NEWARK, NJ (CBSNewYork) – She fought for civil rights while proving to be one of the world’s greatest athletes, and on Wednesday the late Althea Gibson was honored in Newark.

A bronze statue that was unveiled at Branch Brook Park depicts Gibson reaching skyward to hit a tennis ball, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King was at the unveiling, and the 12-time Grand Slam champion hopes that this ceremony serves as an inspiration.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports

“You can touch it, it’s tangible,” King said. “You can see it, you can feel it, you can live through it.”

While Gibson was known for breaking tennis’ color barrier in 1950 and being the female Jackie Robinson, King was more moved by her greatness.

“I know I’m a white girl — and I knew she was black — but I didn’t think of it,” King added. “I didn’t think of her even as a woman. I thought of her as a person who’s doing this.”

But King certainly respects and admires the tremendous racial adversity that the legendary Gibson had to face on her way to stardom.

“It was such a struggle for her,” King said. “I can’t imagine what she endured.”

Gov. Chris Christie, who was also on hand for the dedication, said “Althea Gibson is a giant in New Jersey history.”

Gibson won five Grand Slam singles titles. The racial pioneer lived for many years in East Orange, NJ, and then died there in 2003 at the age of 76.

Was this ceremony and unveiling for Gibson long overdue? Sound off below…

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