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Arthur Ashe Remembered As Tennis And Civil Rights Hero, 50 Years After US Open Win

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of Arthur Ashe's historic victory at the US Open. Ashe was the first and only African-American man to win the tennis title, but as the world would soon find out, the athlete was ready to talk about more than just sports.

A few days after his tennis triumph on Sept. 9, 1968, Ashe would join a roundtable conversation on CBS' "Face the Nation" to talk about race relations and the role of the black athlete.

"There are other athletes and other black leaders who are using their positions of power to wield some practical progress," Ashe said. "Simply saying to myself, 'Arthur you must do something.'"

Face the Nation
Arthur Ashe on CBS' Face the Nation. (Credit: CBS2)

Peter Westbrook knows the impact an athlete can have. In 1984, he became the first African-American to win an Olympic medal for fencing. Arthur Ashe was his inspiration and later joined the board of the "Peter Westbrook Foundation" where kids are taught fencing.

"His spirit touched my spirit, he was one of my heroes," Westbrook said. "Sometimes when people are soft-spoken like Arthur, sometimes that quiet spirit makes you even more in awe."

MORE: The Ashe '68 Documentary Project

Generations of sports fans can learn more about Ashe in a special exhibit at this year's US Open that chronicles his rise to the pinnacle of his sport and his impact on civil rights.

"It tells the story of his rise as a tennis champion and his rise as a civil rights champion," exhibit director brad Lichtenstein explains.

At his home in Harlem, Peter Westbrook compares Ashe to Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela while reflecting on the tennis champ's accomplishments and life lessons.

"I learned that one of the greatest qualities someone can have is humility. I learned that another great quality one can have is giving back and making a difference."

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