There are many heroic people in history, but my hero is Arthur Ashe. He overcame prejudice to be the best in his sport. He was often underestimated and put down. Yet nothing stopped him from achieving his goal.
Ashe grew up in segregated Richmond, Virginia. When he was only six years old, his mother passed away. After high school, Ashe got a tennis scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles. His college career culminated in his winning an individual championship in 1965.
His greatest year, professionally, was 1969, when he won both the US Open and the Davis Cup for America. Yet later that year he was denied entrance to a South African tournament because of his color. Perhaps because of this, his life's crusade after tennis was helping African Americans achieve equality.
After years of lackluster tennis Arthur had his next best year in 1975, at age 31. He won Wimbledon and was ranked #1 in the entire world. He retired from the game in 1980, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
He had a daughter, Camera, in 1986. But, in 1988, he tested positive for HIV. Doctors told him he most certainly contracted the virus by getting an infected blood transfusion in during a 1983 heart operation.
On December 3, 1992, Arthur Ashe announced the creation of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) in response to his concerns about health care delivery in urban America. According to its mission statement, the institute serves many purposes:
"Preventing illness & disease through health education and treatment
in traditional & non-traditional settings
Assuring availability of care through training in urban medicine &
allied health disciplines
Breaking down institutional & cultural barriers through urban health
care conferences and seminars for professionals
Seeking cures through research
Building bridges through collaborations."
Ashe died in 1993, leaving behind a wife, daughter, and many saddened fans. He had over 800 career victories, yet, even more than that, he was a crusader for equality and for awareness. He showed every young tennis player that obstacles can be toppled.
It's a shame that someone with such a good heart and such good intentions died so tragically. Arthur Ashe will always be remembered as a hero.