The service expected to release the four-plate in 2016. But that year came and went, as did 2017.
“Obviously a government entity would want to have their t’s crossed and i’s dotted to ensure that everything is legitimate and properly executed,” Brinker Simmons says. “I probably put in hundreds of hours of conference calls in the last four years.”
First off, Brinker Simmons had to prove that she was the legal heir to her mother’s estate and had the authority to turn over intellectual property rights. “There were a lot of stops and starts and many, many times when I wasn’t sure if this would happen,” Brinker Simmons says. “They would always say, ‘It’s still in development.’ I kept thinking, ‘They have to be at least pushing a little forward or else I wouldn’t continue to get these calls and these approvals.’”
In May, she got word that the Little Mo would be released in 2019 as a stand-alone stamp.
“That was very moving. I wept over that,” she says.
The first-day-of-issue dedication of the stamp will be held at Southern Methodist University, Connolly Brinker’s alma mater and the 1970s and 1980s home of the now-defunct Virginia Slims of Dallas Tennis Championships.
She doesn’t know what happened to the other three sports. “All I know is what I had to do, and it was an arduous task,” she says. “I can’t imagine having to do four.”
Brinker Simmons played a role in every step of the process.
“It’s been unparalleled, let me tell you,” says Mauresa Pittman, senior stamp development specialist for the USPS in Washington, D.C. “She was on it. She cared about the legacy and wanted to make sure we had everything perfect.”
The stamp features an oil-on-linen painting of the tennis star by Gregory Manchess that’s based on a black-and-white 1952 photograph of Maureen hitting her signature low volley.
The Little Mo is the latest of the postal service’s Forever stamps that “celebrate the people, events and cultural milestones that are unique to the history of our great nation,” says USPS spokesman Roy Betts. “The postal service remains committed to educating and informing America — and the world — about the many achievements and contributions of noted Americans like ‘Little Mo.’ ”
Betts says that announcing new stamps is his favorite part of his job and that learning the Little Mo story was a wonderful discovery.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know about her,’ ” he says. “I’m not necessarily a student of the sport, but I’ve played tennis off and on in the past. Her story is quite amazing. She died young.
“Stamps help bring awareness and educate the masses on some part of American history.”
In addition to the tennis star, the 2019 Forever stamp lineup includes the late artist Ellsworth Kelly, the Transcontinental Railroad and military working dogs.
Connolly Brinker is the third tennis champion to be featured on a U.S. postage stamp. In 2003, Arthur Ashe’s profile and tennis racket graced a 37-cent stamp. The late Althea Gibson, the first black person to win Wimbledon and the top-ranked player in the world in the late 1950s, was honored with a Forever stamp in 2013 as the 36th stamp in the Black Heritage series.
Family standard bearer
“Brenda and I always say, ‘Mom was a remarkable woman who just happened to be a very good tennis player.’ This is the way we saw her,” says Brinker Simmons.
In 1955, the 20-year-old retired tennis star married a 24-year-old Brinker, who was working for the fledgling Jack in the Box hamburger chain in San Diego. Cindy was born in 1957, her sister Brenda two years later.
The family moved to Dallas in 1962, when Brinker expanded the chain to the east.
The girls were 12 and 10 when their mom died.
Norman sat down with the girls and asked what they should put on their mom’s headstone — a pretty hefty question for grieving girls.
They decided on crossed tennis rackets on both sides of the marker with Maureen’s birth and death years and the inscription “A Gallant Lady Wife Mother Champion.”