justice to the nuances and subtleties of a personal saga worthy of our full attention.”
Arthur Ashe was my favorite tennis player. I met him at a tennis match on Hilton Head (circa 1972). My friend, Ben Keys, of Greenville, SC was an excellent tennis player himself and a good friend of Donald Dell (Arthur Ashe’s long-time friend and manager). Ben organized a weekend with friends to see Arthur play and after the match, Donald Dell introduced Ben and me to Arthur Ashe—what a gentleman!
I played with the tennis racket designed by Arthur in conjunction with Howard Head at the Head Company—known primarily for their skies. This racket is shown in the above painting by Coby Whitmore celebrating Arthur’s playing on Hilton Head Island only four years after beating the Dutchman, Tom Okker, at the US Open. Ashe went on to beat Jimmy Connors to become Wimbledon Singles’ Champion in 1975.
Arsenault’s fantastic biography taught me far more than I knew about Arthur Ashe and I finished this book with a renewed admiration for this outstanding American.
My tennis-playing days are behind me, although my Twin Sister, Mercy, still plays. I have great memories of my own tennis playing days and was delighted to read this book. I've also read another super book about Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner by the New Yorker author, John MCPhee, "Levels of the Game."