18. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Ashe Visa Application
South African Embassy
- Ambassador H.L.T. Taswell
- Mr. Daniel P. Olivier, Minister
- Assistant Secretary David D. Newsom, Bureau of African Affairs
- Mr. Oliver S. Crosby, Country Director, AF/S
At Assistant Secretary Newsom’s request, Ambassador Taswell called at 3:00 December 15 to discuss the visa case of US tennis star Arthur Ashe. Taswell reported that Ashe had applied for a South African visa this morning. He was most courteously received, and when an INS photographer asked to take his picture with the South African Consul General, Ashe declined. Taswell said he thought this wise, as it is preferable to avoid publicity over the case while it is being considered.
Secretary Newsom said the Ashe visa case is a matter of concern to the US, as the Administration genuinely wishes to improve relations with South Africa. Incidents like those over the visa applications of Congressmen Diggs and Reid have a special importance, as they tend to inhibit actions on the part of the US that might lead to smoother relations with South Africa. He said approval of Ashe’s visa application would enable the SAG to show itself in a more favorable light than it had done in the Diggs/Reid cases, and he urged that the SAG give Ashe’s application careful, and hopefully favorable consideration.[Page 55]
Taswell responded that he would relay Secretary Newsom’s comments and request to Pretoria, as he had done with Ambassador Rountree’s request for an appointment with Foreign Minister Muller and Prime Minister Vorster. Taswell hoped the visa could be issued, but he pointed out the case was difficult both because of hostile statements Ashe had made about South Africa and because of the coincidence of the tennis tournament and South Africa’s general elections next April.
Secretary Newsom said we have no confirmation that Ashe had actually made the statements attributed to him by Sports Minister Waring. He said Ashe is no extremist, and we believe he wants to play tennis in South Africa, not engage in politics there.
Taswell observed that Mr. Reinhardt of USIA had just visited South Africa and asked whether he, a Negro, had found it “indescribably bad”.
Mr. Newsom said Mr. Reinhardt had been well received and every effort was made to ensure that no incidents took place. Without such special measures, however, it would have been very difficult for him indeed.
Taswell replied that numbers of Negro boxers have visited South Africa from the US without incident, but he granted that there is a real problem in the restrictions imposed on non-whites.
The meeting concluded after about 15 minutes.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, PPT Ashe, Arthur. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Crosby on December 19.↩