Ora Mae Washington was born on January 23, 1898 and was an American athlete from the Germantown section of Northwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Washington was known as the “Queen of Tennis.” Washington played professional tennis and won the American Tennis Association’s national singles title eight time in nine years between 1929 and 1937. She also won 12 straight double championships.
There was one opponent Washington longed to play in Tennis. While Washington dominated the #Black women’s tennis scene, Helen Moody was the reigning championship among white women who played on courts such as Wimbledon and Forrest Hills. Moody refused to accept a match with Washington. Washington’s skills did not go unnoticed by the Roosevelt administration. Hundreds of public tennis courts where the game was unfamiliar were built as part of Depression-era work and recovery programs. Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson, the first Black man and woman to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open would learn to play on those courts.
Tennis was not the only sport that Washington was good in playing. She first played basketball in 1930 with the Germantown Hornets. She had a 22-1 national female title. The Hornets team was sponsored by a local YMCA, but they separated from them and became a professional team. The team often played against Black women, white women, and occasionally #African American men teams.
Soon after Washington decided to retire from sports in the mid-1940s. She supported herself as a housekeeper, and later died in 1971. Washington was inducted into Temple University’s Sports Hall of Fame in the mid-1980s. She was also elected to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Knoxville, Tennessee.