BRIEF HISTORY AND SCOPE OF THE AMERICAN BRIDGE ASSOCIATION
By Avis Turner, Chairperson, History/Archives Committee, 2005-2009
The desire to compete in the sport of tennis despite the racial barriers of the time resulted in the creation of the American Tennis Association in 1916. The Association often held its championship matches on college campuses such as Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, and Lincoln University, where adequate facilities were available. One such championship event was held at Hampton in the year,1932. At the conclusion of the tournament a group of tennis players, who were also bridge enthusiasts, suggested having a duplicate bridge match in the evening as a form of relaxation. This event, coupled with impetus from the Cromwell School of Contract Bridge in New York City, marked the beginning of the American Bridge Association. Dr. M.E. DuBissette became the first president of the ABA and the first National Bridge Tournament was held in Buckroe Beach, Virginia in 1933.
Growth was eminent for the newly formed ABA. In 1936, the ABA merged with the Eastern Bridge League, a group of New York City Bridge Clubs. Since this time the ABA has evolved into eight sections: Eastern, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Southern, Southwestern, Midwestern, Western, and Northwestern.
As the ABA continued to grow, attention focused on the need for a permanent home. The ideal of a permanent location was accomplished when a building, which now houses the ABA National Office and ABA memorabilia, was purchased in Atlanta, Georgia in 1994.
Since its inception, the ABA seeks to recognize its achievers and high ranking players. The Merit Award is yearly given to either an ABA or non-ABA member who has rendered meritorious service to the ABA within the previous year. Life memberships are awarded yearly to individuals who have been ABA members for at least twenty years and who have a record of outstanding service at the local, sectional, and national levels.
Although highlighting the achievements of its own, the ABA also identifies with the larger social arena in which it functions. The ABA's awareness of the needs of society has resulted in its giving significant donations to civic and charitable organizations. In 1963, the ABA established the F. Alberta Peterson Scholarship Awards. These awards enabled students approaching their second year or higher of college or vocational school to continue their education. This program has now been incorporated into a broader arm of the ABA--- The American Bridge Association Education and Charitable Foundation, established in 2002. The Foundation's mission is to engage in educational and charitable activities, provide scholarships, and facilitate learning opportunities for young and adult citizens.
The vast history of the American Bridge Association is recorded and preserved in several ways. In the 1980's, the American Bridge Association selected the Schomburg Center, in New York City, to officially house its memorabilia. The ABA National Headquarters showcases artifacts and catalogs ABA documents. The most recent endeavor to amass the history of the American Bridge Association is the publication, in 2005, of Defining Moments. Defining Moments comes as a package which includes a written chronicle, DVD of oral history, and playing cards -each component depicting the movements, forces, and people who helped shape the history of the ABA. The entire package or its components may be obtained from the ABA National Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.