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Today’s Black History Month spotlight is Althea Gibson.   Althea Gibson was born in South Carolina on August 25,1927.  At an early age, she developed a love of sport. Her great talent was in tennis, but in the 1940s and ’50s, most tournaments were closed to African Americans. Gibson kept playing (and winning) until her skills could no longer be denied, and in 1951, she became the first African American to play at Wimbledon. Gibson won the women’s singles and doubles at Wimbledon in 1957, and won the U.S. Open in 1958.

Following her retirement in 1971, Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Beginning in 1975, she served 10 years as commissioner of athletics for New Jersey State. She was also a member of the governor’s council on physical fitness.

Gibson’s last few years were dominated by hardship. She nearly went bankrupt before tennis great Billy Jean King and others stepped in to help her out. Her health, too, went into decline. She suffered a stroke and developed serious heart problems.

On September 28,2003, Gibson died of respiratory failure in East Orange, New Jersey.

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