Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron: Baseball Superstar, Humanitarian—& Gentleman

As regular readers of this blog know, GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives are a great resource to research your family history and fill in details on your family tree. These newspapers are also a terrific window into the past, letting us learn more about important people and events in our nation’s history.

For example, let’s see what these old newspapers have to tell us about one of the outstanding athletes in American history: Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron, the superstar who played baseball in Milwaukee and Atlanta for 23 seasons, from 1954 to 1976. Aaron is famous as the baseball player who broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record of 714—and, as expected, there is plenty of newspaper coverage of his historic home run and other baseball exploits.

The newspapers also tell us much more about his life than this: in addition to being a rare and gifted American athlete, Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron was a humanitarian—and a true gentleman.

The sports media and baseball fans were whipped into a frenzy as Hank Aaron approached Babe Ruth’s magical number in the 1973 Major League baseball season. Although 39 years old that summer (an age when most baseball players have retired) Hank Aaron was on target, hitting 40 home runs…but ended the year with 713 home runs, still short of the goal of 715. He had to wait all winter for another opportunity to break baseball’s home run record the next spring.

When the 1974 season began, Aaron wasted no time. He hit the record-tying 714th home run on his first at-bat that year, in Cincinnati. On April 8 the Atlanta Braves returned to Atlanta for their home opener, and 53,775 wildly cheering fans attended the game hoping Aaron would get the record that night. Hammerin’ Hank did not let the crowd down, hitting home run number 715 in the fourth inning. He received a thunderous standing ovation from the Braves’ baseball fans while fireworks lit up the sky above the stadium.

Hank Aaron hammers historic 715 homerun

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 9 April 1974, page 1.

In addition to details of the baseball game itself and Aaron’s record 715th home run, the newspaper article provides this detail:

Aaron broke away from his mates and rushed to a special box adjacent to the Atlanta dugout where he clutched his wife, Billye, and parents, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Aaron, of Mobile, Ala.

“I never knew she could hug so tight,” Aaron said of his mother.

The following newspaper article tells us something about the character of Hank Aaron. Although he was one of the greatest American baseball players ever, he kept his ego in check; Aaron was widely recognized as a good teammate and a quiet, respectful man—a true gentleman.

Hank Aaron kept his word on the 715th homerun

Wichita Times (Wichita, Kansas), 2 May 1974, page 5, (African American Newspapers).

As this newspaper article relates, Hank Aaron was sensitive to the disruption his teammates had to endure while the press thronged around him night after night in 1973-74 covering his chase of the home run record. When it was finally over and the champagne celebration in the Atlanta locker room after the game was ready, Aaron thought immediately of his teammates:

The Braves had opened the champagne and were ready to pour, but Hank Aaron had something he wanted to say first to all his teammates.

“Thank you for being patient,” he said, his sincerity moving them. “Thank you for putting up with all that you have—the newspapermen, the photographers and all the other distractions. I know how difficult it was sometimes, and I appreciate the patience you’ve shown.”

Hank Aaron doesn’t make many speeches. Everybody in the room knew he meant this one.

Away from the spotlight and the glare of media publicity, Aaron had another career: he was a great humanitarian. He devoted countless hours to helping others, especially children, as shown in the following newspaper article.

Hank Aaron Goes to Bat for Easter Seals

Milwaukee Star (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), 9 August 1973, page 8, (African American Newspapers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newspaper archives provide all sorts of surprising stories about the life of the person we’re researching. How many people know that Henry Aaron was once a mayor?

All Black Alabama Town Makes Hank Aaron Mayor

Wichita Times (Wichita, Kansas), 13 March 1975, page 1, (African American Newspapers).

Hank Aaron was born in Alabama, and in 1975 he was:

…sworn in as honorary mayor of Hobson City during ceremonies in which 75-year-old northeast Alabama all-black town dedicates new Town Hall.

There was a dark side to Hank Aaron’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record—and the newspapers covered that as well: racism raised its ugly head. Throughout the 1973 Major League baseball season, during the offseason, and again in 1974, Aaron received hate letters mixed in with the supportive letters that were pouring into the Atlanta Braves’ mailbox. Some even sent him death threats.

What pursuit of baseball homerun record has meant for Hank Aaron: People listen

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 9 April 1974, page 11.

In the above very revealing newspaper article, Hank Aaron opens up about the threats he’d been facing:

Aaron’s hero off the field is Dr. Martin Luther King. “He could walk with kings and talk with presidents,” said Aaron. “He wasn’t for lootings and bombings and fights but he wasn’t afraid of violence, either. He was 20 years ahead of his times.”

