For all her tennis accomplishments, Billie Jean King is probably best known for her 1973 match against former men's champion Bobby Riggs, dubbed the "Battle of the Sexes." The couple resides in New York City. Stephen King is a 'New York Times'-bestselling novelist who made his name in the horror and fantasy genres with books like 'Carrie,' 'The Shining' and 'IT.' "It would ruin the women's tour and affect all women's self-esteem. The story of the 1973 King-Riggs match spawned the 2017 feature film Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone as King and Steve Carell as Riggs. In 1968, having claimed the world's No. But she simmered over the smaller paychecks earned by her peers. While attending California State University, Los Angeles, from 1961 to 1964, King continued to compete in tournaments and also worked as a tennis instructor to make ends meet. While she was experiencing incredible success in her professional life, her personal life was about to come under national scrutiny. She pushed relentlessly for the rights of women players, helped to form a separate women’s tour, and obtained financial backing from commercial sponsors. Named to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, King remained closely tied to the sport throughout the 1990s as a television commentator. After a few years of promising play, King won her first major singles championship at Wimbledon in 1966. With her victories in 1967, she was the first woman since 1938 to sweep the U.S. and British singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles in a single year. The following year, King and her husband, Larry King, founded the World TeamTennis (WTT) co-ed circuit. In 1973, she formed the Women's Tennis Association and famously defeated Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes." She was inducted into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990. American singer and songwriter Carole King has written or co-written over 400 songs that have been recorded by more than 1,000 artists. King's early sport was softball; at age 10, she played shortstop on a team of 14- and 15-year-old girls that won the city championship. Her efforts paid off in 1966, when she won her first major singles championship at Wimbledon. In 1973, at the height of her competitive years, Billie Jean leveraged her position to spearhead the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association and became its first president. After her divorce from Larry King, she publicly embraced her homosexuality and became an advocate for gay rights. After a series of losses to top-seeded players in various competitions around the country, King made sports headlines for the first time in 1961, when she and Karen Hantze Susman became the youngest pair to win the Wimbledon women's doubles title. Renowned for her speed, net game and backhand shot, King was a regular presence in the winner's circle in singles, doubles and mixed-doubles tournaments over the next few years. When a mostly white jury acquitted the police officers who were caught on video beating Rodney King, it set off the L.A. riots of 1992. She followed up with repeat wins in 1967 and 1968. Corrections? She then began to play softball, and as a 10-year-old, played shortstop on a 14U team that won the city championship. But King was all business once the match started, and she handily beat Riggs in straight sets before an estimated television audience of 90 million viewers. In 1959, Billie Jean turned pro, and former women’s tennis great Alice Marble became her coach. Her efforts paid off in 1966, when she won her first major singles championship at Wimbledon. Bill earned a tryout for an NBA team before becoming a firefighter and Betty was an accomplished swimmer. Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. The budding tennis star married Larry King in 1965 but soon found herself wrestling with her feelings for other women. In 2006, the New York City facility that hosts the U.S. Open was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in her honor. The film drew generally strong reviews, with both Stone and Carell earning Golden Globe nominations for their performances. On August 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama for her advocacy work on behalf of women and the LGBTQ community. The U.S. Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money to both sexes. She divorced her husband in 1987 and settled into a long-term relationship with former player Ilana Kloss. "I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn't win that match," she said. To these accomplishments, she added her first U.S. Open singles championship in 1967 and the Australian Open singles title the following year. Coretta Scott King was an American civil rights activist and the wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. King turned professional after 1968 and became the first woman athlete to win more than $100,000 in one season (1971). He is best known for his primitive style and his collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol. She went on to capture a record 20 Wimbledon titles (singles 1966–68, 1972–73, and 1975; women’s doubles 1961–62, 1965, 1967–68, 1970–73, and 1979; mixed doubles 1967, 1971, and 1973–74), in addition to U.S. singles (1967, 1971–72, and 1974), French singles (1972), and the Australian title (1968); her Wimbledon record was tied by Martina Navratilova in 2003. King served as the player-coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms, thus becoming one of the first women to coach professional male athletes. Much of his work has been adapted for film and TV. She married law student Larry King in 1965. King's accomplishments have gone beyond the world of tennis. Omissions? Billie Jean had realized that she was interested in women, and had begun a secret relationship with a woman in the early 1970s. Her father mentioned tennis, and shortly afterward, Billie Jean was introduced to the sport by her friend, Susan Williams. In 1961, Billie Jean gained international recognition for the first time when she and Karen Hantze Susman became the youngest pair to win the Wimbledon women’s doubles title. Soon after, Billie Jean began an intense training regimen so she could maximize her potential. In 1970, she joined the brand-new Virginia Slims Tour for women, and in 1971, she became the first female athlete to top $100,000 in prize money in a single year. We strive for accuracy and fairness. Billie Jean’s first sport was basketball. 