(l-r) Former Talladega College Board Chairman Dr. Harry Coaxum, Talladega College President Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, Billye Aaron and Henry "Hank" Aaron (301228)
Credit: Photo courtesy of Talladega College

World-famous baseball right fielder Henry Louis Aaron, also known as “Hammerin’ Hank,” died Jan. 22, 2021, in Atlanta. The groundbreaking athlete played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball, from 1954 through 1976. While the medical examiner said Henry Hank Aaron died of natural causes just 18 days after taking a press-hyped COVID vaccination, skeptics raised the issue of vaccine hesitation.

Accolades for the extraordinary sportsman came worldwide.

While Hank Aaron will be remembered for his extraordinary baseball skills, Talladega College President Dr. Billy C. Hawkins noted that Aaron’s contributions to higher education were equally legendary.

“Hank Aaron was not only a sports legend, but a devoted philanthropist and an advocate for higher education. His generosity made it possible for thousands of students to enroll in college and graduate. Here at Talladega College, he and his wife, Billye, established a $500,000 endowed scholarship that has had a tremendous impact,” said Dr. Hawkins.

He continued, “Hank was a personal friend of mine and he was very receptive when I approached him about helping Talladega College students. I am so grateful for the support that he and Mrs. Aaron have provided for our students and for students throughout the nation.”

Hank and Billye Aaron were both conferred with honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from Talladega College in 2013, when they presented the college with a $104,000 check.

Hawkins recalled, “I first met Hank when I served as president at Texas College, his wife’s alma mater. I was immediately inspired by their profound generosity and their impact on the lives of students. While the world will definitely remember him for his amazing athletic skills, thousands of college students will remember Hank Aaron for his remarkable generosity.

“On behalf of the Talladega College family, I extend my sincere condolences to Mrs. Aaron and the entire Aaron family.”

Talladega College, Alabama’s first private historically Black college, is consistently ranked among the best southeastern colleges and top HBCUs in the nation. It was founded in 1867 by two former slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant, and is the home of the renowned Hale Woodruff Amistad Murals.