Interview of Donald Dell
Interviewed because of connection to tennis player Arthur Ashe. He was one of Ashe’s closest friends. He and Ashe met in the sixties during their childhood playing in tennis tournaments. Dell later became the captain of the Davis Cup team in 1968 and recruited Ashe to the team. When Dell left as Captain he became Ashe’s manager. Dell and Ashe were lifelong friends.
- Purpose Served: An Oral History of the Exemplary Life of Arthur Ashe, 1943-1993
- African American HistorySports
- Biographical Note:
- Interviewed because of connection to tennis player Arthur Ashe. He was one of Ashe’s closest friends. He and Ashe met in the sixties during their childhood playing in tennis tournaments. Dell later became the captain of the Davis Cup team in 1968 and recruited Ashe to the team. When Dell left as Captain he became Ashe’s manager. Dell and Ashe were lifelong friends.
- Dell, Donald
- Persons Present:
- Dell and Hester
- Place Conducted:
- This interview was conducted in Dell’s office in Washington DC.
- Supporting Documents:
- Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
- Interviewer Background and Preparation:
- The interview was conducted by Yolanda Hester, project director of the Arthur Ashe Oral History Project for the Arthur Ashe Legacy Fund at UCLA. Hester received her graduate degree in African American studies at UCLA and was hired by the fund to develop an oral history project and conduct interviews celebrating the legacy of Arthur Ashe. For this interview, Hester prepared by reading a number of Arthur Ashe’s autobiographies (“Ad-vantage Ashe,” “Off The Court,” “Days of Grace”) and biographies, particularly “A Life” by Ray Arsenualt. Hester collected and read a number of articles on Arthur Ashe from newspapers and other publications and visited a number of websites such a the International Tennis Hall of Fame, The American Tennis Association and the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. I have also collected a number of articles on Donald Dell and his career as a sports agent as well as read his book “Never Make The First Offer (Except When You Should) Wisdom From a Master Dealmaker.”
- Processing of Interview:
- The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. The interviewee was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content. The corrections made were entered into the text by Yolanda Hester, in-terviewer for the Arthur Ashe Oral History Project, an initiative of the Arthur Ashe legacy fund. The session proceeded overall smoothly except a couple of interruptions where Dell had to at-tend to business matters.
- 5.5 hrs
- Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
- Series Statement:
- Purpose Served: An Oral History of the Exemplary Life of Arthur Ashe, 1943-1993 is an initiative of the Arthur Ashe Legacy Fund (AALF) at UCLA and is funded by AALF and by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. By launching an oral history project to document and capture the firsthand recollections of Ashe’s colleagues, associates, family, and friends, UCLA was fulfilling its commitment to the Arthur Ashe Learning Center to document and disseminate the considerable impact of one of its most significant graduates. In his memoir Days of Grace Arthur Ashe stated, "I don't want to be remembered for my tennis accomplishments.” Although this series provides a comprehensive account of Ashe’s considerable accomplishments as a tennis player, it also offers a substantial number of first-person accounts of historical moments and stories beyond the scope of tennis. Ashe’s ascent in the tennis world coincided with many important developments in the sport: the onset of the Open Era, the shift from a mostly “country club” sport to the public arena, the commercialization of tennis, and the rise of the celebrity athlete. But his life also intersected with a number of significant milestone in the second half of the twentieth century, including the civil rights and women’s movements, the Vietnam War, the fall of apartheid in South Africa, and the AIDS/HIV crisis. In their reflections on Ashe’s work and activism, participants in this series share stories of his engagement with these crucial moments in U.S. history. Finally, the series also contains information about segregation; student life at UCLA in the 1960s; ROTC; West Point; Black life in Richmond, Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri; the work of TransAfrica and Artists and Athletes against Apartheid; and the relatively unknown histories of the American Tennis Association and Dr. Robert Walter Johnson’s Summer Tennis Camp. Interviewees were sought across the country and internationally, reflecting Ashe’s broad swath of associates and his status as a prominent athlete and a respected public intellectual. Although the series reflects his entire life, special attention was given to locating childhood friends, military associates, and fellow students in St. Louis and at UCLA. Participants who could speak of his devotion to support youth in the sport and his activism were also included in this series. The series commenced months before the COVID-19 pandemic, so many of the initial interviews align with traditional oral history methodology in being conducted in person. After stay-at-home orders were initiated across the country in March of 2020, interviews were conducted via the Zoom video conferencing platform. Many of these sessions were preserved on video recordings as well as audio recordings.
Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1938-Grew up in Bethesda, Maryland-Started playing tennis at age 7 at Edgemoor Club-Won the National Championship in Kalamazoo, MI at age 15-Dell’s father became president of Edgemoor in the mid-50s-He integrated the club-Segregation and Athletic clubs in the Washington DC/Maryland area-Dell began competing in tennis at age 11-Childhood neighborhood-Ranked #1 in the US by age 18-Attended and played tennis at Yale University-Playing tennis before the “Open Era”-Jack Kramer-Amateurs going Pro-How tennis function before the Open Era-Pro vs. Amateur tours-Why and how tennis went Open in 1968-Becoming captain of the Davis Cup team in 1968-Shifting into sports management-Founding the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP)-Goals of the ATP-Developing ProServ-First meeting Arthur Ashe in 1963-Attending law school and working for Robert Sargent Shriver-Relationship with the Kennedys-Working on Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign-Security and crowds during the campaign trail-Robert Kennedy’s assassination-Returning to the Davis Cup-Founding ProServ-Friendship with Ashe-Impact of Dr. Robert Johnson on Ashe-Cultivating the Davis Cup team-Davis Cup then and now-Diversity of the team-Prize money and the Federation-Resigning form the Davis Cup team in 1970-Post Davis Cup.
Integrating the Edgemoor Club-Boycott of the Grand Slams during shift to Open Era-Opposition to the Open Era-Jack Krammer’s computerized ranking system-Jack Krammer’s impact on tennis-ahistorical events of the 60s and the Davis Cup team-Vietnam War and the Davis Cup team-Impact of Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) and Robert Kennedy's assassinations on the Davis Cup-Playing at Byrd Park in Richmond, Virginia-Ashe’s statue on Monument Ave-Segregation and early matches with Ashe-Meeting Jeanne Moutoussamy-Creating Players Enterprises Incorporated (PEI)-Friendship with Phillippe Chatrier-Downfall of PEI-Dell confronts Ashe on a quote from People Magazine about race-Ashe’s popularity and his encounter with Diana Ross-Being “Black in a White sport”-Class and the sport of tennis-Dell and Ashe’s friendship-Ashe’s endorsement deals-Ashe and The Black Panthers-Ashe, TransAfrican and Randall Robinson-Ashe and politics.
Ashe’s crossover appeal-Endorsement deal strategies-Ashe’s trip to South Africa-Visiting Soweto-Incident at the airport-Ashe and Nelson Mandela-Meeting poet Don Mattera-Ashe and his support for women in tennis-National Junior Tennis League-Ashe and support youth in tennis-TransAfrica and the Haiti protest-Ashe and health issues-Ashe’s interest in politics-Ashe and David Dinkins-Ashe’s first heart attack in 1979-Ashe and his AIDS diagnosis-Ashe’s public disclosure of his AIDS status-She’s funeral-Ashe’s legacy.