1 ranking in women's tennis, King turned professional. The Moffitt family was athletic. As she entered fifth grade, she asked her father what sports she could play to continue to achieve success. “I am going to be No. The match took place on September 20, 1973, at the Houston Astrodome. She continued to play WTA doubles matches sporadically, until retiring for good in 1990. Jump onto the court to test your knowledge of tennis players, tournaments, and history with this quiz. In 2009 King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Bill earned a tryout for an NBA team before becoming a firefighter and Betty was an accomplished swimmer. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). In 1966, Billie Jean King achieved the goal she set for herself as a young girl when she was ranked #1 in the world in women’s tennis. The saga had previously been dramatized in the 2001 TV Movie When Billie Beat Bobby, which featured Holly Hunter as the women's tennis champ and Ron Silver as her opponent. Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs during a press conference for their “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, 1973. Billie Jean emerged as a talent to watch when in 1958, she won her age bracket in the Southern California championship. She began to play on Long Beach’s public courts using a racquet she purchased herself with money earned from odd jobs. Bobby Riggs was an American tennis champion best known for facing women's star Billie Jean King in the 1973 'Battle of the Sexes.'. The United States Tennis Association honoured King in August 2006, when it renamed the National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She lobbied for equal prize money for men and women at the U.S. Open, and a sponsor was found to level the playing field. Leveraging her position as its most celebrated player, she threatened a boycott of the 1973 U.S. Open if the pay inequality was not addressed. Their second child, Randy, became a Major League Baseball pitcher. While participating in a tournament at the Los Angeles Tennis Club in 1955, Billie Jean was barred from a group picture of junior tennis players because she wore the tennis shorts her mother made her instead of the tennis dress traditionally worn by female athletes. She was perhaps one of the greatest doubles players in the history of tennis, winning 27 major titles. From the moment she put the racquet on the ball, Billie Jean knew what she wanted to do with her life. Embracing the spectacle of the event, King entered the court in a gold litter carried by four muscular men, while Riggs rolled in on a rickshaw pulled by a team of women called "Bobby's Bosom Buddies." A board member of the Women’s Sports Foundation, which she formed during her playing days, she has also served as acting director for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the National AIDS Fund. The USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY, home of the US Open Grand Slam tennis tournament, was rededicated as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 28, 2006. The following year, Billie Jean went on to co-found the inclusive World TeamTennis co-ed circuit and started the Women’s Sports Foundation, dedicated to creating leaders by providing girls access to sports. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. In that same year King admitted to having had a homosexual affair with her former secretary, who was suing King for material support. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Afterward, King acknowledged the pressure she felt that day. Never shy about speaking her mind, King jolted the tennis establishment with her views that the sport needed to shed its country-club image and offer equal payouts to both genders. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Her private affairs were thrust into public view with a lawsuit brought by her former female personal assistant and lover in 1981. She is chief executive officer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. The first prominent woman athlete to admit her homosexuality, King lost her endorsements but became a torchbearer for the LGBT community. King remained active in tennis and since the mid-1990s served as coach for several Olympic and Federation Cup teams; in 2020 the Federation Cup was renamed the Billie Jean King Cup. The 55-year-old Riggs had assumed an overtly chauvinistic public persona to bait the sport’s top women into playing him, and after he easily defeated multi-time champion Margaret Court in the "Mother's Day Massacre" of May 1973, he secured King as his next opponent. Billie Jean King, née Billie Jean Moffitt, (born November 22, 1943, Long Beach, California, U.S.), American tennis player whose influence and playing style elevated the status of women’s professional tennis beginning in the late 1960s. She was one of the founders and the first president (1974) of the Women’s Tennis Association. She went on to successfully defend that