King’s death by assassination cannot, of course, be forgotten by Aaron. Sometimes Aaron wonders about that, too. He says that among the hundreds of letters he receives weekly, many are threats on his life.

“But I can’t think about that,” he says. “If I’m a target, then I’m a target. I can only worry about doing my job, and doing it good.”

This same newspaper article says of Aaron:

He has recently become identified with black causes. For example, he is now a close personal friend of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a leading young black spokesman. Aaron, in winter, now is the organizer of a celebrity bowling tournament in Atlanta with proceeds going to research on sickle cell anemia, a disease that afflicts black people.

And this:

Aaron is also outspoken on the progress, or lack of it, for blacks in baseball. He says that blacks are stagnating. “Whatever so-called progress there is—like blacks staying in the same hotels with the white players—this came about from civil rights legislation, not from any leveling action by baseball,” says Aaron.

“Why aren’t there even no black managers? Why aren’t there even no black third base coaches? There are token first base coaches—a few. But what does a first base coach do? He has no duties. No responsibilities. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He’s not expected to have any intelligence.”

Aaron still feels some of the clichés of being black. He remembers that once blacks were considered “too gutless” to be able to take the pressures of day-in, day-out major league baseball.

“Jackie Robinson changed a lot of those beliefs,” says Aaron. “His courage and intelligence showed what the black man could be made of.

Hank Aaron’s stance on black rights is explored further in the following newspaper article.

Hank Aaron: Baseball Still Not Doing Enough To Give Equal Opportunities To Minorities

USA Monitor (Fort Worth, Texas), 1 March 1993, page 17, (African American Newspapers).

As you can see, newspaper archives are filled with stories you may never have heard before. You can discover little known facts, view pictures and learn more about the personal lives of famous people and your family members with newspapers.  Have fun searching our newspaper archives for details about celebrities and your own ancestors—you never know what you might find!

 

Family History Expos – Georgia 2011

Georgia Family History Expo – Duluth, Georgia 2011

Over 400 genealogists gathered in Duluth, Georgia, for the annual Family History Expo held at the Gwinnett Center on Nov. 11-12, 2011.

Now in its second year, this conference has the size and feel of a national conference. There were over 60 informative family history sessions taught by two dozen experienced national speakers. Topics covered at this premier event for genealogists ranged from “Searching Your Scottish Ancestors” to “Special Sources for Confederate Research in the National Archives.” Thanks to the conference’s solid organization and the Gwinnett Center’s well-managed layout, it was easy for genealogists to mingle with nationally-recognized speakers and take the time to ask meaningful, detailed questions.

For example, the Family History Expo made it easy for working genealogists to attend by having sessions scheduled well into the evening. Working genealogists that couldn’t make the day-time sessions could attend sessions at night as well as all day on Saturday.

The speakers and vendors each shared their latest genealogy insights and tips. One nifty new application I learned about at this conference is a free family tree software program from TreeSeek.com. This application creates a nine-generation family tree fan chart that is easy to share with relatives and other researchers, as shown below. TreeSeek pulls family data from Geni or FamilySearch.Genealogists will find this free family tree software program a terrific way to easily share some of their family discoveries with relatives over the Holidays.

In addition to traditional family tree charts this program can also create a “Name Cloud” familiar to those of us working with 21st Century genealogy computing. Tom Kemp, GenealogyBank’s Director of Genealogy Products, gave three lectures at the Expo, all focused on the value of newspapers for genealogists.

Friday, Nov. 11: “African American Newspapers”

(Beginner Level) Tom talked about the more than 270

African American newspapers in GenealogyBank’s collection, published from 1827-1999—the largest collection of African American newspapers online. He provided practical advice for genealogists, such as: methods for efficient searching; and how to clip and save newspaper articles about your family. The lecture gave practical examples of the type of information family historians can find in these old newspapers, such as this obituary of Mary Stamps that appeared in the Atlanta Age (Georgia) 13 January 1900, page 2.

Saturday, Nov. 12: “21st Century Genealogy”
(All Levels) For this lecture, Tom concentrated on the ten essential online resources that you need to research your family online, save time, and improve the accuracy of your family history. He showed his audience how to cut through the clutter on the Internet and focus on the ten core resources with the reliable, essential content that genealogists use to document and preserve their family trees.

