Atlanta school renamed to honor Hank Aaron

'We’ll make sure that light remains shining on Mr. Aaron'

October 20th, 2021

The Atlanta school formerly known as Forrest Hill Academy is making sure that Hank Aaron’s legacy remains alive. On Wednesday morning, the school was renamed to the Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron New Beginnings Academy in a ribbon-cutting event. The school -- previously named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was active in the Ku Klux Klan -- serves kids from sixth grade through 12th.

Aaron’s widow, Billye, was in attendance. She was emotional and pleased that her husband was not forgotten.

“For this school, in particular, to be named after Mr. Aaron who fought for every at-bat … and for every home run, he kept swinging,” said Danielle Bedasse, the Braves’ director of community affairs and executive director of the Braves Foundation. “This is, I think, a new beginning. That’s what Mrs. Aaron said herself [to the audience].

“His life was to get up every day and start fresh and win those 60 seconds, 60 minutes and 24 hours. I think this is a beautiful tribute to him. I think you will see many young people come out of this school with pride.”

Aaron, who died of natural causes this past January at age 86, deserves the honor. He was one of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game, and his numbers tell us how great he was. He is the all-time leader in RBIs (2,297) and total bases (6,856). His home runs -- 755 of them -- are second in MLB history behind Barry Bonds (762). Aaron’s most famous home run came on April 8, 1974, when he hit his 715th homer, breaking Babe Ruth’s career record of 714 that had stood for nearly 40 years.

Aaron was also an outspoken advocate for civil rights. He was never afraid to talk about the racism he faced during his 23 years in the Major Leagues. He tried his best to help African Americans get jobs in baseball’s front offices. Aaron himself worked in the Braves’ front office for many years, first as vice president and director of player development in 1976. By 1989, he was the team’s senior vice president, a title he held until his passing.

“I can’t describe [his career] in one short order. Certainly, he is a legend,” Bedasse said. “On the field, obviously, what he achieved, [some] of those records still stand.

“What he has invested in our communities is a legacy of success. What he and Mrs. Aaron have done in our communities, from business to philanthropy to social justice, it’s really unmatched. So to be here today and support Mrs. Aaron and come alongside this school as we go forward, it’s really a privilege to be here.”

The academy isn’t the only institution to honor Aaron. He is honored throughout the Braves’ Truist Park with a statue in Monument Garden and a “44” on the outfield grass. The Braves also founded the Henry Louis Aaron Fund, which furthers Aaron’s mission to increase access and opportunity in baseball.

“As [for] the Atlanta Braves, there is nothing more we can add to his record on the field,” Bedasse said. “But we can carry forward his efforts off the field -- his philanthropy, commitment to education, commitment to community. … He was a tremendous businessman. We’ll make sure that light remains shining on Mr. Aaron.”