Brother of tennis legend Arthur Ashe serves up support for One Love Tennis


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Johnnie Ashe was the keynote speaker on Thursday at the One Love Tennis Luncheon. We’ve posted the initial news release on the event below. Click the icon above to see Johnnie Ashe in Wilmington.


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WILMINGTON, NC (RELEASE) — Johnnie Ashe, the younger brother of late great tennis champion, activist and humanitarian Arthur Ashe, will be the special guest and featured speaker at the First Annual One Love Tennis Luncheon at the Riverside Hilton Grand Ballroom in Wilmington on Thursday, April 2.

Executive Director of the One Love Tennis Program, Lenny Simpson, a Wilmington native, came up through the tennis ranks alongside Arthur and Johnnie Ashe, under the coaching and guidance of Dr. R. Walter Johnson. Simpson reached out to his old friend to come speak at the fundraising luncheon. “Johnnie Ashe was an accomplished tennis player in his own right and was consistently ranked nationally in the top 15 as a young player.” Says Simpson. Ashe became disenchanted with competitive tennis and joined the Marine Corp and was stationed in Camp Lejeune, where he was the Commanding Officer of B Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion.

The Ashe brothers’ story was recently the subject of the acclaimed ESPN 30 for 30 Film “Arthur and Johnnie” which won ESPN and filmmaker Tate Donovan a rare Emmy in the 2015 Emmy Awards.

In the film’s first person account, Johnnie Ashe tells the story of a previously unknown chapter of his brother Arthur’s legacy. Johnnie, five years Arthur’s junior, returned from his first tour in Vietnam with the Marines. At the time, Arthur Ashe was a lieutenant in the Army working at West Point in data processing while fast becoming a rising star in the tennis world. When Johnnie was sent home however, Arthur suddenly became in danger of being sent to Vietnam. Johnnie volunteered to be sent back to the war in his brother’s place so that Arthur could continue his budding tennis career. Johnnie would return home, and Arthur would go on to win the inaugural 1968 U.S. Open and make history as a tennis champion, humanitarian, activist and author.

“Johnnie knows first hand the difference that a tennis program like One Love can make in young lives.” Says Simpson. “It is such an honor to have him come to Wilmington and speak at our Luncheon.”

Even though he chose to serve his country, Johnnie continued to play tennis while in Camp Lejeune and saw sports as a character and morale builder. He helped young tennis players get started including Paul and Pete Gamborys of Jacksonville. Paul Gamborys was a standout on the UNCW tennis team.

The First Annual One Love Luncheon’s program will also feature exclusive excerpts from the critically acclaimed documentary ALTHEA, which chronicles the life of Althea Gibson, the trailblazing tennis champion who called Wilmington home for many years; and comments from Filmmaker Rex Miller.

His close association with both Althea Gibson and Arthur and Johnnie Ashe dramatically improved Lenny Simpson’s life circumstances and tennis career, so he speaks with more than his usual enthusiasm about the One Love Tennis Program and the Luncheon. “This Luncheon is a chance for members of the community to hear these unique stories and support our program.”

The One Love Tennis Luncheon will be held on April 2, 2015 at the Grand Ballroom at the Riverside Hilton from 11:30 to 1pm. If you are interested in attending or hosting a table, you can call Lenny Simpson at 910-520-9264 or visit the website for more information.

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