Richmond native, tennis champion and humanitarian Arthur Ashe was the first African-American male to win a Grand Slam event and was an active civil rights supporter. He is honored with a statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. [slideshow]
ARTIST: Paul Di Pasquale.
DEDICATION: July 10, 1996 (it would have been his 53rd birthday).
DESCRIPTION: The bronze statue of Arthur Ashe faces west with four children facing east. The statue shows him holding books in his left hand and a tennis racket in his right hand to illustrate how he encouraged the importance of sports and education. The 12 foot bronze statue (the figure is 10 foot tall, 12 foot to the books in his left hand) stands on a 87,000 pound granite block quarried in Georgia. The monument rises 28 feet above the street.
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There was plenty of controversy over this statue when it was proposed and after it was placed at Monument and Roseneath avenues back in July 1996. Questions like:
- Should it be on Monument Avenue with all the Confederate heroes?
- Should there be more design options?
- Is the base too big for the statue?
- Is he about to hit the kids with the books and the racquet?
Personally, I don’t think it is the best statue in Richmond. That’s no slight to Mr. Ashe, who was and still is a hero to so many people worldwide. The message in the statue is a good one, and true to his legacy. He’s kept a smile over on Monument Avenue.
Who remembers that then Mayor Leonidas Young had a proposal to place the monument in Byrd Park and rename the Boulevard for Arthur Ashe? Definitely, there were some that thought his statue belonged in Byrd Park, home of some of his tennis-playing days as a Richmond youth.
One article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch noted a suggestion from a city council member to move the Stonewall Jackson monument to make way for Ashe, calling the intersection of Monument Avenue and Boulevard “the most primary piece of property in the city.” I’ve written that it is the most trafficked and therefore most visible on Monument Avenue.
The article also noted that the entire Ashe family favored the site at Monument Avenue and Roseneath Road — and that Arthur would not have approved of the debate over the location for the statue.
How else has Richmond honored Ashe? Have you ever seen the Arthur Ashe Center? I’ve never liked the building, and I’m not alone.
One day Richmond will tear that down and build a more adequate and modern facility to replace it. There have been proposals, mostly tied in with revamping The Boulevard corridor and The Diamond, located on the same property. I hope that if it gets Ashe’s name, it will at least be worthy of his world-class status.