INDIVIDUAL | Inducted 1999
Building on her tennis stardom to create social change, she has elevated the self-esteem of girls and women through her lifelong struggle for equality in the sports world. She has also raised large sums to fight AIDS, has contributed funds to combat homophobia in schools, and has supported efforts to stem gay and lesbian teenage suicide rates.
Billie Jean King’s accomplishments in the world of tennis are many and well known. They include her capture of 71 singles titles, 20 Wimbledon titles, and 12 Grand Slam singles titles.
Her true legacy, though, is the multitude of ways in which she has helped to create social change.
King has been instrumental in raising the self-esteem of girls and women, both lesbian and non-lesbian, through her lifelong struggle for equality in women’s tennis, her leading roles in organizing the Women’s Sports Foundation (1974) and the former International Women’s Professional Softball Association (1976), and her involvement as a Women’s Sports Foundation board member in encouraging the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX sex-discrimination provisions of the Education Amendments of 1972. King has motivated people to believe in themselves, regardless of sex or gender.
In addition, King has served as a board member of both the National AIDS Fund and the Elton John AIDS Foundation and has used her celebrity to raise visibility as well as money for AIDS organizations. As cofounder and director of World TeamTennis, headquartered in Chicago, she has helped to promote and cohosted its annual Smash Hits celebrity tennis events in cities around the nation. The events raise funds for the Elton John foundation and local AIDS charities.’
Since moving to Chicago, King has helped to strategize about how to get the widest distribution among local educators for the award-winning film It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School, and she has contributed $10,000 toward that end. Her work on the film project was recognized with a 1998 Pathfinder Award from GLSEN Chicago, the local chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
She has also received numerous other honors, including induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and receipt of Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Elizabeth Blackwell Award for service to humankind.
King is currently working to establish a foundation that will be devoted, in part, to stemming the rate of suicide among gay and lesbian teenagers.