SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- As the 2019 U.S. Open began this week, the USTA honored longtime New Jersey resident and tennis legend Althea Gibson with the unveiling of a statue at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, NY.
Three years after Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier in baseball, Gibson became the first African-American tennis player to compete at the U.S. Open in 1950, and also at Wimbledon in 1951. She eventually won both the women's singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon in 1957 and was honored with a ticker tape parade in Manhattan's "Canyon of Heroes." A year later, she became the first African American to win the U.S. Open championship in 1958.
Gibson was born in South Carolina, and her family moved to Harlem when she was a child. Later, she was a resident of East Orange. Among the places she played was the Shady Rest Country Club in Scotch Plains, the country's first black-owned golf and tennis club, where John Shippen, America's first professional golfer, served as the club’s golf pro. Shady Rest was also a venue that hosted musical performances by Jazz greats Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and others.
Although the tennis courts are long gone, the Shady Rest Clubhouse has been restored and now is a venue open to the public that can be rented for events including fundraisers and weddings.
No matter what accomplishments you make, someone helps you. - Althea Gibson
According to Biography.com, following her retirement from competitive tennis, she served for a decade as Commissioner of Athletics for the State of New Jersey and was also a member of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness. In 1971, Althea Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. She died in 2003.
Shady Rest Clubhouse
Scotch Hills Country Club
820 Jerusalem Road
Scotch Plains, NJ