More than half a century after she taught at Lincoln University, Althea Gibson revisited the institution Saturday in the form of a stamp honoring her distinguished athletic career and place in African-American history.
In a special halftime ceremony at a Lincoln University-Northeastern State football game, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the Althea Gibson Forever Stamp, commemorating Gibson's role as the first African-African tennis player to win Wimbledon and a key figure in the integration of a sport hostile to non-white players.
Kevin Rome, the president of Lincoln University, praised Gibson's achievements and contributions to the university. From 1953-55, Gibson served as a physical education instructor and the coach of a men's tennis team.
"Lincoln University is proud to be a part of the life story of Miss Althea Gibson," Rome said.
Jefferson City Postmaster Don Knoth called upon the audience to recall life in the 1950s, a time when there were few television channels available and African-Americans faced the challenges of a segregated society on a daily basis. Under these circumstances, he said, Gibson's athletic debut was revolutionary.
"Althea Gibson taught everyone a lesson," Knoth said.
At the ceremony, members of Lincoln University's chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha,a sorority to which Gibson belonged when she attended Florida A&M University, celebrated the stamp's unveiling by releasing a series of pink and green balloons corresponding to the sorority's colors.
Born in South Carolina in 1927, Gibson was a tennis player for most of her life. She started playing as a teen, and by the end of the 1950s, had been to Wimbledon twice, making her the first African-American player to win a major singles championship.
Gibson, who died in 2003 of respiratory failure, is the 36th person to be inducted into the Postal Service's Black Heritage stamp series, which includes notable figures like Jackie Robinson, Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall. The series began in 1978 with Harriet Tubman, the first African-American woman to be featured on a stamp.
According to the USPS, the stamp was designed by Derry Noyes and depicts the artwork of Kadir Nelson, an artist who specializes in African-American history.
The Althea Gibson Forever Stamp can be ordered online at usps.com.