Angela Buxton spent her life standing up to discrimination and injustice. Buxton, a British player who partnered with American Althea Gibson to win two Grand Slam doubles championships, died on August 14, 2020, two days before her 86th birthday.
Buxton and Gibson weren't like other tennis players in the 1950s. Because Buxton was Jewish and Gibson was Black, they were sometimes excluded from clubs and shunned by other players. But although they were outsiders among their peers, together they made history.
The two met in 1955 while on tour in India and hit it off over their love of movies and music. They formed a lifelong friendship and successful partnership, winning the doubles finals at the French Championships and Wimbledon in 1956. Buxton also made it to the singles final at Wimbledon in 1956. She was forced to retire the next year, at age 22, after developing tenosynovitis, a serious hand condition.
Buxton was born on 16 August, 1934 in Liverpool but lived with her mother in South Africa during World War II. Buxton's father owned a chain of movie theaters in England, affording Buxton tennis lessons from top coaches, including American Bill Tilden, a three-time Wimbledon champion.
Buxton and Gibson's friendship lasted almost 40 years, until Gibson's death in 2003. Toward the end of her life, Gibson fell on hard times and contacted her old friend. Buxton immediately sent Gibson money for rent and medicine until coming up with another plan.
She called a friend, who published a letter in a July 1996 issue of Tennis Week magazine, asking the tennis world to help Gibson by sending what money they could. Gibson received more than $1 million from fans all over the world, allowing her to live the final years of her life in relative comfort.
Buxton, known for her outspokenness and sharp wit, was a champion for Gibson even as late as last year when she flew to New York for the unveiling of a statue of Gibson on the US Open grounds. Billie Jean King, one of the statue's major proponents, also attended the unveiling. King posted a message on social media after news of Buxton’s death.
Saddened to hear of the passing of British tennis player Angela Buxton, friend and doubles partner of Althea Gibson. It was wonderful to spend time with her and hear her words about Althea at the unveiling of her statue @usopen last year.— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) August 17, 2020
Rest In Peace to a true champion. pic.twitter.com/y7YRoDBwie
"Saddened to hear of the passing of British tennis player Angela Buxton, friend and doubles partner of Althea Gibson," King wrote. "It was wonderful to spend time with her and hear her words about Althea at the unveiling of her statue last year. Rest In Peace to a true champion."
Buxton was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. Because of her relationship with Gibson, Buxton also was inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in 2015. After tennis, Buxton coached, helped found a tennis center in Israel and wrote several books on tennis.
My condolences to the family and friends of #AngelaBuxton after her passing 8/14/20 She was laid to rest today. Angela was a British tennis player who championed the friendship and support of #AltheaGibson when no one else would, in a racist era in our sport in the ‘50’s. #RIP 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/8GD8LRmahW— Katrina Adams 🦋 (@katadams68) August 16, 2020
RIP Angela Buxton , a champion on the court and a champion of human rights off the court… https://t.co/SWv6LAFxH5— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) August 17, 2020
One for the mantlepiece...— ITF (@ITF_Tennis) August 17, 2020
Angela Buxton partnered lifelong-friend Althea Gibson at @Wimbledon to win the 1956 ladies’ doubles and also reached the singles final
📸 AELTC/Arthur Cole pic.twitter.com/JvuQYctXod