Baseball legend Hank Aaron, who died at his Atlanta home on Friday, is being remembered for his talents both on and off the field.
Mack Wilbourn knew Aaron for close to 50 years. The two met through Aaron’s wife, Billye, whom Wilbourn helped raise money for the United Negro College Fund.
“The times we had,” said Wilbourn, taking a moment to pause. “I haven’t accepted it yet. He was just a great human being.
Hammerin’ Hank was baseball’s home run king, and Atlanta’s sports hero. In 1974, Aaron marked one of baseball’s most iconic moments when he hit his record 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record.
The feat was historic but was also met with hatred.
“We didn’t know if he was going to come out of that night alive,” Wilbourn recalled.
“He was fighting through the Civil Rights Movement, doing it from the field of baseball,” said Sean Jones, who stopped by a statue of Aaron in southeast Atlanta.
Jones wasn’t even a teen when Aaron was smashing records with the Atlanta Braves. However, they both are members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
“You learn about the man and character he had,” Jones said. “So, that’s something you take pride in.”
While Aaron was best known around the world for his batting talent, his generosity and business success was equally impressive. His family has donated countless dollars to area universities and causes.
“He walked the walk and talked the talk and he embodied what it meant to be a true professional,” said Justin Ridgeway, another fan who snapped pictures of Aaron’s statue.
Aaron’s describe his career as a shooting star, adding that he leaves behind a legacy that will live on for generations.
“He is truly a one of a kind, an Atlanta icon,” said Ridgeway.
“He has left his mark on the world,” Wilbourn added.
Hank Aaron was 86.