Lot #8045
Arthur Ashe Archive

The lifetime archive of a tragic tennis legend, highlighted by his awards, handwritten speeches, and Ashe's Davis Cup uniform and apartheid protest jacket


The lifetime archive of a tragic tennis legend, highlighted by his awards, handwritten speeches, and Ashe's Davis Cup uniform and apartheid protest jacket

Momentous archive from the personal estate of legendary tennis player Arthur Ashe, consisting of 18 lots that represent the all too short life and career of an athlete whose impact extended far beyond the tennis court. The first African-American player selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open, Ashe skillfully used his celebrity to become a vocal champion for black rights, shining a spotlight on South African apartheid and the mistreatment of Haitian refugees, among other causes. After publicly announcing that he was HIV positive (the result of a botched blood transfusion), Ashe founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS and, two months before his death, he established the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. Despite having been retired for 12 years, in 1992 Ashe was awarded as the Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine for his tireless support of humanitarian causes.

As such, this archive opens with a signed copy of the December 21, 1992 issue of Sports Illustrated, which pictures Ashe on the front cover as their “Sportsman of the Year,” 94 pages, 8 x 10.75, neatly autographed on the front cover in black felt tip by Ashe, who died a little over a month after this periodical hit newsstands. The balance of the archive, which contains accolades, programs, books, handwritten speech notes, and personally-worn clothing, is as follows:

Ashe’s spiral-bound notebook containing his handwritten notes from his final days. The JoRedCoHe notebook, 9 x 11, was used by Ashe to record the names and numbers of the people he contacted for the last time in 1992 and 1993, with Ashe filling out 18 pages of the notebook (the majority featuring handwriting to the front and back) in blue, red, and black ink. The installments begin on September 25, 1992, and conclude on February 2, 1993, just four days before his death. Ashe jots the names and numbers of his contacts with the occasional reminder, such as, “Clinton letter” or “Send Davis Cup outfit to Hall of Fame.” A sampling of some of the more notable names listed include Spike Lee, Magic Johnson, Diana Ross, Daryl Hannah, Jesse Jackson, and Ethel Kennedy.

Ashe's death certificate from the New York Department of Health, one page, 8.5 x 11, which identifies the cause of death as “Pneumocystitis carinii pneumonia” due to AIDS as a consequence of “Blood transfusion during coronary bypass surgery,” with time and place as 3:13 p.m. on February 6, 1993, at New York Hospital in Manhattan.

Ashe’s handwritten speech outline on “African-American Athletes Impact Upon Society,” penned in blue and black ballpoint on five total pages, with excellent content on politics, race, history and culture, with detailed notes, statistics, and his personal views on athletic programs in schools and black athletes in America. He opens by providing an overview of the historical background on the African American athlete: “Current state of affairs of AAA relatively new: black indentured servants vs. Native American vs. whites / not much free time for sports before Civil War / Slaves wrestled, ran, swam, boxed, fought with sticks. / Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali / Boxing the most sociologically import. sport til the 1970's when basketball took over. / The decade of the 1960's changed everything.” Over the course of the talk, Ashe makes four main points related to education and socio-economics, including, “…the success of African Americans in sports is proof positive that…African Americans can do anything anyone else can do…white America, for the first time, saw the records and limits they came to believe as sacrosanct smashed by members of a group they assumed to be inferior.''

Ashe's handwritten speech to black graduates of an unnamed university, no date, penned in blue ballpoint on three pages. Ashe drafts a somewhat sobering address: “You have obviously resisted the tyranny of the neighborhood—that defeatist and basically cowardly notion that to excel in academics is to succumb to a 'white thing' or that you are fools to apply yourself when there may be easier ways to get over…you have made a conscious personal decision to be assertive, forthright, honest, and demanding about your future…and you will willingly assume the role of role model to others.” He heads the next section, “My Personal Journey” and notes “Richmond & segregation…no favors,” disclosing “Affirmative action for me was a last resort, and then only because I suspected foul play…The rest of America basically doesn't like us / I had to be 2x as good as the next guy.”

Ashe’s four-page handwritten outline for a speech for the National Leadership Coalition on AIDS, dated to November 19, 1992. By this time, Ashe had gone public with his AIDS diagnosis and had thrown himself into educating the public on AIDS prevention and policy reform. Ashe addresses his audience with information from all fronts of the war on AIDS, candidly broaching topics as broad as national healthcare policy and controversial as safe sex. He poses the question: “How can all of us become positive forces for change?” and then answers it by saying: “We must be creative, even dogmatic in the face of serious but unexaggerated medical evidence of a potential disaster…Our Judeo-Christian morality tells us that there's something wrong with dispensing condoms and needles. But in the context of this AIDS pandemic, is it wrong?…As is the case for euthanasia or maintaining life support for some brain-dead individual, it is time for the ethicists to step up and lead us in some discussion and debate…President-elect Clinton has issued a credible position paper on AIDS, but may I be so bold as to suggest that his health care policy details should have come first…These are very sobering days for us all.”

