On this day in history, September 9, 1968, the U.S open is established as the first time pros are eligible to compete in the most prestigious tournament in the United States with Arthur Ashe, an African American amateur, winning the tournament, becoming the first African-American male to capture a Grand Slam event.

Because of his amateur status, Ashe, 25-year-old lieutenant in the Army, is ineligible to receive the first prize of $14,000 in the $100,000 event, however, he collects $280 in expenses for 14 days. He is the first American to win the U.S. title since Tony Trabert in 1955.

Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 10, 1943 and died on February 6, 1993 in New York City at 49. He set many first on the competitive courts of tennis including being the first African American to win the singles cup at Wimbledon on July 5, 1975 over defending champion Jimmy Connors. He achieved the ranking of No. 1 in the world among his peers and had a singles career record of 818 wins, 260 losses and 51 titles which included wins in the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

In 1983 Ashe went through a second bypass surgery and received a blood transfusion, it was this transfusion that resulted in him contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Throughout the rest of his life he worked to educate people about the AIDS disease once he publicly disclosed his illness and died of AIDS related pneumonia. That same year, along with Harry Belafonte, he founded Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid which worked toward raising awareness of Apartheid policies and lobbying for sanctions and embargoes against the South African government. Two years later he was arrested outside the South African embassy in Washington during an anti-apartheid protest on January 11, 1985.

In 1985, his career was commemorated with his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI.


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