Oral Histories

Interview of Charles Meigs, Jr.

Charles Meigs, Jr. was interviewed about his connection to tennis player Arthur Ashe. Meigs and Ashe both attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1961 to 1966.
Purpose Served: An Oral History of the Exemplary Life of Arthur Ashe, 1943-1993
African American History
Biographical Note:
Charles Meigs, Jr. was interviewed about his connection to tennis player Arthur Ashe. Meigs and Ashe both attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1961 to 1966.
Nwonye, Chinyere
Persons Present:
Meigs and Nwonye.
Place Conducted:
The interview was conducted through 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 Chinyere Nwonye, an interviewer for the Arthur Ashe Oral History project as part of the UCLA Arthur Ashe Legacy Center. Nwonye is a graduate of UCLA with a background in neuroscience and African American Studies. Nwonye prepared for the interview by reading Arthur Ashe’s Advantage Ashe; Arthur Ashe and Neil Amdur’s Off the Court; Arthur Ashe and Arnold Rampersad’s Days of Grace: A Memoir; Raymond Arsenault’s Arthur Ashe: A Life; various archival articles from the Los Angeles Times and Daily Bruin.
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.
1.75 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.
Charles Meigs, Jr. was born in January 1944 in Cleveland, Arkansas ¬– Father exited the U.S. Army in 1945 and family moved to the Rodger Young Village in Los Angeles, California – Family purchased a home in Watts in 1951 – Attended Fremont High School from 1958 to 1961 before entering the University of Calfornia, Los Angeles (UCLA) to pursue engineering ¬– Describes the discouragement Black students received from white teachers and counselors about pursuing college – Recounts white flight from Fremont High School and Watts – Pledged Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity in fall 1963 – Black collegiate social life included all of LA – Adjusted to the academic rigor of UCLA – Met Arthur Ashe while walking to the library during freshman year (1961) – Ashe attended a birthday party at Meigs’ house – Requirements of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) – Friendship with Winston Doby – Malcolm X’s speech in Moore 100 and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – Recalling other Black students from UCLA – Last interactions with Ashe at a UCLA fundraising event and when Ashe was announcing tennis matches at UCLA during the 1984 Olympics – Graduated from UCLA in 1966 and pursued a professional career in engineering and consulting – First memory learning about HIV – Closing