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Billie Jean King Library to be considered in Long Beach

Billie Jean King Library

Billie Jean King, left, and her girlfriend, Llana Kloss are photographed at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 21, 2018. Photo: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

LONG BEACH — More than 1,200 community members have signed a petition asking that the city’s new library to be named after tennis icon and Long Beach native Billie Jean King.

The City Council will discuss the idea at Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting. The recommendation is for the council to refer the item to the Housing and Neighborhoods Committee for consideration.

Billie Jean King Library?

The 93,000 square foot library is scheduled to open September 21 at the corner of Broadway and Pacific Avenue.

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In a letter to the city, King said she is “it is deeply humbling” to have her name in consideration for the new library.

“This honor would represent my life coming full circle, and my complete belief of having a commonplace for the community, where all are equally welcome and have access to visit, learn, and grow,” King said.

The staff report includes a petition signed by more than 1,200 community members and several other letters of support for the naming.

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Billie Jean King achievements

Apart from Harvey Milk Park and Billie Jean King Tennis Center, near Woodrow Wilson High School and Park Estates, no other city spaces have been named for people who identify as LGBTQ. 

King, who, along with her girlfriend Ilana Kloss, became part owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers last year,  has an extensive history of breaking boundaries.

  • King is a former World No.1 professional tennis player with 39 Grand Slam titles.
  • King was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.
  • King founded the Women’s Tennis Association and The Women’s Sports Foundation. 
  • King beat Bobby Riggs in the historic 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match.
  • In 1972 King, along with John Wooden, received the Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year” award.
  • King was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 1975. 
  • King was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990.
  • King received the Presidential Medal of Freedom 

‘I hope to foster dreams’

“Each and every day, I feel grateful to have been born and raised in Long Beach and have always been so proud to call it my hometown,” King said. “Without the support of the Long Beach Tennis Patrons, the Long Beach Century Club, and the city’s public service offerings, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

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“I hope to help foster the dreams of many more in Long Beach,” King said, “by giving back to the library and engaging many in learning about courage and equality.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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