Henry Hank Louis Aaron, Legendary Black Baseball Player and Civil Rights Activist, dies at 86

Hank Aaron's Hall of Fame plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York

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Henry Louis Aaron, nicknamed "Hammer" or "Hammerin' Hank", the renown Baseball player and longtime civil rights activist has died. Hall of Fame icon died in his sleep on Friday, January 22, 2021, as confirmed by The Atlanta Braves. He was 86 years old.

"We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank. He was a beacon for our organization first as a player, then with player development, and always with our community efforts," Atlanta Braves chairman Terry McGuirk said.

Henry Louis Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1934. He began his professional career with the Negro League. He started his long and barrier breaking career in 1954, with the Milwaukee Braves, playing for a minor league team in Florida, then becoming one of the first Black players to break the color barriers in the South.

The franchise moved to Atlanta for the 1966 season. In 1974, Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record by hitting his 715th home run.

That event became a major historic moment, with journalist and sports commentator Vin Scully saying, "A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us – and particularly for Henry Aaron."
After beating Babe Ruth's home run record that dated to the 1930s, he faced a viral racial backlash.

Major League Baseball named after Hank Aron its award for the best offensive player.

Hank Aaron was also a civil rights activist, often discussing the challenges of overcoming racism and racial inequality in America. He also supported several initiatives aimed at lifting the under-priviledged racial communities. He ofter received hate mail and threats, to the point that that his family was protected by the FBI.

Commenting on his death, former President Barack Obama said, in a statement: "Hank Aaron was one of the best baseball players we've ever seen and one of the strongest people I've ever met. Whenever Michelle and I spent time with Hank and his wife Billye, we were struck by their kindness, generosity and grace — and were reminded that we stood on the shoulders of a previous generation of trailblazers."

Hank Aaron was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton on January 8, 2001,. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush in June 2002.

Hank Aaron retired in 1976, after hitting 755 home runs during his professional career.