Press Release: FAMU
FAMU Alumna Althea Gibson Inducted into the U.S. Postal Service’s
Black Heritage Stamp Series
Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumna Althea Gibson (1927-2003) has been inducted into the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) Black Heritage Stamp Series. The stamp featuring the tennis icon was unveiled on Aug. 23 on the grounds of the U.S. Open in Flushing, N.Y.
"We are delighted to honor Florida A&M graduate Althea Gibson as the 36th stamp and first female athlete in our Black Heritage Series,” said Stephen Seewoester, U.S. Postal Service spokesperson. “She was truly a pioneer in her sport and an inspiration to a future generation of African-American tennis players, such as Arthur Ashe and sisters Venus and Serena Williams."
In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Gibson helped integrate the world of tennis and became the first African-American of either gender to win Wimbledon. She twice won Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships (now known as the U.S. Open) and became the top-ranked player in the world. The tall, lean Gibson was fast and had a long reach, and relied on a booming serve and precise volleys. In 1957, the Associated Press named her the first African-American to be selected as the Female Athlete of the Year, earning her cover features in Sports Illustrated and Time magazine.
“It is humbling to know that the education and nurturing Althea Gibson received at Florida A&M University as an athletic scholarship recipient led to such an exemplary career,” said Larry Robinson, FAMU interim president. “Our student athletes and the entire university community join the U.S. Postal Service and the nation in saluting Ms. Gibson for breaking color lines in tennis and raising the benchmark for success in the international sport of tennis.”
FAMU Women’s Tennis Coach Nikki Goldthreate said she was delighted to hear the news and will use this as additional motivation to encourage her student athletes.
“I have a photo of Althea Gibson on my wall in my office as a constant reminder for our team,” said Goldthreate. “We have 10 young ladies on our tennis team and I see the drive in them to get better each day. I’m sure Althea had that same determination – to take it one day at a time.”
FAMU National Alumni Association President Tommy Mitchell didn’t realize when he was a child that Ms. Gibson, the playground teacher, would become Ms. Gibson the legendary tennis player. Years later he can reflect on his brush with greatness and appreciate what her legacy means as a fellow FAMU graduate.
“This is just one more case where FAMU has made an outstanding contribution to the world through one of our graduates,” said Mitchell. “Although I wasn’t a tennis player then, I am now. Althea Gibson certainly set the pace and that is to be admired.”
According to the USPS, the oil-on-wood painting featured on the stamp is based on a photograph – taken at Wimbledon – of Gibson bending down to hit a low volley. Designed by Derry Noyes, the stamp features the artwork of award-winning artist Kadir Nelson.
The Althea Gibson stamp is being issued as a Forever® stamp. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate. Gibson is the 36th inductee into the U.S. Postal Service’s Black Heritage stamp series, which includes Harriet Tubman, Paul Robeson and Ella Fitzgerald.
The forever stamp depicting the athlete in action is now available at www.USPS.com/stamps, via phone at 800-STAMP-24 and at Post Offices around the country.
To watch a video on Althea Gibson and her FAMU connection, click http://bit.ly/FAMU_Althea.