title in each of the following two years, and added her first U.S. Open singles championship in 1967 and her only Australian Open triumph the following year. The match set a record for the largest tennis audience and the largest purse awarded up to that time. She published two autobiographies, Billie Jean (1974; with Kim Chapin) and The Autobiography of Billie Jean King (1982; with Frank Deford), as well as We Have Come a Long Way: The Story of Women’s Tennis (1988; with Cynthia Starr) and Pressure Is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes (2008; with Christine Brennan). In 1972, she won the U.S. Open, French Open and Wimbledon to claim three Grand Slam titles in one year. A decade later, in 1981, Billie Jean was publicly outed as a lesbian, and as a result, she lost all of her endorsement deals. Updates? King and her husband, Larry King (married 1965–87), were part of a group that founded World TeamTennis (WTT) in 1974. The first prominent female athlete to admit her homosexuality, King continued her work as an influential social activist after retiring from tennis. Billie Jean King Biography. Jean-Michel Basquiat was a Neo-Expressionist painter in the 1980s. She has been honored by an array of organizations, notably earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. 1 in the world,” Billie Jean told her mother. The young athlete set the bar high for her tennis game. Susan took her to a country club, where Billie Jean played for the first time. She also served as captain of the U.S. team at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics. (Her secretary lost the lawsuit.) In 1973 she beat the aging Bobby Riggs in a much-publicized “Battle of the Sexes” match. Yet through it all, her crusade against inequality in all forms never waned, and she continued to receive recognition for her many contributions to both tennis and the fight for parity. King announced her retirement from singles play after winning Wimbledon in 1975, but she resumed singles competition two years later and continued through 1983. Billie Jean King during her “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs at the Houston Astrodome, September 20, 1973. Billie Jean and Ilana remain close friends with Larry and his family. Billie Jean King. "use strict";(function(){var insertion=document.getElementById("citation-access-date");var date=new Date().toLocaleDateString(undefined,{month:"long",day:"numeric",year:"numeric"});insertion.parentElement.replaceChild(document.createTextNode(date),insertion)})(); Subscribe to the Biography newsletter to receive stories about the people who shaped our world and the stories that shaped their lives. In 1972, she won the U.S. Open, French Open, and Wimbledon to claim three Grand Slam titles in one year. Martin Luther King Jr. was a scholar and minister who led the civil rights movement. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Billie Jean Moffitt was born on November 22, 1943 in Long Beach, California to parents Bill, a firefighter, and Betty, a homemaker. In 1970, she joined the Virginia Slims Tour for women, and in 1971, King became the first woman athlete to earn over $100,000 in prize money. Named to the U.S. delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, King embraced the designation that both honored her athletic achievements and made a political statement in opposition of Russia's anti-gay legislation. King beat Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. However, her parents suggested she try a more "ladylike" sport, and at age 11, she began to play tennis on the Long Beach public courts. After his assassination, he was memorialized by Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King is the youngest child of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. She first attracted international attention in 1961 by winning the Wimbledon doubles championship with Karen Hantz; theirs was the youngest team to win. As player-coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms, she was one of the first women to coach professional male athletes. Between 1961 and 1979, Billie Jean won a record 20 Wimbledon titles, 13 United States titles (including four singles), four French titles (one singles), and two Australian titles (one singles) for a total of 39 Grand Slam titles. No tennis match before or since has been seen by so many. In 2014, she founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to addressing the critical issues required to achieve diverse, inclusive leadership in the workforce. Billie Jean King became the top-ranked women's tennis player by 1967. She took this injustice and used it as fuel to power both her game and her future social advocacy. Billie Jean Moffitt King set a record for career Wimbledon titles, winning 6 singles, 10 doubles, and 4 mixed between 1961 and 1979.…. Altogether, King won 39 major singles, doubles and mixed doubles championships, including a record 20 at Wimbledon. The WTT folded after 1978 because of financial losses, but King revived the competition in 1981. However, after achieving mixed results in several of the competitions, King realized that she would need to step up her practice schedule if she wanted to reach her full potential, and she embarked on an exhaustive training regimen and worked on sharpening her fundamentals. Off the court, Billie Jean campaigned for equal prize money in the men’s and women’s games. King was athletically inclined from an early age. King was born Billie Jean Moffitt on November 22, 1943, in Long Beach, California, to parents Bill and Betty. She soon realized, though, that the standards for young women playing the game were different than those for young men.
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