Billie Jean King, a 1995 charter inductee into the ITA Women's Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, was one of 16 people to receive the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. She was honored for her work as a champion of gender equality not only in sports, but in all areas of public life.
"The Medal of Freedom is America's highest civilian honor and is", according to a White House news release, "awarded to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
King was an acclaimed professional tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s, racking up 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis titles. In 1973, King beat Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, the most viewed tennis match in history. The next year King founded the Women’s Sports Foundation. Following her professional tennis career, King became the first woman commissioner in professional sports when she co-founded and led the World TeamTennis (WTT) league.
“Through her example and advocacy, Billie Jean Moffitt King has advanced the struggle for greater gender equality around the world,” announced a White House staff member as King was awarded her medal by President Obama. “In an age of male-dominated sports, her pioneering journey took her from Long Beach, Calif., to the lawns of the All England Club and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Her athletic acumen is matched only by her unwavering defense of equal rights. With Billie Jean King pushing us, the road ahead will be smoother for women, the future will be brighter for LGBT Americans, and our nation's commitment to equality will be stronger for all.”
Source: Women's Sports Foundation
See Press Release: The White House
See Billie Jean King: 1995 ITA Hall of Fame Inductee
"On August 12, Billie Jean King became, we believe, the first female athlete and one of only a handful of legendary athletes to be recognized with our nation’s highest civilian award." ITA HALL OF FAME