Ora Washington (1898-1971) is considered America’s first Black woman sports celebrity. Dubbed “Queen Ora” or “The Queen of the Courts,” Washington dominated in both tennis and basketball.
She could also be called the Queen of Dominance. On the tennis court, Washington won 12-straight American Tennis Association doubles titles and nine-straight singles titles. The ATA was founded in 1916 after what is now the United States Tennis Association banned Black players from its competitions.
On the basketball court, Washington won 11 consecutive world titles and played for the Philadelphia Tribunes and Germantown Hornets. At 5’7, Washington played center, could shoot with both hands, got steals and was considered an all-around player.
She entered the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1976, was enshrined in the Temple Sports Hall of Fame, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Naismith Hall of Fame.
Washington was presented into the Naismith in 2018 by fellow Philly legend Dawn Staley, in the same class as Tina Thompson.
Washington passed away in 1971; there was a Philadelphia Tribune obituary, but most of the sports world hadn’t known. After retiring, she’d been working as a housekeeper, just as she’d been throughout her sports career…
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