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President Obama remembers Hank Aaron's 'kindness, generosity and grace' in tribute

The former president called Aaron 'one of the best baseball players we’ve ever seen and one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.'

ATLANTA — Tributes continue to pour in after the death of baseball legend Hank Aaron, who left a lasting impact on both the sport and the city of Atlanta through his philanthropic work.

Among those tributes is from former President Barack Obama, who called Aaron "one of the best baseball players we’ve ever seen and one of the strongest people I’ve ever met."

In a statement, Obama remembered the "kindness, generosity and grace" of both Aaron and his wife Billye, adding that meeting them was a reminder that "we stood on the shoulders of a previous generation of trailblazers."

"A child of the Jim Crow South, Hank quit high school to join the Negro League, playing shortstop for $200 a month before earning a spot in Major League Baseball. Humble and hardworking, Hank was often overlooked until he started chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record, at which point he began receiving death threats and racist letters—letters he would reread decades later to remind himself 'not to be surprised or hurt,'" Obama wrote.

"Those letters changed Hank, but they didn’t stop him," he continued.

Obama then reflected on Aaron's legacy as one of the first Black Americans to hold a senior management position in Major League Baseball. 

"For the rest of his life, he never missed an opportunity to lead," Obama said, pointing to the moment earlier this month when Hank and Billye joined civil rights leaders and got COVID vaccines.

"Today, Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to the Aaron family and everyone who was inspired by this unassuming man and his towering example," Obama concluded in his statement.