Althea Gibson: THE WOMAN WHO WAS SOMEBODY

WHILE THE WORLD CELEBRATES TENNIS, A PIONEER LANGUISHES IN EAST ORANGE, N.J.

The well-kept garden apartment in East Orange, N.J., is home to a woman who shook hands with the Queen of England at Centre Court in Wimbledon, a woman who was a queen herself, the reigning tennis champion twice in a row at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open. But Althea Gibson has vanished from sight.

On the streets of East Orange, no one knows where Gibson lives. "Althea who?" is a common response. "You mean the great track star?" says one man. In city hall, behind the counter at the Department of Property and Taxation, the clerk recognizes her name ("Oh,...