Oral Histories

Interview of Jeffrey Leboff

Interviewed because of connection to tennis player Arthur Ashe. Leboff and Ashe participated in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at UCLA from 1961 to 1966.
Purpose Served: An Oral History of the Exemplary Life of Arthur Ashe, 1943-1993
African American History
Biographical Note:
Interviewed because of connection to tennis player Arthur Ashe. Leboff and Ashe participated in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at UCLA from 1961 to 1966.
Nwonye, Chinyere
Leboff, Jeffrey
Persons Present:
Leboff and Nwonye.
Place Conducted:
The interview was conducted using the Zoom video conferencing platform.
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 interviewer prepared for the interview by reading Arthur Ashe’s Advantage Ashe (1967); Arthur Ashe and Neil Amdur’s Off the Court (1981); Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersad’s Days of Grace: A Memoir (1993); Raymond Arsenault’s Arthur Ashe: A Life (2018); various archival articles from the Los Angeles Times and Daily Bruin. The researcher also watched the Mark Kitchell documentary, Berkeley in the Sixties (1990) to gain insight into the political activism of Mario Savio, a leader of the Free Speech Movement. During the pre-interview, Leboff specifically mentioned Savio’s activity at UCLA during the time in which both he and Ashe were students. To gain background on the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, the researcher also read “History of Army ROTC” from the University of California, Berkeley Army ROTC website; The Reserve Officer Training Corps (1951), by Alexander Hamilton; Integration in the Armed Services (1956), by James C. Evans and David A. Lane; Letters: A Constructive Alternative to ROTC (1969), published by the American Association of University Professors.
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.
1 hr
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.
Jeff Leboff Born in Newark, New Jersey on July 4, 1943 – At age seven, family moves to Los Angeles, California – Begins attending University of California, Los Angeles in 1961 because of its good reputation and commuting distance – Experiences much diversity within Engineering department – Aware of some social and political demonstration on campus but not involved – Assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and campus response – President Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit to UCLA and involvement of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) – ROTC and the end of the compulsory requirement – Anti-war sentiment amongst some faculty and teaching assistants – Meeting Arthur Ashe and working together on an ROTC project – Athletes in ROTC – Graduates in 1966 and stationed in South Korea – Draft and student deferments – Following Ashe’s career – Learning about Ashe’s health issues and death in 1993.