Arthur Ashe was born on July 10, 1943.
After graduating high school in 1962, Ashe enrolled at UCLA, and -- like fellow Bruin alumnus Jackie Robinson -- proceeded to break unprecedented racial barriers in his sport. In addition to both winning the national singles championship and leading UCLA to the 1965 NCAA team championship, Ashe also made an impact at the international level. He was the first African-American named to the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1963 and went unbeaten in singles play to help the American team get its 19th championship.
Ashe helped the U.S. Davis Cup team to three more titles from 1968-1970, and also began to find success in major individual events. In the 1968 U.S. Open -- the first year that the event was open to professional players -- the amateur stunned the nation by defeating the Dutch Tom Okker in the finals, before controversially declining to accept the event's prize money to maintain amateur status. Ashe became the first black man to ever win a singles major event, a feat which has only since been matched by France's Yannick Noah.
Ashe got another major win when he defeated Australia's Dick Crealy in straight sets to win the 1970 Australian Open, but his greatest accomplishment arguably didn't come until his professional career, as he faced fellow American and top-seeded Jimmy Connors in the championship match of the 1975 Wimbledon tournament. Connors hadn't lost a set in any of the first six rounds, but the sixth-seeded Ashe finally got the best of his rival, winning in four sets to topple Connors for the first time ever. Here are highlights of the match:
Ashe never supplanted Connors in the ATP computer rankings, rising as high as No. 2 overall in 1976, but he did become the world's top player in some human polls, according to CNN.
Due to heart issues, Ashe was forced to retire in 1980 with an overall record of 818-260. However, upon his retirement, he claimed, "I don't want to be remembered for my tennis accomplishments," and he continued to create a legacy with his off-court actions.
Ashe was a passionate civil rights supporter, becoming known for active protests and publishing the book, "A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African-American Athlete," in 1988. In addition, after contracting HIV in the 1980s due to faulty blood transfusion during his heart surgeries, he founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS in 1992.
Due to complications from AIDS, Ashe passed away at the age of 49 in New York City on Feb. 6, 1993.
He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-president Bill Clinton in 1993. Ashe is also the namesake of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which has annually been given to a sport-oriented figure who exemplifies bravery since the inception of the ESPY awards in 1993. In addition, in 1997, Arthur Ashe Stadium opened in New York City, immediately becoming the main court for the U.S. Open.
Ashe was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.