Ashe's six-page handwritten speech draft entitled “N.Y. Regional Assn. of Grantmakers,” dated November 20, 1992, which finds Ashe discussing the challenges of motivating the educators of impoverished black youth. In Ashe's assertive address, he mentions the NCAA's then newly passed minimum GPA requirement for student athletes and tackles prejudice and education, and cites the need for balanced sports and education programs. In part: “I am pleased to be able to share a few thoughts with you concerning innovative solutions to current problems of African American young males…They are disconnected, ostracized, feared, and sometimes loathed by much of the rest of society…They are not a lost cause, but the public perception exists as such, and many are all too quickly willing to 'write them off' as being congenital misfits, inherently unable to live peaceful and constructive and responsible lives. They are so wrong, and I say that from experience…Troubled young black males believe there are just 3 viable ways to escape the tyranny of their neighborhoods: sports, entertainment, drug trafficking. As such, many are more than willing to accommodate unscrupulous assistant coaches who first want to help head coaches fill up their college stadiums…I would urge you to seek out groups that try to serve the entire child (boys in particular) to include the medical, social, educational, spiritual and the physical parts of the passage from childhood to adulthood.” This very speech is featured in the 1992 Sports Illustrated magazine offered in this archive.

Ashe’s ‘International Sports Human Rights Award’ plaque presented to him by the TransAfrica organization in 1990, which reads: “In appreciation for the outstanding service you have rendered in the globally successful sports boycott of South Africa and your contribution to International Sports Human Rights, generally.” Includes Ashe’s original program from the event, which features his handwritten speech on the third page, in full: “Along with the phrases 'Some of my best friends are black' and 'Reverse discrimination' was a new one that first surfaced in 1936—'Sports and politics don't mix.' Never mind that the logical extension of it meant that nothing could be more important than some game. Many of our heroes were stellar athletes: Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson; Muhammad Ali; Nelson Mandela was a boxer. Music and sports are the two public endeavors with unchallenged universal appeal. Harry Belafonte should be up here with me for he has run a longer course and has provided continuity, experience, and resources for a long time. My experience / I share this with others, who at personal expense / McEnroe.”

Ashe’s official New York Knicks warmup uniform, consisting of a button-up Sand-knit top, size 42 with number ''87'' stitched beside it, and the tear-away pants, size 32 with the number ''34'' stitched beside a ''Designed and Tailored Exclusively For the New York Knicks'' tag. The 'court' link between Ashe and New York City extends much further: in 1997, Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest tennis stadium in the world and the main stadium of the US Open tennis tournament, opened in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Ashe's memory.

Ashe's personally-issued, -owned, and -worn Davis Cup jacket and pants from 1984. The red, white and blue zip-up Adidas jacket, size L, features lettering sewn onto the back reading, “Davis Cup” and “USA” to the front, with Ashe's name embroidered over the left breast. The navy blue pants, size M, feature zippered pockets, a drawstring waistband, and “USA” letter patches sewn along the left leg. Ashe is pictured wearing this outfit next to John McEnroe in an image featured in his memoirs, Days of Grace. Expected wear from use, including stains and adhesive residue.

Ashe’s personally-owned and -worn Comstock winter jacket, no size (likely medium), with brown leather and tan cloth exterior featuring snap closures over a main zippered front, and zip-off shoulder sleeves. Ashe is pictured wearing this jacket on page 24 of the December 1992 issue of Sports Illustrated honoring him as the “Sportsman of the Year,” which shows Ashe being handcuffed and arrested for picketing the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C. in 1985. He is also seen wearing this jacket in a poignant photograph in his memoir, Days of Grace, taken by his wife Jeanne as he was being discharged from New York Hospital on January 18, 1993, just 19 days before his death. Expected wear from use.

A Humanitarian of the Year award base presented to Ashe. The circular wooden award base, 6.75″ in diameter, features a brass front plate that reads: “Arthur Ashe / 1992 / Humanitarian of the Year.”

Ashe's personally-owned and -used monogrammed travel bag, 10.5 x 12, with Ashe's initials “A.R.A.” printed near the mouth of the black leather bag that he undoubtedly used extensively in his busy global travel schedule. The bag is lined in red leather and features leather loops sewn into the top with a metal D-ring for hanging. The bag is worn and soiled from use, with fading to monogram.

The funeral memorial service program for the life of Arthur Ashe, four pages, 6 x 11, with various memorial services, including hymns and speeches by family and friends. Memorial was held at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center in Richmond, Virginia on February 10, 1993. The front cover features a nice image of Ashe smiling, and reads, in part: “A Celebration of the Life of Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. 1943-1993.”

Lot of 14 programs from the Arthur Ashe gravestone ceremony in Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia native requested that he be buried in Richmond, next to his mother who died when Ashe was only six years old. Each card-style program, 7.25 x 7.25, is made of high-gloss black paper with a gold overlay on the cover embossed with Ashe's image and listing his greatest achievements as an athlete, scholar, and humanitarian. Each card opens to the itinerary of the service printed in gilt, which includes a poetry reading by Maya Angelou. Each program is housed in a matching envelope. Scattered shallow scratches and edge wear.

A first edition of Days of Grace, A Memoir by Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersad, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1993, hardcover with dust jacket, which contains images of Ashe wearing the Comstock winter jacket and his Davis Cup uniform, both of which are offered within this archive. Separation to inner binding and various library stamps and labels.

A first edition of Off the Court, published by New American Library in 1981, hardcover with dust jacket, signed on the half-title page in black ink by Ashe.

A first edition of A Hard Road to Glory, published by Warner Books in 1988, hardcover with dust jacket, signed and inscribed on the half-title page in blue ballpoint, “For Don & B. Smith Anderson, Peace, Arthur Ashe, 3/12/89.” Some wear to dust jacket.

In overall fine condition. With the exception of the books, all of the items are accompanied by certificates of authenticity from Ashe’s widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy. An unprecedented and intimate assemblage of personal effects and manuscripts from one of tennis' most influential and tragic stars, the whole of which embodies Ashe's heroic commitment to sport, civil rights, and AIDS awareness.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Remarkable Rarities
  • Dates: #617 - Ended September 25, 2021