The Operation HOPE family is saddened at the loss of baseball giant, civil rights pioneer and citizen of Atlanta – the legendary Hank Aaron. On behalf of our Founder, Chairman, and CEO, John Hope Bryant, his wife Chaitra Dalton Bryant, and the Operation HOPE and The Promise Homes Company families, we extend our sincerest condolences to his children, extended family, friends, loved ones, and the countless lives that he has touched over the years as a both a civil rights pioneer and sporting legend.
Born into poverty in Mobile, Alabama, Henry Louis Aaron broke down racial barriers to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time. His lifelong inspiration, he said, was Jackie Robinson, who provided an unforgettable moment for the 14-year-old Mr. Aaron when playing an exhibition game in his hometown. Mr. Aaron soon broke barriers in the South himself – first integrating the Sally League, and later as the first Black star on the first major league team in the South, the Atlanta Braves.
It was with the Braves in 1974 he broke the most hallowed record in all of sports – Babe Ruth’s 714 lifetime home runs, a record thought to be unbreakable. While the chase for the record became an international story, Aaron endured unspeakable forms of racism in every town he traveled to, including ongoing death threats. Throughout it all, Mr. Aaron maintained his quiet dignity while accomplishing a feat everyone believed to be out of reach.
After his retirement, Mr. Aaron became a successful businessman, baseball executive and prominent civic leader in his adopted hometown of Atlanta. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2002. Every time he entered a room, grown men and women would become fans once again, marveling at his presence and recalling his incredible athleticism, humility, courage and strength.
We were honored to have had him support our Silver Rights movement, and you can hear him share his own incredible “up from nothing” story with fellow Atlanta legend Ambassador Andrew Young from the HOPE Global Forum in the video below.