The Jefferson City Post Office and Lincoln University dedicated a U.S. postage stamp honoring former physical education teacher and Wimbledon champion Althea Gibson. The Althea Gibson Forever Stamp was unveiled during halftime of this past weekend’s game against Northeastern State.
Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to win one of the four major singles tournaments. She twice won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, as well as a French Open championship. She became the top ranked player in the world.
In 1953, Gibson graduated from Florida A&M and took a job teaching physical education at Lincoln University. Her tennis ranking fluctuated. She considered joining the Women’s Army Corps in order to support herself and her family, but she didn’t give up on tennis. In 1955, Gibson received an invitation from the State Department to join a delegation of American tennis stars for a public relations tour of Asia.
She built on that experience, and strung together an impressive run of victories in Asia and Europe. In 1956, she captured the French Championships (now known as the French Open) in Paris and became the first African-American of either gender to win one of the four major singles tournaments. Gibson also teamed up with Angela Buxton to win the doubles crown.
She achieved perhaps the most famous victory of her career on July 6, 1957, prevailing in the Wimbledon final in straight sets. When Gibson returned to New York, the city threw her a ticker-tape parade. On Sept. 8, Gibson cruised to victory in the final of the U.S. Championships to win the tournament for the first time.
Gibson, the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958, had become the top-ranked player in the world. In 1958, she successfully defended her titles both at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Championships. She turned professional soon after, ending her amateur career with five major singles titles and six major doubles titles.