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Exclusive interview: Younger brother to Arthur Ashe toured in Vietnam so brother could win the U.S. Open

Posted at 7:46 PM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 19:46:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tomorrow The Boulevard will officially be renamed the Arthur Ashe Boulevard in honor of the tennis legend and his legacy.

About 30 members of Ashe's family and close friends are expected to participate in the Boulevard name dedication.

One of those members includes Arthur's younger brother, who made a major sacrifice that allowed the Tennis Hall of Famer's career to thrive.

In an exclusive CBS 6 interview, Rob Desir spoke to Ashe's younger brother.

Johnnie Ashe has seen a lot of dedications of his brother, but this is the first time he's seen the tunnel mural at Battery Park, painted in his brother's memory back in 2017.

Ashe who now resides in Florida is back in Richmond to see another honor for his late brother.

"The Boulevard made sense, because you have the Arthur Ashe center already there," Ashe said.

He says he hopes the name change will do what his older brother always set out to do: inspire the youth.

"When a child passes on the boulevard, they will ask who is Arthur Ashe and they will do a little reading, study a find out who he was, what he stood for and what he accomplished."

While Johnnie won't take credit for all of his brother's accomplishments, he did volunteer for a second tour of duty in Vietnam so that Arthur who was at West Point -- could play tennis in 1967. He even came back home to tell his father at battery park where he used to work.

"Daddy says to me, what are you doing home early? And I simply said to him 'Daddy I'm going back to Vietnam for a second tour' and he said 'why?' And I said, 'so Arthur doesn't have to go.'"

That allowed Arthur to go on and become the first black man to win The U.S. Open in 1968.

Arthur called Johnnie after that match.

"I said well bro you did it, he says 'yeah, I'm a champion now. And when I speak people will listen.'"

Arthur didn't learn about Johnnie's decision to serve a second tour until years later.

Johnnie also said if he didn't anything else with his life, he made it possible for Arthur to accomplish something.