About Billie Jean King

About Billie Jean King

photo of Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King has made history as a world champion athlete and a champion for social justice. In 2009, President Obama awarded King the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, to recognize her lifelong commitment to equality and inclusion.

A proud alumna of Cal State LA, King received an honorary doctorate at the University’s 50th Commencement ceremony in 1997. She was appointed to the University’s President’s Council in 2015.

The trustees of the California State University recognized King’s commitment to intercollegiate athletics by naming the athletic facilities at Cal State LA in her honor. The first project in the Billie Jean King Sports Complex—the Rosie Casals and Pancho Gonzalez Tennis Center—broke ground in 2014 during the investiture of President William A. Covino.

King captured 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles in a tennis career that spanned three decades. In 1973, King and other women players, including her doubles partner, Rosie Casals, teamed up to push for equality. Frustrated by the disparities in pay between genders, King spearheaded the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association and threatened a boycott of the U.S. Open. The tournament relented, and became the first of the four major tournaments to offer equal prize money to men and women. That same year, King declared a major victory for women in front of a worldwide television audience of 50 million viewers when she defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes.”

King was named to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and retired from play in 1990. She coached the Olympic gold medal-winning 1996 and 2000 U.S. women’s tennis teams, and later served as the U.S. ambassador to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

On and off the court, King has built an inspiring legacy of fighting for social change and equality in athletics and education. In 1990, LIFE magazine named her one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century. And in 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of King’s accomplishments.

In addition to establishing the Women’s Tennis Association, King also founded the Women’s Sports Foundation, co-founded World TeamTennis, and in 2014 she founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative to address issues in the workplace related to inclusion and equal pay.

King serves on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, where she promotes many of the organization’s programs, including First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative. She also serves on the boards of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Andy Roddick Foundation.