Obama wrote on Twitter that the legendary athlete was “one of the best baseball players we’ve ever seen and one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.”
“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 continued.
Aaron, who was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1934, battled racism and ongoing racist threats during a stellar baseball career. He is regarded as one of the best all-around players of the game. In 1974, as the nation watched, Aaron broke the most famous record in baseball, Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs. He finished his career with 755 home runs ― a record that stood for over three decades ― and in 1982, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Atlanta Braves, his longtime team, said in a statement Friday that Aaron died peacefully in his sleep, according to the Associated Press.
Obama, who served as the 44th president, released a longer statement about the baseball great who wore No. 44 later on Friday, writing that the racism Aaron faced during his career “didn’t stop him.”
“After breaking the home run record, he became one of the first Black Americans to hold a senior management position in Major League Baseball,” Obama wrote.
The former president also commended Aaron and his wife, Billye Aaron, for encouraging people to get the coronavirus vaccine. “For the rest of his life, he never missed an opportunity to lead — including earlier this month, when Hank and Billye joined civil rights leaders and got COVID vaccines,” Obama noted.
Many other Americans, including politicians and sports figures, joined Obama in publicly mourning Aaron on Friday.
Basketball legend Bill Russell wrote on Twitter that Aaron’s “contributions were much more than just baseball.”
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who was sworn into office on Wednesday, tweeted that Aaron “broke records on the field, while also breaking barriers in the field of civil rights and human relations.”
Many others took to Twitter to mourn Aaron: