Fifty years ago, before she became a legendary figure in the tennis world, Althea Gibson was a tennis teacher at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. It was while she was establishing herself in the otherwise white world of tennis.Gibson died this weekend at the age of 76. She joined the faculty at Lincoln in 1953, shortly after graduating from college. Gibson won at least one of her ten American Tennis Association national championships while at Lincoln. The ATA was an organizaiton for black tennis players, who were not allowed in white tournaments at that time. Jefferson City historian Gary Kremer says Gibson wrote little about her experience at Lincoln in her autobiography, but did express frustration about living in a segregated city. Kremer says one story is that Gibson fell in love with an ROTC instructor at Lincoln and that he urged her to give up tennis and join the military. She rejected him, and that idea, and a couple of years later won at Wimbledon. Kremer says few at Lincoln seem to recall that Gibson coached there for a couple of years. There are no signs recognizing her. He says she did stay close to longtime Lincoln Athletic Director Dwight Reed, who died several years ago. He says he was her mentor. Two years after she left Jefferson City, she won her first Wimbledon championship. She repeated the next year.
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