The passing of baseball legend Hank Aaron brings back the memory of when the hall of fame slugger made his way to Cookeville.
Former Cookeville Mayor Dwight Henry got the chance to spend one on one time with Aaron during his visit for the Cookeville Mall’s 10th anniversary. Henry said the news of Aaron’s passing brings that day in 1987 back to his mind.
“It just took me back because I reflected on it, not only was I a huge Atlanta Braves fan and a huge Hank Aaron fan,” Henry said. “I reflect on getting to meet him several years ago when he was in Cookeville and the time we spent together and the impact that still has on my life. I guess I’m still a little bit in a state of shock but I’m sure disappointed and I’ll tell you what I’ll never forget the time we spent together at the Cookeville Mall and somethings that he said that have stayed with me all these years.”
Henry said he got a call that day saying a celebrity was in town, and he needed to present them with the key to the city. However, Henry said it was the moment of feeling like a kid and getting to ask Aaron about when he knew he would become the greatest home run hitter of all time, that sticks with him.
“When did it really happen and it really happened when he decided it was going to happen,” Henry said. “He made the decision that was going to happen, so I use that Hank Aaron story and that time I spent with him and that story as an illustration about the power of a decision. That episode with him and that time with him has impacted me.”
Henry said that Aaron’s decision to reach his goal, despite some baseball fans not wanting to see a black man pass Babe Ruth’s record, highlights his determination. He said that Aaron’s words and mindset left Cookeville in a better place than before he visited.
“I think it added something to the attitude, the atmosphere, that we were able to attract and get someone like him,” Henry said. “We were impressed by it and everybody who heard what he had to say was inspired. I remember the audience that day and I believe our community was better when he departed back to go to Atlanta than when he came by the words he said and the very fact that he was here.”
Henry said during his time with Aaron he got to see a man he called humble, personable and accommodating. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron passed away at age 86, the Atlanta Braves said in a release that Aaron died peacefully in his sleep.