A Jewish tennis champion who won the women’s doubles at Wimbledon in 1956 before flagging antisemitism in the sport, has died aged 85.
Angela Buxton, who won the championship with her American partner Althea Gibson, claimed she was refused entry to join the All England Club (AELTC) due to her faith.
As a top British player, Buxton applied to join along with her doubles partner, but both had applications rejected. She reportedly continued to apply for the next 64 years.
In July 2019 Buxton told The Sunday Times the refusal was “an unfortunate example of how the British really treat Jews in this country.
“This sort of thing exacerbates the feeling towards Jews. It’s perfectly ridiculous, it’s laughable. It speaks volumes.”
The club disagreed with Buxton’s claim at the time, saying: “While the decision-making process for membership of the All England Club is a private matter, we strongly refute any suggestion that race or religion plays a factor,” a statement from the club said, according to The Daily Mail.
Buxton also said she had experienced antisemitism during her career.
Author Bruce Schoenfeld in his book “The Match: How Two Outsiders — One Black, the Other Jewish — Forged a Friendship and Made Sports History” reported that Simon Marks, the Jewish owner of the department store Marks & Spencer, allowed her to practice on his private tennis court.
As a teenager, Buxton applied to join the Cumberland Club, the top tennis facility in North London. Coach Bill Blake reportedly rejected Buxton, saying: “You’re perfectly good, but you’re Jewish. We don’t take Jews here.”
The AELTC told Jewish News it is “deeply saddened to hear of Angela’s passing and offers condolences to her family and friends. Her contribution to The Championships, in particular her doubles partnership with Althea Gibson, will be long remembered.” It also reiterated that the decision to not award her membership was not to do with her religion.
A spokesperson for the Lawn Tennis Association said: “Her achievements on court made her one of the most successful British players of her era, while her fight for equal rights throughout her career helped bring about change in the sport and paved the way for others.”
Tributes were also paid from across the tennis world, with legendary player Billie Jean King saying: “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 at the US Open last year. Rest In Peace to a true champion.”
Fellow former tennis star Martina Navratilova, said Buxton was a “champion on the court and a champion of human rights off the court”.