Billie Jean King Library naming to have final Long Beach Council vote

Billie Jean King Library

Billie Jean King receives the Great Americans medal at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on Sept. 25, 2018. Photo: Smithsonian.

LONG BEACH — The proposal to name the new Long Beach main library after Billie Jean King is expected to have its final vote during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Billie Jean King Library?

The City’s Housing and Neighborhoods Committee voted unanimously, 3-0, earlier this week, that the new library should be named after the 75-year-old tennis legend, LGBTQ equality champion, and Long Beach native. The committee has three members: Councilmen Dee Andrews, Al Austin, Daryl Supernaw.

The committee’s recommendation is to approve the naming idea, and the council is expected to approve it during its 5 p.m. meeting.

The new 93,000 square foot library is scheduled to open September 21. It will be approximately 30 percent smaller than the old main library, which was 135,000 square feet.

Public comments

King may be best known for defeating Bobby Riggs, 55, in one of the greatest moments in sports history, the “Battle of the Sexes,” which took place Sept. 20, 1973. King was 29 at the time.

More than 1,000 community members have signed letters or petitions supporting the proposal.

Some members of the public who have opposed the idea at council and committee meetings said the city has rushed the process, not allowing for other name suggestions, and the process hasn’t been transparent.

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.

Billie Jean King achievements

Last year, King  received a Great Americans medal at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

King received the medal “for lifetime contributions that embody American ideals and ideas.”

King has been a trailblazer for decades.

  • King won 39 major singles, doubles and mixed-doubles tennis championships during more than 30-year tennis career, including a record 20 wins at Wimbledon.
  • King raised eyebrows on the court in the 1970s when she wore Ted Tinling’s designer fashions.
  • King is founder of the Women’s Tennis Association.
  • King threatened to boycott the 1973 US Open if equal prize money was not awarded. King’s fight for equal prize money in the Grand Slams took 34 years — In 2007, Wimbledon became the last of the four to agree.

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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