I was looking forward to a reunion with Billie Jean King and was so glad to welcome the same person whose memory I held so fondly.
Sparky and Billie Jean became very close friends during their years of working and playing together. He held Billie Jean in very high esteem, naming her one of his heroes, and he frequently quoted stories she had told him over the years – mostly about winning, which Sparky took to heart. I think part of the tie between the two of them was that each recognized in the other the same dedication to being the best at what they had chosen to do.
Billie Jean was always very good to us, managing special passes for our two trips to Wimbledon and being a major support and great fun at Rosie Casals’ Women’s Senior Tennis Tournament at the Ice Arena in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Senior men played, too, in mixed doubles in 1985. Sparky enjoyed talking tennis and sports with Billie, and she graciously joined him on the court.
One of our guests, who had met Billie Jean in 1974, said she hadn’t changed a bit and was just as personable and dedicated as she remembered. I agreed completely, and as I was listening to her talk I was amazed thinking about the qualities that are required to be successful in so many different realms. I was glad so many young women were able to visit the Museum exhibition on Title IX (celebrating 40 years in 2012), Leveling the Playing Field, hear Billie Jean’s talk and later shake her hand. One of my friends commented on her expressiveness and energy and said “she reminds us we can do anything.”
Billie Jean and I greeted the sponsors at a reception in our Education Room before she spoke to the Members at the Opening Reception.
During the moderated conversation for our Museum members, I joined Billie Jean and Museum Director Karen Johnson on stage to talk about Billie Jean and Sparky’s friendship.
In attendance at the event was Kathryn Olson (on left), Executive Director of the Women’s Sports Foundation, which was founded by Billie Jean; tennis great Rosie Casals (in red), who was also a friend of Sparky’s; and Eva Auchincloss (on right), the founding Executive Director of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
On Sunday, Billie Jean spoke to the general public, and again met with museum visitors.Our local newspaper, The Press Democrat, even covered the event. You can read more here.
— Jean Schulz