American Bridge Association

ABA or the American Bridge Association. It was a different time and a different era in the history of the United States. This national organization was founded in 1932 to encourage duplicate bridge among African-American players. The ABA holds two annual National tournaments, a Spring National since 1968, and a Summer National since 1934. There are open, mixed, men’s and women’s pairs, an individual and team championships for open, mixed, men’s and women’s teams. The top event is the knockout teams.

In the early days of contract bridge, African-Americans were excluded from most major toournaments. In 1932, a group of African-American tennis players at Buckroe Beach, Virginia, decided to foster and promote duplicate bridge among African-Americans. They established a national organization and made contact with other similar groups around the country. The final result was the founding of the American Bridge Association by Dr. M.E. DuBissette, who was president from 1932 to 1935.

Presidents of the American Bridge Association

President   From   To
Dr. M. E. DuBissette   1932   1935
Horace R. Miller   1936    
L.C. Collins
John W. Cromwell Jr.
E. T. Belsaw   1936   1949
Victor R. Daly   1949   1964
Maurice Robinson   1964   1696
Pauline Taylor        
Dr. Arnold P. Jones        
Dr. A. Jacqueline Sheppard        
Arthur J. Reid, Jr.        
George Johnson        
Geraldine Wilson        
Thelma Woodson        
Robert J. Price        
George Love        
Anita Troy        
Cleo Terrell        
Richard Bowling   2001    

Additional Historical Information

Facts about the American Contract Bridge League

June 26, 2004 - Source.

The American Contract Bridge League, known as the ACBL, is a membership organization of almost 200,000 bridge players.  It was established in 1937 when the United States Bridge Association merged with the American Bridge League.

ACBL is the sanctioning body for tournament bridge in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda.  Each year more than two million tables of bridge are played under ACBL auspices.  In North America there are 4,200 affiliated bridge clubs within 323 units in 25 districts.  The ACBL also has 57 affiliated overseas clubs in 22 countries and 26 others on cruise ships.

ACBL runs more than 1,000 bridge tournaments a year and is one of the largest users of hotel space in the United States.  For instance, at it's North American Bridge Championships more than 10,000 members are in attendance for 10 days.  The organization host three of these North American Bridge Championships (NABC) each year, drawing competitors from Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South America, the South Pacific, Africa and every state in the USA.

ACBL is the dominant participant in the World Bridge Federation (WBF), the sponsoring body for international competitions.  ACBL members hold many prestigious world titles.
Click here to visit the ACBL web site.

About the American Bridge Association

The American Bridge Association, Inc. is one of the oldest bridge organizations in the United States. 1997 marked the 64th year of advocating bridge competitions and continuing the important ABA tradition of providing service to the community.

Founded in 1932 at Buckroe Beach, Virginia, the ABA held its first national tournament there in 1933. The founders were fun-loving and competitive African Americans whose previous efforts to play tournament bridge were frustrated by the overt racial discrimination of the time.

Today, many ABA members join and play with other bridge groups nationally and internationally. But, ABA'ers remember their origins and, while playing bridge for fun, provide a continuous flow of financial and human resources to address current social concerns. Funds raised from scholarship and benefit games assist deserving students and a variety of charitable organizations.

The ABA is governed by a President and an Executive Board elected by the membership. The President appoints a Tournament Authority that oversees the conduct of games.
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Historical Excerpts

The American Bridge Association was conceived by American Tennis Association (ATA) participants. The ATA Nationals were played in Hampton, Virginia in August of 1932. Ted Thompson and Eyric Satch were the finalists. At the conclusion of the tennis tournament, a group of bridge enthusiasts suggested a duplicate bridge match that night as a method of relaxation after the strenuous week of tennis.

The duplicate boards or trays were described as "an ugly black wooden box with letters on them ("N-S, E-W) and an arrow pointing North." On this night, the arrow was pointing toward the Atlantic Ocean and the east position toward the Chesapeake River. The director told the group that the arrow might arbitrarily be placed in any direction.

Our late President Emeritus, Victor R. Daly, was present, but not a participant. He protested the placing of the arrow in any position. He finally acquiesced. It is interesting to learn that our Vic had a voice in ABA from its embryonic period.

The names of some of those who participated in this match and are responsible for the organization of the ABA are: Dr. John L. McGriff, Portsmouth, Virginia, Drs. E.L. and L.L. Downing, Roanoke, Virginia, Dr. Furlong, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Dr. W.E. DuBisette, Endfield, North Carolina, who later moved to New York and became the first president of the American Bridge Association.

This group, with others, is responsible for the creation and organization of the ABA, and the sponsoring of the first national bridge tournament at Buckroe Beach, Virginia.

In 1936, the ABA merged with the Eastern Bridge League, a group of New York City clubs headed by Morgan S. Jensen. Under the leadership of Dr. E.T. Belsaw, the president of the ABA from 1936 to 1949, the ABA continued to grow with new members. A masterpoint system was established for rating players, and the quarterly ABA Bulletin, the publication for the ABA, edited by W.R. Tatem from 1944 to 1953, was published. Succeeding editors were Clarence Farmer from 1953 to 1970, Bobbye Caldwell from 1970 to 1976, Wilma Snell from 1977 to 1978, and Dr. William Furr who accepted the responsibility in 1982.

As time went by, it became clear to the organizing bodies governing the game of bridge that the situation at that time was rather absurd, and official recognition of the African-American participation in tournaments came about in 1952. In this year Robert Gill proposed an amendment by which each unit became the sole judge of membership qualifications in its territory. This amendment was voted on and passed.

However, federal legislation decreed that African-Americans not be permitted to stay in certain hotels, but the ACBL in 1964 stipulated that every ACBL member held the right to participate in any national tournament, no matter where it was held. The last obstacle to ACBL membership for African-Americans was removed in 1967 when the ACBL included in its by-laws that no person shall be denied membership because of race, color, or creed.

Under the presidency of Victor R. Daly, from 1949 to 1964, negotiations leading to the establishment of mutual respect between the ACBL and the ABA were successful. The result of these negotiations was that many ABA members also became ACBL members. Among these many players, Marion Wildy in 1956 became the first African-American Life Master, and the first ABA Life Master to attain also ACBL Life Master was Leo Benson in 1962.

The ABA is divided presently into eight Sections: The Eastern Section, The Southern Section, The Midwest Section, The Great Lakes Section, The Western Section, The Southwestern Section, The Northwestern Section, and the Mid-Atlantic Section.

Please check out their Website at the URL posted at the top of this web page to discover more about the American Bridge Association. When you drop by, please leave a message in their Guest Book, and let them know that you stopped to visit. The reader will also find a list of the National Officers and Executive Committee members with current email addresses below.


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