Genealogy sites Tom discussed included:
· Ancestry
· FamilySearch
· GenealogyBank
· Google Books
· Internet Archive
· Scribd

As Tom told his audience: “It’s a great day for genealogy! Researchers need to know about these terrific online genealogy resources.” Saturday, Nov. 12: “Newspapers: Finding the Details about Your Family”
It was standing room only for this 2011 Family History Expo session, in which Tom explained how to use the more than 5,700 newspapers in GenealogyBank’s
online newspaper archives, published from 1690-Today. He taught how to search efficiently, and clip and save newspaper articles about your family—providing practical tips for searching these online newspapers published over the past three centuries.

How do I find articles on Blacks in GenealogyBank?

I received an interesting question this morning. How do I find articles on Blacks in GenealogyBank?

I have read thousands of articles on Blacks in the old newspapers, books and documents. But, what would be the best search strategies to focus on just those articles?

It would be to look for specific names and keyword search terms associated with Blacks over the past 300 years.

Search for individuals by name like “Martin Luther King”. Click here to read the Dallas Morning News 5 April 1968 when he was killed.

TIP: Put names in quotes – “Martin Luther King” – so that your search will focus in on just articles where the person you are searching for is mentioned.

When former slave John Wiley died in 1918 it was a banner headline and a front page story in the Belleville News Democrat (20 May 1918). Click here to read the article.

You should also use keyword search terms that were used over the past 300 years. For example terms like: slave, slavery, African-American, NAACP, AME Church; and Civil Rights Movement will generate millions of hits in GenealogyBank.

Since funerals are often held at churches – a search term like “AME Church” brings up tens of thousands of obituaries for funerals held at one of the many African-Methodist Episcopal churches across the country.

You will then want to narrow down your search results by state, specific newspaper or by date range.

Whether you are searching for your ancestor’s in today’s newspaper or the last century you will depend on GenealogyBank to get the job done.

Over 3,800 newspapers, all 50 States, 1690-Today

Join with us today!

Your support makes it possible for us to add more newspapers every month!
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Church History Library Opens in Salt Lake City – June 12th & 13th

After 15 years of planning, four years of construction and a million artifacts moved, Elder Marlin K. Jensen from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed the last historical item on the shelf in the new Church History Library in front of local media.

Jensen, the historian and recorder of the Church, explained that this last item was one of the 100 scrapbooks kept by President David O. McKay. “It is a personal record filled with photos, letters and journal entries that documented his travels as an apostle in 1921 to the far corners of the earth.” Elder McKay’s world tour took him 55,000 miles to such countries as Australia, France, England, Italy, Switzerland, Samoa, Palestine, India and Egypt to survey the Church’s missions. One photograph captured a moment in Egypt with Elder McKay and his traveling companion, Hugh J. Cannon, both sitting on camels in front of the famous Sphinx. Elder Jensen was joined by President McKay’s grandson, Alan Ashton, when the journal was placed in one of the many vaults of the Church History Library.

The scrapbook was the last item but certainly not the least of the priceless artifacts and records Elder Jensen and assistant Church historian Richard E. Turley presented to news reporters as part of a media tour on June 11, 2009. Assistant executive director Elder Paul K. Sybrowsky and managing director of the Church History Department, Steve Olsen, were also in attendance and shared their knowledge of Church history with members of the media.

The group was given a first glimpse of what the public can expect to see during the upcoming open house at the Church History Library on June 12 and 13.

In addition to a media presentation and tour of the library, journalists were given a rare look at dozens of one-of-a-kind and intriguing pieces of Church history treasures on display. Perhaps one of the most unique items was an early edition of the Book of Mormon that was printed in French and German — on alternating pages. This early edition, the only one in existence, was translated through the supervision of John Taylor, an apostle and the eventual third president of the Church, while he was serving a mission in Europe in 1852.

In keeping with the Church History Department’s efforts to collect modern and current history, Elder Jensen spoke of the significance of the newly published LDS first edition Spanish language Bible. Another important undertaking on display was the Joseph Smith Papers project; the second volume is due out later this year.

In an extraordinary operation, thousands of similarly valued documents, books, photos, diaries, microfiche and film were

moved from their old home at the Church Office Building across the street to the Church History Library. It took just 19 days to physically accomplish the move, but it took hundreds of volunteers a year and a half to tag and categorize each piece slated for the move. One project leader compared the mammoth undertaking to moving the Library of Congress.

The most priceless and sacred records and documents were the last to make the move, under heightened security measures. They now join more than 600,000 other historic records housed and preserved on nearly 50 miles of shelving in temperature-controlled vaults with fire and seismic protection. Items such as film will even be kept in sub zero chambers. Brent Thompson from the Church History Department says the new temperature-controlled vaults will ensure that “not only will the artifacts be available in 100 years but they will look good 100 years from now.”

