Billye Aaron may not have smashed baseball records like her famous husband, but the wife of the late Hank Aaron was a trailblazer in her own field.
Family members announced on Friday that Hank Aaron had died at the age of 86. While his passing has led to many tributes about his life and record-setting career, his relationship with his wife and family has also garnered attention.
The Couple Had Been Married For 48 Years
Hank and Billye Aaron were married in 1973, one year before the baseball legend would hit his record-breaking 715th career home run. Though his career would end in 1976, the pair remained active with many players from his era, maintaining relationships with them while promoting the sport.
Bud Selig, the former MLB commissioner, mentioned Billye when offering a message of condolence on Friday, saying he cherished the time he got to spend with the pair.
"We spent a lot of time with the Aarons," he said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "They were such wonderful people. I'm hearing from so many people today. Everybody loved Hank Aaron."
She also took center stage at a 2012 ceremony where the Milwaukee Brewers unveiled a statue of Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Bob Uecker, who was a close friend of the pair. As the report noted, Uecker called her up on stage to sing an impromptu version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
As he recalled, she had no idea he had planned to call on her, but was more than up to the task.
"I don't think people knew Billye could sing like that," he said. "I did. She stole the show."
Uecker added that he was devastated to hear the news of his friend's death.
"This is a tough day, a really tough day," he said from his home in Arizona. "We were friends a long time. We were very close friends. We had a lot of great times together."
Billye Was A Trailblazing Television Journalist
While her husband followed in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson -- who broke baseball's color barrier ahead of Hank's start in the majors -- Billye broke down barriers in her own field. As a bio from Mount Saint Mary's University noted, she debuted on Today in Georgia on WSB-TV in Atlanta in 1968, making her the first African American woman in the Southeast to co-host a daily, regularly scheduled talk show.
As the bio noted, she brought some national stature to the local program and hosted a number of influential guests.
"As a host, she interviewed national and international leaders, dignitaries and celebrities, including Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Sidney Portier, Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda and Pearl Bailey," the entry read, noting that she began hosting a weekly talk show for WTMJ-TV in 1975, all while also teaching at the high school and college levels.
Aside from her work as a journalist, she was also active in increasing access to higher education for African American youth, working as a prolific fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund. She and her husband would later co-found the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, which helped children who had special talents but faced significant financial barriers.