Oral Histories

Interview of Doug Smith

Interviewed because of connection to tennis player Arthur Ashe. A childhood friend of Arthur Ashe who spent time in Dr. Walter Johnson’s tennis camp. As a journalist was at the center of Ashe’s disclosure of contracting AIDS.
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. A childhood friend of Arthur Ashe who spent time in Dr. Walter Johnson’s tennis camp. As a journalist was at the center of Ashe’s disclosure of contracting AIDS.
Hester, Yolanda
Smith, Doug
Persons Present:
Hester and Smith
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 interview was conducted by Yolanda Hester in her role as Project Director 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 their oral history project and conduct interviews celebrating the legacy of Arthur Ashe.The interviewer prepared for the interview by reading a number of Arthur Ashe’s autobiographies (“Advantage Ashe,” “Off The Court,” “Days of Grace”) and biographies, particularly “A Life” by Ray Arsenualt. She collected and read a number of articles on Arthur Ashe from newspapers and other publications. She visited a number of websites such a the International Tennis Hall of Fame, The American Tennis Association and the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. She also viewed news reports and responses to Ashe’s AIDS disclosure.
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, interviewer for the Arthur Ashe Oral History Project, an initiative of the Arthur Ashe legacy fund. Smith made minor corrections to the transcribed text, but he did add text to the document. The text is noted throughout the timed log. He added text to offer more context and explanation to what was recorded.
1.75 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 Hampton, Virginia in 1942-Attended Phenix High School-Saw Arthur Ashe play tennis I 1958-Segregation in Hampton-Playing tennis during segregation-Played integrated matches with the Fort Eustis team-Tennis as a route to college-Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe-Playing high school tennis-Equipment and uniforms-Class distinction in Black tennis community-Smith’s military service and integration-Attending Dr. Robert Johnson’s tennis camp-USLTA Interscholastic Championships-First meeting Arthur Ashe-Post high school years-Becoming a journalist-Working at Howard University-Assisting Ashe on “A Hard Road to Glory”-Smith and Ashe’s friendship-Ashe’s activism-Ashe’s health issues-USA Today’s call about Ashe’s AIDS/HIV status-The climate around HIV/AIDS in the 90s-The media’s response to Smith, and Ashe’s public disclosure of his status-Support from other journalist-Smith’s last call to Ashe before his passing-Their friendship after Ashe’s public disclosure-Ashe’s passing-Ashe’s legacy.