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Aaron materials at Emory’s Rose Library reveal his character in face of challenges

Emory University’s  Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library includes multiple materials that document the life and career of Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron Jr., the pioneering baseball star, civil rights activist and beloved Atlanta community leader who died Jan. 22.

Aaron received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Emory in 1995. Learn more here.

Materials related to Aaron are featured in several collections, including the Clyde Partin papers, the Ron Sherman photograph collection, and the Richard Cecil collection.

Partin was Emory’s athletic director and a sports historian. The items in his collection about Aaron consist of research material and memorabilia that Partin gathered, including clippings, posters, and signed baseballs. 

Atlanta-based photographer Sherman was at Fulton County Stadium on April 8, 1974 when Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record and took iconic images of that game.

Cecil worked for the Braves and his collection includes items about the beginning of Aaron’s career with the Braves such as scouting reports that assess Aaron’s potential, correspondence between the Boston Braves and  Aaron’s team in the Negro Leagues, the Indianapolis Clowns, and a copy of his first Major League contract. The collection also includes the letters the Braves received when “Hammerin’ Hank” was about to break Babe Ruth’s home run record, much of it racist hate mail that threatened Aaron if he broke the record.

“These materials give a fascinating glimpse of the beginning of Aaron’s career and the character that made him the home run king,” says Randy Gue, assistant director of collection development and curator of Political, Cultural, and Social Movements collections at the Rose Library. The materials were processed by Rose archivists including Sarah Quigley and Meaghan O’Riordan.

In 2014, the materials, and the story they reveal about Aaron’s character, inspired three student-athletes and members of Emory’s baseball team — Kyle Arbuckle, Warren Kember and Brett Lake – to co-curate an exhibit, “He Had a Hammer: The Legacy of Hank Aaron in Baseball and American Culture,” at the invitation of the late Pellom McDaniels III, curator of the Rose Library African American collections, and Dana White, Emory professor emeritus of American Studies and Rose Library senior faculty curator at the time.

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