In this special excerpt from Althea Gibson’s re-released autobiography “I Always Wanted To Be Somebody” ($19.95, New Chapter Press, for sale and download here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1937559971/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_11P3HRQRDE8CTWTKRP28 via Amazon.com)
Gibson writes about getting the opportunity to meet Queen Elizabeth II after winning her first Wimbledon singles title in 1957 over Darlene Hard.
They tell me that I kept saying, “At last! At last!” All I can remember doing is running up to the net and shaking hands with Darlene and saying that she had played very well and that I had been lucky, and I was very happy. Then right away, the officials came up to us and asked us to talk over to the umpire’s chair, where the trophies were spread out on a table. A crew of workmen unrolled a gleaming red carpet from the royal box to the table, and we stood at attention and waited as Queen Elizabeth followed by three attendants walked gracefully out on the court. She wore a pretty print dress, a white hat and white gloves, and she was absolutely immaculate even in all that heat.
One of the officials called me to step forward and accept my award. I walked up to the Queen made a deep curtsy and shook the hand that she held out to me. “My congratulations,” she said, ‘it must have been terribly hot out there.” I said, “Yes, your majesty, but I hope it wasn’t as hot in your box. At least I was able to stir up a breeze.”
The Queen had a wonderful speaking voice and she looked exactly as a queen ought to look, except more beautiful than you would expect any real-life queen to look. She handed the gold salver, on which the names of all the previous Wimbledon champions were engraved, to me, and I curtsied again and backed away from her while Darlene stepped forward to receive her runner-up trophy. (I remembered that backing-away business from the movies, too.) I couldn’t hear what the Queen said to Darlene, but I know Darlene was just as excited as I was. After that, the Queen turned and walked back to the royal box, the red carpet was rolled up, and the newspaper photographers began to bombard us.
Originally published in 1960, “I Always Wanted To Be Somebody” had fallen out of circulation and was only available for exorbitant prices by book resellers. However, New Chapter Press, a leading publisher of tennis books, worked with the Althea Gibson family, estate and the newly formed Althea Gibson Community Tennis Association to republish the book and make it available for the masses at a reasonable $19.95 price ($9.95 via Amazon Kindle) A portion of sales for the book will benefit the Althea Gibson Community Tennis Association.
“I Always Wanted To Be Somebody” is the intimate and candid story of a girl who grew up in the asphalt environs of Harlem, skipping school, drinking hard liquor, stealing and fist-fighting, but went on to break the color barrier in tennis and achieving the pinnacle of the sport by winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships and becoming an inspiration for many future champions.
Hall of Fame tennis legend and pioneer Billie Jean King, who said she used to sleep with “I Always Wanted To Be Somebody” under her pillow as a girl, contributed the foreword to the new edition, writing, “Althea was our Jackie Robinson of tennis, and the barriers show broke down and the doors she opened have paved the way for generations of tennis players. Her contributions to our sport and to our world are many. Without Althea, there may not have been an Arthur Ashe, Leslie Allen, Zina Garrison, James Blake, Chanda Rubin, Mal Washington, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Coco Gauff, Frances Tiafoe or Naomi Osaka.”
Gibson is one of the most iconic and talented female athletes of all time, breaking the color barrier in tennis and becoming the first black player to play and win at Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships. After becoming the first black player to participate in the U.S. Championships (the modern-day U.S. Open) in 1950 (three years after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball), she won the first of her back-to-back titles there in 1957, also winning singles titles at Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958. After her tennis career, she also became the first black person on the LPGA Tour in golf. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971 and died in 2003. She was an athlete, coach, leader, activist, singer, actor and one of the most illustrious and celebrated tennis players in history.
Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is the publisher of many leading tennis books, including “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” and “Pete Sampras: Greatness Revisited” by Steve Flink, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Juan Martin del Potro: The Gentle Giant” by Sebastian Torok, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, among others.