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BILLIE JEAN KING

Billie Jean King was born Billie Jean Moffitt on November 22, 1943 in Long Beach, California to parents Bill, a firefighter, and Betty, a homemaker. King played basketball and softball as a child. Her younger brother, Randy, went on to pitch in Major League Baseball. King began playing tennis at the age of 11 and immediately fell in love with the sport. In 1958, King won her age bracket in the Southern California championship. She first garnered international attention in 1961, when she and Karen Hantze Susman became the youngest pair to win the Wimbledon doubles title. King attended California State University, Los Angeles from 1961-1964 and competed in tennis tournaments while also working as a tennis instructor. In 1965, she married law student Larry King. In her tennis career she won 39 Grand Slam titles and led the fight for equal pay in tennis. Known for beating Bobby Riggs in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes,” King also helped establish the Women’s Tennis Association, the organization that oversees women’s professional tennis. King was publicly outed as a lesbian in 1981 and immediately lost all her endorsement deals. After the news broke, her representatives urged her not to confirm it, but King refused to deny her lesbianism. She and her husband divorced in 1987. King then began a relationship with her current partner, Illana Kloss, a fellow professional tennis player.  King retired from competition in 1983. King coached the U.S. Fed Cup team from 1995-1996 and 1998-2003, bringing home victories in 1999 and 2000. In 1990, Life magazine named King one of the “100 Most Important Americans” of the twentieth century. In 2009, President Barack Obama presented King with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for championing the rights of women and the LGBTQ community. King and Kloss founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative in 2014, a non-profit organization that seeks to rid workplaces of discrimination based on race, gender, and sexuality.

"Every time a ball comes to me, I have to make a decision. Every single ball I hit, there's a consequence."

TRANSCRIPT BILLIE JEAN KING INTERVIEW

MAKERS: WOMEN WHO MAKE AMERICA

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