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CoastLine: Sports Special RTDNAC 2020

Lenny Simpson on the power of love, Althea Gibson, and Arthur Ashe

World tennis champion Althea Gibson gave Lenny Simpson his first tennis racket.   She's called one of the greatest tennis players who ever lived by the coach of Venus and Serena Williams.  She's the woman who broke the international tennis color barrier, and who now has a monument outside Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.  

Althea Gibson is also the woman who changed the trajectory of one little boy’s life.  

The boy she called “Champ” went on to become a tennis champion in his own right:  in 1964, at just 15 years old, he became the youngest person to win at a U.S. Open.   He also drew the attention of Arthur Ashe, who became another mentor – and who he played (who "beat me like a drum", said Simpson) at that same U.S. Open.

Six years ago, Lenny Simpson and his wife returned to Wilmington, where he launched the nonprofit One Love Lenny Simpson Tennis and Education Fund, a year-round program for at-risk youth that provides tennis instruction and academic support.  

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.