COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Every individual who walks into the Hall of Fame will immediately be greeted by the legacy of Henry “Hank” Aaron.

Aaron was once again honored at the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday as the museum unveiled a new statue dedicated to the Hall of Famer, civil rights activist and best Braves player in history. It was placed at the museum’s entrance, left of the grand staircase.

The statue was unveiled during a private ceremony that featured Billye Aaron, Hank’s widow, along with several family members, including their children Lary, Dorinda, Hank Jr., and granddaughter Emily.

Attendees also included Hall of Fame executives, multiple Hall of Famers with ties to Aaron, and ambassador Andrew Young and his wife Carolyn. Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the Hall’s board of directors, and lieutenant governor of New York Antonio Delgado spoke before Billye took the podium.

Billye spoke for over 20 minutes, repeatedly expressing gratitude and growing emotional discussing memories of her late husband. Hall of Famers crowded her after the event to not only greet her, but get their own pictures with her and the statue.

“What can I say, I’m speechless,” Billye told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the unveiling. “I don’t know what to say. It just makes me proud. Not just because I was his wife, but it makes me proud that an African American man has accomplished this and has managed to get in a place where there aren’t many. When you see the statues here and across the country, you aren’t going to find that many of us at the ballparks. So I just marvel at the fact that he has accomplished so very much and that he’s being honored for having achieved so very much as a baseball player.”

Ambassador Andrew Young talks with guests before the start of the event to unveil the Hank Aaron statue by the grand staircase at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Cooperstown, NY. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Credit: Jason Getz /

Billye saw the statue for the first time Thursday, saying she “so approves” of the bronze sculpture. She applauded Hall of Fame supporters Jane and Bob Crotty, who provided the donation for the statue, and sculptor William Behrends, who missed the event Thursday but received constant praise.

“(The statue) is a reflection of Henry’s character and his humbleness,” Billye said. “It seems to all be there, if you look hard enough (laughs).”

Billye wore a dress displaying yellow roses, a nod to the flowers her husband got for her during every anniversary. “I wanted this dress because it represented the love (he provided). She stopped speaking and glanced at the statue, adding, “I don’t know how to describe you, honey. But I felt loved. I got love.”

The Hall of Fame wanted the Aaron statue at the entrance because that’s how it’d make the greatest impact. As thousands enter the Hall each year, they’ll first be greeted by Aaron, in his Braves uniform, propping himself with a bat.

The adjacent plaque provides an Aaron quote: “As long as there’s a chance that maybe I can hammer out a little justice now and then, or a little opportunity here and there, I intend do to as I always have – keep swinging.”

There’s also a permanent Aaron exhibit in the Hall that includes items the family donated.

The statue was revealed as the beginning of the Hall of Fame Classic celebration this weekend, which celebrates the history of Black baseball. The Hall also created a new exhibit titled “The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball” which will include more Aaron history.

Among the Hall of Famers who attended the event Thursday, as provided by the Hall: Harold Baines, Rollie Fingers, Pat Gillick, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Kaat, Fred McGriff, Eddie Murray, Jim Rice, Ryne Sandberg, Bud Selig, Lee Smith, Ozzie Smith, Joe Torre and Dave Winfield.

Hall of Fame first baseman Fred McGriff, a former Braves star, talks with Hall of Fame starting pitcher Jim Kaat before the start of the event to unveil the Hank Aaron statue by the grand staircase at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Cooperstown, NY. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Credit: Jason Getz /

There are only a few permanent metal statues in the Hall of Fame, and they place emphasis on character, acknowledging athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Buck O’Neil and Roberto Clemente. Beginning Friday, fans will see Aaron before embarking on a tour through baseball history.

“It’s just awesome,” McGriff, a former Braves star, told The AJC. “It was tough when (Aaron) passed away (in January 2021). Sometimes you wish some of this stuff could’ve happened years and years ago while he was still living. Just some of the stuff that could’ve been celebrated. He was such a good man. He’s done a lot for baseball and just a lot for society and communities.”

Aaron is revered for far more than his statistics. He’s a civil rights icon and philanthropist, spending his playing days and post-playing career focusing on bettering the lives of those around him.


The Hall announced the statue April 8, the 50th anniversary of Aaron hitting his 715th home run, which made him the all-time home-run king over Babe Ruth. The Braves commemorated Aaron with a day of festivities, culminating with a pre-game ceremony at Truist Park that included remarks from several of Aaron’s friends and Braves legends.

“Hank was more than just a great baseball player I was inspired by; he was a good friend,” Winfield told The AJC. “I’m so pleased that he was able to impact people in so many ways, on and off the field. His courage. His determination. So many words to describe him. It wasn’t about him trying to be famous or special. He did a lot of things people don’t even know about. He was a great man and I’m glad to be in the Hall of Fame with him.”

Former Braves public relations staffer Bob Hope was a guest of the Aaron family Thursday. He worked for the team during Aaron’s record pursuit and they became life-long friends.

“He doesn’t just stand out among ballplayers,” Hope told The AJC. “He stands out among human beings. He’s the way you wish everyone in the public eye would be. I used to think, when I was around the ballplayers all the time, that being in the spotlight of fame either brings out the best or the worst in people. Well, in Hank Aaron’s case, the best was much better than it was in other people.”

Aaron was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982. The 25-time All-Star played 23 seasons with the Braves and Brewers. He remains the major-league all-time leader in RBIs (2,297) and total bases (6,856).

Watch: Hank Aaron relives his record-breaking home run

Archival footage of the late great Hank Aaron shows the baseball icon’s reflections from a 2014 AJC interview as the Atlanta Braves celebrate the 50th anniversary of his historic 715th home run.

Credit: Ryon Horne

In 2014, Hank Aaron talked with the AJC about his legendary career.