Billie Jean King (née Moffitt; born November 22, 1943) is an American former World No. 1 professional tennis player. King won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles throughout her career; this includes 12 singles, 16 doubles and 11 mixed doubles titles. Additionally King won the first ever WTA Tour Championships and was a three time winner of the doubles event. King is an advocate for sexual equality and won The Battle of the Sexes tennis match against Bobby Riggs in 1973 and was the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, World Team Tennis and the Women's Sports Foundation.
King represented the United States in the Federation Cup and the Wightman Cup during her career. She was victorious in seven Federation Cups and nine Wightman Cups. King was additionally the United States' captain in the Federation Cup on three separate occasions.
King has been bestowed with several honors. She was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and was awarded the Phillipe Chartrier Award in 2003. The Fed Cup Award of Excellence was bestowed on King in 2010. In 1972 King was the joint winner with John Wooden of the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award and was one of the Time Persons of the year in 1975. King has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was given the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the year lifetime achievement award. King was inducted into the National Women's hall of fame in 1990, and in 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center, located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the New York City borough of Queens, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center after her.
King was born in Long Beach, California, into a conservative Methodist family, the daughter of a fireman father and housewife mother. Billie Jean attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School. After graduating, she attended California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) because her parents could not afford Stanford or the University of Southern California (USC).
She married Lawrence (Larry) King in Long Beach, California on September 17, 1965. In 1971, she had an abortion because she believed her marriage was not solid enough for her to have a child and the couple divorced in 1987.
By 1968, King realized that she was interested in women, and in 1971, while still married to Lawrence King, she began an intimate relationship with her secretary, Marilyn Barnett. King was forced to acknowledge the relationship when it became public in a May 1981 "palimony" lawsuit filed by Barnett, making King the first prominent professional female athlete known to be gay or lesbian. King said that although she had retired from competitive tennis in 1980, she was financially forced to return to competitive play in 1982 as she could not afford to remain retired because of the lawsuit. King said in 1998 that Martina Navratilova was not supportive when King was outed (Navratilova came out in 1981, the same year King was outed), resulting in their relationship having a "very bad five years." Barnett had attempted suicide before filing the suit and appeared on crutches throughout the media storm and at the hearings.. King revealed in a 2001 TV interview that eventually Barnett successfully took her own life.
In 1999, King was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of Philip Morris Incorporated, garnering some criticism from anti-tobacco groups.She no longer serves in that capacity.
King is very involved in the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. She says "I believe in the missions of these two organizations because they are about helping others, and making a difference in the lives of those around us. I’m also serving on the President’s Council for Fitness, Sports and Nutrition because I feel that we have to find a way to keep our country—especially our young people—active."
King played a judge on Law & Order on April 27, 2007 and appeared on Ugly Betty in May 2009. On August 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for her work advocating for the rights of women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. "This is a chance for me – and for the United States of America – to say thank you to some of the finest citizens of this country and of all countries", President Obama said.
King has residences in New York and Chicago with her life partner, Ilana Kloss.