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BILLIE JEAN KING

When the young Billie Jean Moffitt began to play tennis on the public courts of her native Long Beach, California, no one could have predicted the far-reaching impact she would exert on American society. Throughout her life, she has put her status as a legendary tennis champion to work for larger purposes, especially in creating new opportunities for girls and women.

Billie Jean King was a tennis phenomenon, whose long list of singles and doubles titles includes a record 20 Wimbledon titles (including six singles). In 1971 she became the first female athlete in any sport to earn more than $100,000 in a season of competition. For her on-court success, she was inducted, in 1987, into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

It is telling, though, that she is also an inductee of the National Women's Hall of Fame, for Billie Jean King was a revolution in the making. In 1973, one year after the passage of Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act, King forever changed perceptions of what women can achieve. The "Battle of the Sexes" match with her friend Bobby Riggs drew a television audience of 50 million people. Her victory contributed to a vigorous international debate on the status of women, striking an indelible cultural chord that resonates to this day. The celebrity that she gained for herself, and the respect she earned for professional women's tennis in the process, has since fueled increasing recognition for other women's sports organizations and for the participation of women in all sports at all levels. She is herself founder of the Women’s Tennis Association and Women’s Sports Foundation. For her impact on women's athletics and gender equity she was named one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century in a fall 1990 special issue of Life magazine.

Today, Billie Jean King continues the fight for parity of the sexes while supporting other causes. She is the director and official spokesperson for WORLD TEAMTENNIS (a coed professional and grassroots league). She lends charitable support to the fight against AIDS and is a director of the National AIDS Fund and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. She lends support also to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network and to Juvenile Diabetes. In 1996 she coached the United States Olympic tennis team. That year she also coached the United States women's team for the Fed Cup — a role she will play in 1998-2000, as well.