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Alabama Historic Figures

Hank Aaron
1934-Present: Baseball player and executive, born in Mobile, alabama, USa. Baseball's all-time homerun king, he played 23 years as an outfielder for the Milwaukee (later atlanta) Braves and Milwaukee Brewers (1954-76). He holds many of baseball's most distinguished records, including most lifetime runs batted in (2,297), most years with 30 or more homeruns (15), and most career homeruns (755). Breaking the latter record, baseball's most venerable since Babe Ruth retired with 714 homeruns in 1935, was both a triumph and a trial for aaron. He was besieged by the media and badgered by racist letter-writers who resented aaron breaking Ruth's record. a complete player whose skills were never fully appreciated until he broke the record in 1974, aaron was voted the National League Most Valuable Player only once (1957). after retiring as a player, he moved into the atlanta Braves front office as executive vice-president, where he has been a leading spokesperson for minority hiring in baseball. Nicknamed, "Hammerin' Henry,' he was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1982. His autobiography, I Had a Hammer, was published in 1990.
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Ralph Abernathy
1926-90: Baptist clergyman, civil rights activist; born in Linden, ala. an early civil rights organizer and leading confidante of Martin Luther King Jr., he was pastor of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church in atlanta, Ga. throughout his civil rights career (1961-90). He was King's chosen successor as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) (1968-77). although he was a competent leader, the SCLC never regained the influence it had under King. He resigned the SCLC leadership to run unsuccessfully for andrew Young's congressional seat (1977). Turning away from the civil rights movement, he devoted his attention to the West Hunter Street Baptist Church and the issues of worldwide peace.
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Nat "King" Cole
1917-65: Musician; born in Birmingham, ala. He was raised in Chicago, where he made his recording debut in 1936 with Eddie Cole's Solid Swingers, a sextet led by his brother. He toured with a Shuffle along revue in 1937, then settled in Los angeles where he played solo piano for a year. In 1939, he began recording for Decca with his original King Cole Trio, whose piano-bass-guitar instrumentation was widely copied by combos in the 1940s and 1950s. The group played in Hollywood and New York nightclubs until 1943, when it had its first national hit, "Straighten Up and Fly Right," featuring solo singing by Cole. Starting with "The Christmas Song" in 1946, he augmented his trio with a studio orchestra and gradually reduced the prominence of his piano playing, which had been highly influential among jazz musicians. By 1950, he had become the first black male to attain mainstream acceptance as a popular singer, and he released a continual series of hit records over the remainder of his career. In 1956-57, he was the first african-american to host his own network television show, but it failed to attract a national sponsor and was not renewed. In 1958 he portrayed W. C. Handy in the film biography St. Louis Blues, one of several motion pictures in which he appeared. a biography, Unforgettable, by Leslie Course, was published in 1991.
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Rosa Parks
1913-Present: Civil rights activist; born in Tuskagee, ala. after briefly attending alabama State University, she married and settled in Montgomery, ala., where by 1955 she was working as a tailor's assistant in a department store. Contrary to most early portrayals of her as merely a poor, tired seamstress, who on the spur of the moment refused to surrender her seat in a bus to a white passenger, she had long been a community activist - she had served as secretary of the local chapter of the National association for the advancement of Colored People and she had worked for the Union of Sleeping Car Porters. She had also been involved in previous incidents when refusing to leave a bus seat. By forcing the police to remove, arrest, and imprison her on this occasion, and then agreeing to become a test case of segregation ordinances, she played a deliberate role in instigating the Montgomery bus boycott (1955-56). She was fired from her job at the department store and in 1957 she became a youth worker in Detroit, Mich. as she eventually earned recognition as the "midwife" or "mother" of the civil rights revolution, she became a sought-after speaker nationally. In 1999, Parks received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Clinton.
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Jesse Owens
1913-80: Track and field athlete; born in Danville, ala. after setting records as a schoolboy athlete in Cleveland, he attended Ohio State University; on one day (May 25, 1935), he set three world records and tied another in the span of about an hour. (His 26 feet 8-1/4 inch running broad jump was not broken until 1960.) at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, he disproved for the world adolf Hitler's proclamation of "aryan supremacy" by achieving the finest one-day performance in track history with four gold medals (100 meters, 200 meters, 4x100 meters, running broad jump); Hitler left the stadium to avoid having to congratulate an african-american. although he gained worldwide publicity for his feat, back in the U.S.a. he gained few financial or social benefits and was reduced to running "freak" races against horses and dogs. after graduating from Ohio State (1937) he went into private business before becoming secretary of the Illinois athletic Commission (until 1955). He made a goodwill tour of India for the U.S. State Department and attended the 1956 Olympics as President Eisenhower's personal representative. He returned to Illinois to direct youth sports activities for the Illinois Youth Commission. In a belated gesture of national recognition, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976.
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