The former Forrest Hills Academy located in southwest Atlanta was renamed for the National Baseball Hall of Famer
Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron was born February 5, 1934, the third of eight children born to Estella Pritchett Aaron and Herbert Aaron. He attended Central High School and later transferred to the Josephine Allen Institute, a private school in Mobile, Alabama.
Henry’s passion for baseball became apparent at a very early age, and while still in high school, he began playing for the Mobile Black Bears, a semi-professional Negro League baseball team. After spending his youth on the sandlots of Mobile, he signed with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League where he played for a few months before his contract was purchased by the Boston Braves. Henry was first scouted by Dewey Griggs of the Milwaukee Braves during an Indianapolis Clowns tryout. In 1952, he was assigned to the Eau Claire Wisconsin team of the Northern League.
He was the unanimous choice for the Northern League’s Rookie of the Year.
While only playing in 87 games (.336, 9 HR, 61RBI, 116 hits and 89 runs), he was promoted to the Jacksonville Tars, where he became the first African American player in the South Atlantic League and earned the League’s Most Valuable Player award. He began his Major League career in 1954 when a spring training injury forced Bobby Thompson out of the Braves lineup. In his debut, Henry Aaron struck out twice, grounded out, hit into a double play and fouled out. He hit his first homerun off Vic Raschi on April 23, 1954.
Henry Aaron became the second youngest player to win a batting title (.328) in 1956, and the second youngest to collect his 1,000th hit, off Sandy Koufax, in 1959. On June 12, 1967, Aaron recorded his 2,500th hit. He achieved his 3,000th hit on May 17, 1970. His 2,000th RBI came on July 3, 1972. During his career, Aaron had a 20-year string of 20 or more home runs. After turning 35, he hit 245 home runs and from the ages 35 to 39 he hit at least 34 home runs each year. Over his 23-year Major League career, he averaged just 63 strikeouts per season, with his highest strikeout total being 97 in 1967. He hit .300 or better in 14 seasons, won the N.L. home run crown three times and tied for a fourth, led the league in RBI four times and won three Gold Gloves. Henry hit his 755 home runs off 310 different pitchers, including 13 Hall of Famers.
In his 23-year Major League career, Aaron rewrote baseball’s record book. When he retired at the end of the 1976 season, he held more Major League batting records than any other player in the game’s history. Some of his records are truly amazing, including Most Runs Batted In Lifetime (2,297); Most Extra-Base Hits, Lifetime (1,477); and Most Total Bases, Lifetime (6,856). In 2007, Barry Bonds broke Aaron’s record in Most Home Runs, Lifetime (755). Aaron also ranks second on the all-time list in atbats (12,364), second in multi-hit games (1,125), third in games played (3,298) and hits (3,771), fourth in runs scored (2,174, tied with Babe Ruth), 10th in doubles (624), tied for 13th in singles (2,294) and tied for 16th in years of service (23).
His most famous home run came in Atlanta on April 8, 1974, when he hit his 715th, breaking Babe Ruth’s seemingly untouchable record. He did it before a sellout crowd of 53,775 at Atlanta Stadium. The pitch came in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Los Angeles Dodgers leading 3-1, with a 1-0 count and Darrell Evans waiting on first. Al Downing threw a fastball at 9:07 p.m. that Hank sent over the left field fence. Reliever Tom House caught the ball in the Braves’ bullpen and brought it to Henry at the home plate celebration. Henry passed away peacefully in his sleep at home January 22, 2021 at 86 years of age. He was married to Billye Suber Aaron for over 47 years. He was the father of five children—Gaile, Hank Jr., Lary, Dorinda and Ceci.
Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron New Beginnings Academy, formerly named Forrest Hill Academy, and the Atlanta Braves hosted a ceremony honoring the renaming of the school on Wednesday, October 20th. Aaron, who passed away in January, is honored throughout the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park with a statue in Monument Garden and a ‘44’ in the outfield. Following his passing, the Braves also founded the Henry Louis Aaron Fund, which furthers Aaron’s mission to increase access and opportunity in baseball.
The Atlanta Board of Education voted unanimously to change the name of Forrest Hills Academy, located in southwest Atlanta, to the Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron New Beginnings Academy. The previous name referenced Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was active in the Ku Klux Klan. Vice chair Eshé Collins, who led the renaming committee said the discussion sparked neighborhood talks about also trying to rename Forrest Hills Drive, the street where the school is located.
Collins shared her enthusiasm during the event.
“I am pleased to be here today, finally, to celebrate the renaming of this campus. Under the authority of our policy, the school renaming committee recommended that Forrest Hills Academy be renamed Henry Louis ‘Hank’ Aaron New Beginnings Academy and the School Board unanimously supported this recommendation in March of 2021.” Collins went on to say, “The name of Forrest Hills Academy, and the area, just left a disdain on the community and most importantly on the school. The students, staff, and community all expressed the issue of the name and changing it, and we firmly agreed.”
“So thank you to the Aaron family for joining us today to celebrate the legacy of your husband, father, relative, and a man that means so very much to us and the Atlanta that I love. The name is so befitting, to even include ‘New Beginnings Academy,’ because not only was Mr. Aaron known for his amazing success in baseball, but Mr. Aaron created the ‘Chasing the Dream Foundation,’ which provided scholarships, opportunities, and new beginnings for hundreds and thousands of children, not just in Atlanta, but across the country. As we embark on the renaming of this facility, it is our hope that our children will embark on the same new beginnings.”
Many members of the Aaron family, former mayor and ambassador Andrew Young, as well as Atlanta Braves representatives were in attendance.
Aaron’s widow Billye Aaron said he would be proud.
“I really just want to thank the community, the Atlanta Public Schools Board, and all of you who have played any role in the renaming of this institution. It is a heart warming experience to know that my husband’s name is on this building. We, the Aaron family, will cherish the thought and participation you played in this, and we owe you a debt of gratitude. So again, thank you so very much for this profound honor.”
“We feel that you could not have chosen a better man. To us, Henry Aaron is among the greatest of them all. Henry put his heart and soul in all that he did as a baseball player. He had a tremendous sense of warmth, caring, and serving those in his community. I know Henry would be so happy, so pleased that you think so well of him, and you want his name to reflect the goals, the dreams, and the hope you and our children have. That he gave his all, and would expect you to do no less”