18 August 2020

British tennis great Angela Buxton and doubles partner of Althea Gibson dies, aged 85

British tennis legend Angela Buxton has died at the age of 85.

During her career she won both the French Championship and Wimbledon in 1956 with her doubles partner Althea Gibson.

American Gibson famously became the first black player to win a major grand slam title during that year when she also won the singles title at the French Championships.

In the same year Buxton became the first British woman in 17 years to reach the Wimbledon singles final.

The International Tennis Association announced Buxton’s death describing her as ‘an early pioneer of equal rights’ who also ‘ faced anti-semitism throughout her career’.

At the age of 22 she suffered a hand condition called tenosynovitis which forced her to retire in 1957. 

In 1981 she became one of the first athletes to be inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

More recently in 2015 she was inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame for her bond with Gibson.

Despite her achievements she never received an All England Club membership, blaming her repeated omission on anti-Semitism.

Buxton said in an interview last year that the last time she asked the club about it was in 1988. 

She said: “They said I had refused it and my membership had gone to the back of the queue. I never refused it and there are so many players who didn’t do anything like me and got membership.”

The All England Club said: “The AELTC was deeply saddened to hear of Angela’s passing and offers condolences to her family and friends. Her contribution to The Championships, in particular her doubles partnership with Althea Gibson, will be long remembered.

“While the decision-making process for membership of the All England Club is a private matter, we strongly refute any suggestion that race or religion plays a factor.”

Former US tennis star Billie Jean King paid tribute to the star, writing: "Saddened to hear of the passing of British tennis player Angela Buxton, friend and doubles partner of Althea Gibson.

“It was wonderful to spend time with her and hear her words about Althea at the unveiling of her statue (at the US Open) last year. Rest In Peace to a true champion.”

Tennis player Katrina Adams, who has promoted equal rights in tennis, added: “My condolences to the family and friends of  Angela Buxton after her passing August 14, 2020. She was laid to rest today. 

"Angela was a British tennis player who championed the friendship and support of Althea Gibson when no one else would, in a racist era in our sport in the 1950s. Rest in peace.”

In 1995 Gibson called Buxton to explain her tough financial situation and that she was ready to take her own life following a stroke three years earlier.

To help raise money for Gibson, Buxton arranged for a letter to appear in US tennis magazine Tennis Week and fans responded and raised nearly one million dollars to save Gibson. 

Gibson later died in 2003 at the age of 76.

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