Billie Jean King

Introduction

Women’s tennis great Billie Jean King was born in California in 1943. The first female athlete to earn more than $100,000 in prize money in a single season, King was also the first woman to be chosen Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year.” The trailblazing athlete was perhaps best known for her 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs, in which she beat the former No. 1 ranked player and self-proclaimed male chauvinist. After retiring from tennis with 39 Grand Slam career titles, she remained active as a coach, commentator and advocate for women’s sports and other causes.

Born Billie Jean Moffitt on November 22, 1943 in Long Beach, California. and raised in a conservative Methodist family, Billie Jean King learned to play tennis on the public courts near her home. She won acclaim after capturing the women’s doubles title at Wimbledon (with Karen Hantze Susman) in her first attempt in 1962.

Between 1961 and 1979, Billie Jean King won a record 20 Wimbledon titles, including the singles in 1966–8, 1972–3, and 1975. She also won 13 US titles (including four singles), four French titles (one singles), and two Australian titles (one singles).Off the court, Billie Jean King fought for equal prize money for men and women and in 1971 became the first female athlete to win over $100,000.
This campaign for equality is most notably remembered by her 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” match against 55-year-old tennis champ Bobby Riggs, who claimed the women’s game to be inferior. The match drew considerable publicity and before a worldwide television audience of some 50 million, King beat Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

In 1974, Billie Jean King became the first president of the Women’s Tennis Association. She headed up the first professional women’s tour, the Virginia Slims, in the 1970s. She was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and served as captain of the United States Fed Cup team in the 1990s. Billie Jean King was married to Lawrence King from 1965 to 1987, but during the 1980s became one of the first prominent American athletes to openly admit to having a same-sex relationship, which has inspired much of her later work in the gay rights movement.


Biography courtesy of BIO.com

Article Details:

Billie Jean King

  • Author

    History.com Staff

  • Website Name

    History.com

  • Year Published

    2009

  • Title

    Billie Jean King

  • URL

    http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/billie-jean-king

  • Access Date

    August 30, 2014

  • Publisher

    A+E Networks