Ora Washington

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Ora Mae Washington
Ora Mae Washington.png
Country (sports) United States
Born(1898-01-23)January 23, 1898
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedDecember 21, 1971(1971-12-21) (aged 73)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ora Washington (January 23, 1898 – December 21, 1971) was an American athlete from the Germantown section of Northwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, known as the "Queen of Tennis".[1]


In professional tennis, she won the American Tennis Association's national singles title eight times in nine years between 1929–1937 and 12 straight double championships.[1]

Historical marker about Ora Washington in Philadelphia

She played basketball first in 1930 with the Germantown Hornets where her 22-1 record earned her the national female title. The Hornets were originally sponsored by a local YMCA, but they separated from the YMCA and became a fully professional team.[2] The following year, Washington led the Hornets to thirty-three consecutive victories. Their opponents included African American women's teams, white women's teams and occasionally African American men's teams. In one game against the male Quicksteppers in January 1932, they stayed close and then on a last second basket by Evelyn Mann, the Hornets emerged victorious.[2]

Later, playing with the Philadelphia Tribune Girls from 1932–1942, she was the team's center, leading scorer, and coach.[1] Washington played for the Tribunes in a three-game event against Bennett College in 1934. The Tribunes won all three games, the second of which was described by the Chicago Defender as "the greatest exhibition ever staged in North Carolina".[3] The Tribune Girls won 11 straight Women's Colored Basketball World's Championships. Washington was said to be "the best Colored player in the world."[4]

Washington never played the top white tennis player of the time, Helen Wills Moody, because Moody refused to schedule a match.[5] She retired from sports in the mid-1940s, after she and partner George Stewart defeated Walter Johnson and upcoming superstar Althea Gibson to win the 1947 ATA mixed doubles title.

For the remainder of her life, she supported herself as a housekeeper. She died in 1971 in Germantown and was buried in her Virginia hometown.[1]

Honors and tributes[edit]

In the mid-1980s, she was inducted to Temple University's Sports Hall of Fame.[1]

A state historical marker stands at the location of the Colored YWCA where she taught and played, at 6128 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, now home to Settlement Music School.[1][6]

In 2009, Washington was elected to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Knoxville, Tennessee.[7]

On March 31, 2018, it was announced she was being inducted as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2018.[8]

On July 31, 2019, a statue inspired by Washington, titled "MVP, was added to Smith Playground in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Edmonds, Arlene November 10, 2004. The Leader, "State Historic Marker dedicated - Tennis and basketball legend remembered". Accessed May 2, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Jennifer H. Lansbury (1 April 2014). A Spectacular Leap: Black Women Athletes in Twentieth-Century America. University of Arkansas Press. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-1-61075-542-9.
  3. ^ Wiggins, David (2003). The unlevel playing field : a documentary history of the African American experience in sport. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 120–121. ISBN 978-0252028205.
  4. ^ "All Hail The Philadelphia Tribune Girls". Accessed May 2, 2008.
  5. ^ Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "Image". Accessed 20 May 2008.
  6. ^ Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "Search for Historical Markers". Accessed May 1, 2008.
  7. ^ "WBHOF Inductees". Wbhof.com. Retrieved 2009-08-01.
  8. ^ "Ora Mae Washington, Hall of Fame's trail-blazing inductee". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  9. ^ "One-of-a-kind statue unveiled at Smith Playground in South Philly". Whyy.org. Retrieved 5 August 2019.

Further reading[edit]