The Church History Library not only houses priceless documents and artifacts but also provides the latest methods in

conservation, collection development and research. Conservators repair, restore and stabilize books, documents and photographs with a state-of-the-art Conservation Lab. The lab includes a darkroom, where conservators are able to turn acetate negatives into useable photographs, and a document cleaning room that enables them to wash historical records and apply age-slowing chemical treatments.

That state-of-the-art spirit is also found in the innovation of the Church History Library’s design. Great care was taken to make sure the building not only met, but surpassed building code and energy efficiency standards. That attention to a “green” building design is found in such areas as the filtering system, which eliminates allergens.

The paper, plastic and metal products used in the Church History Library will be recycled, and the heating and cooling systems have the highest efficiency ratings. The landscaping and plumbing will use less water, and the windows, blinds and insulation will preserve temperatures. These careful implementations have put the Church History Library on track for the prestigious Silver Design certificate given through the acclaimed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

But perhaps one of the most notable aspects of the new library is that it is designed for public accessibility. The Church History Department’s previous accommodations were designed to be more of an internal archive, said Steve Olsen, managing director over Church history. “The Church in its foundational documents has a huge commitment to preserving history and to making history useful for members and others interested in learning about its history,” said Olsen. “It is the first time in the Church’s 179-year history that we have had a dedicated public building for this purpose. … It’s really quite significant.”

RFK Dies 41 years ago today

Robert F. Kennedy died 41 years ago today.

With GenealogyBank.com you can read the newspapers just as your ancestors did. It has the stories of your ancestor’s lives – the famous or the obscure – whether it is 40 years ago or over 300 years ago

GenealogyBank has the coverage genealogists rely on to document their family history. Over 3,800 newsapers, all 50 States, over 300 years of coverage. Sign up now.

I had the opportunity to hear RFK speak at Brigham Young University on March 27, 1968. The 1960s were difficult times – in 1968 – the Vietnam War was raging, RFK was challenging a sitting President LBJ for his party’s nomination, demonstrators were in all of the major cities. Less than a week following RFK’s talk Martin Luther King would be shot & killed. Two months after that RFK was shot and killed.

Kennedy’s remarks on campus were effective. He had done his homework; he had broken the ice and won over the respect of the packed arena. That fairly conservative campus was no longer his adversary but was ready to listen. He spoke briefly and took all questions. Tough questions. He was grilled but he was comfortable explaining his positions on the current state of the war and the country.

I clearly remember his opening remarks – with humor he reached out to his audience and showed respect for their history and beliefs. His actions and remarks echo in today’s headlines.

“Thank you very much. Thank you. I appreciate very much being here at this campus … I understand that this is a campus made up of all political persuasions. I had a very nice conversation with Dr. {Ernest L.} Wilkinson [laughter] … and I promised him that all Democrats would be off campus by sundown [laughter, applause].

But I feel very close to this state. Not only did part of my wife’s family live in the state of Utah for a long period of time, I traveled down your Green River…spent part of the time in the water (laughter) … part of my honeymoon here and I’ve had ten children since – so I have learned something from the Mormons [laughter].

I think that we still have a great deal in common, and in common with the man this university honors. For I too have a large family [laughter], I too have settled in many states [laughter]. And now I too know what it is to take on Johnson’s army. [Standing ovation, laughter and applause].” (Read the complete text at: Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Vol 3, Number 3, Autumn 1968).

The reference to “Johnson’s Army” was a reference to his taking on President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Democratic Party Primaries as well as to President James Buchanan sending General Albert S. Johnston and his troops to quell the non-existent “Utah Rebellion” in 1857. This otherwise obscure reference was well known to BYU students schooled in Utah history. With this series of well thought out personal & historical references he won over the crowd.

After his remarks students crowded around to shake his hand. I was one of them. I was surprised at how short he was. I had always pictured him as over 6’ tall – but he was only 5’9” … shorter than I was then (but now that I am shrinking, I am catching up to him :)

(Photo courtesy BYU Archives).

I learned that day that it is important to see and hear a person speak for themselves – to take the measure of a man. I concluded that he was an honest man who believed in what he was doing and trying to accomplish. It was an honor to shake his hand that day – 27 March 1968.

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Alex Haley’s family tree grows via DNA study

USA Today (7 April 2009) is reporting that a DNA study has extended the branches of Alex Haley’s family tree.

The clue came when a “78-year-old man in Scotland named Thomas Baff, … took the DNA test to help his daughter” who was working on the family history.

You may read the story here.