Tennis player Althea Gibson featured on stamp

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 | 4:10 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Tennis great Althea Gibson can now appear on mailed letters.

The U.S. Postal Service started producing a stamp with Gibson on it in August. It shows her bending down to hit a low volley at Wimbledon. The picture is an oil-on-wood painting by Kadir Nelson, according to the Postal Service's website. The stamp was designed by Derry Noyes.

Although her career reached far beyond mid-Missouri, Gibson taught physical education at Lincoln University in Jefferson City from 1953 to 1955.

On Saturday, a short dedication ceremony for the Althea Gibson Forever stamp will be held during halftime of Lincoln's football game. Jefferson City Postmaster Don Knoth and Lincoln President Kevin Rome will make brief remarks.

The stamp is the 36th in the Black Heritage series. Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to win one of four major single tournaments, the French Open in 1956. 

Born Aug. 25, 1927, in Silver, S.C., Gibson grew up in Harlem, N.Y., and started playing tennis as a teenager. As an student athlete, Gibson attended Florida A&M University, from which she graduated in 1953.  

In 1950, Gibson received an invitation to compete in the United States National Championships in Forest Hills, N.Y. She was the first black player ever selected. 

After her career took off at the French Open, she won Wimbledon and what is now called the U.S. Open in 1957. She won the same two tournaments the next year. Gibson turned professional in 1959 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.

Gibson helped integrate tennis at the height of the civil rights movement. She blazed a trail for players such as Arthur Ashe and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. 

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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