Inside Arthur Ashe’s 70th Birthday Bash 

In 1959, Tom Chewning was a 15-year-old playing in a tennis tournament in Wheeling, W.Va., when he first met 16-year old Arthur Ashe.

"I didn't know he existed at the time because we had never met in segregated Richmond," Chewning says. "He knew about me because the Times-Dispatch covered white tennis, not black."

Chewning liked Ashe right away, he says, because he was full of intellectual curiosity about the world. When they returned to Richmond, they asked their parents if they could play tennis secretly. They agreed, and Ashe's father, who worked for the city's department of parks and recreation, opened a court in North Richmond at Brook Field, standing guard while they practiced.

Chewning went on to become chief financial officer at Dominion Respouces before retiring four years ago. He stayed friends with Ashe until the tennis star's death at age 49, after he contracted AIDS during heart bypass surgery.

Chewning and his wife, Nancy, will serve as co-hosts of a 70th birthday celebration for Ashe at the Science Museum of Virginia, where they'll help unveil an interactive exhibit about the late tennis great.

"I still miss having Arthur around. He was one of the world's great people," Chewning says. "The things he stood for, the gracefulness he showed. The great role model he was. The way he gave back to the world, he was such an unusual gift. You just don't want those memories to fade — particularly today."

Also serving as host is Ashe's widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, a well-known photographer whose work is included in the Inspirational Tour exhibit, sponsored by the nonprofit Arthur Ashe Learning Center.

The exhibit helps visitors understand who Ashe was as a person, Moutoussamy-Ashe says. It appeals to all ages, she says, offering touch-screen timelines with historical context and video. One interactive section attempts to pinpoint what passions might engage visitors to become civil servants.

"I'm thrilled we can premiere in the home where he was born and later buried beside his mother" in Woodlawn Cemetery, she says. "Her graveside was the first place Arthur took me in 1976 when I visited Richmond."

The installation moves to the New York Hall of Science in late August just in time for the U.S. Open. Tickets are available at smv.org.

"Though Richmond didn't count him in until he won the U.S. Open in 1968," Chewning says, "he was gracious. He came back many times to a city that wouldn't accept him and embraced it. This was a great Richmonder."


Latest in News and Features


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Brent Baldwin

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

  • Moving Pictures

    Moving Pictures

    Lucy Dacus revisits her Richmond upbringing on new album, “Home Video.”
    • Jun 22, 2021
  • COMMENTARY: Pedestals with Purpose

    COMMENTARY: Pedestals with Purpose

    Richmond should carefully examine what to do with the remaining pedestals from the Confederate monuments – considering each individually.
    • Jun 22, 2021
  • Power to the People

    Power to the People

    A new documentary about the rise and fall of the Confederate monuments offers a sweeping history of resistance.
    • Jun 8, 2021
  • COMMENTARY: Welcome to the Caymans

    COMMENTARY: Welcome to the Caymans

    The success of Urban One Casino proves that Richmond remains in dire need of campaign finance reform.
    • Jun 1, 2021
  • More »

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation