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Billye Aaron

Nonprofit executive and television personality Billye Aaron was born on October 16, 1936 in Anderson County, Texas to Nathan Suber and Annie Mae Smith Suber. She attended Clemons School in Neches, Texas and later graduated from Lincoln High School in Dallas, Texas in 1954. In 1958, she graduated from Texas College in Tyler, Texas with her B.A. degree in English. She received a fellowship to attend Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated with her M.A. degree in 1960. Aaron continued her post-graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

Aaron taught English in the Atlanta public school system, at Spelman College, Morehouse College, South Carolina State College and Morris Brown College. In 1968, she was hired as a co-host for WSB-TV’s ‘Today in Georgia,’ becoming the first African American woman in the southeast to co-host a daily, hour-long talk show. In 1973, she married baseball legend Hank Aaron and began hosting her weekly talk show, ‘Billye,’ for WTMJ-TV. In 1980, she served as the development director for the Atlanta branch of the United Negro College Fund. Throughout her fourteen-year tenure with the organization, she co-hosted the annual telethon, ‘Lou Rawls Parade of Stars,’ co-founded the Mayor’s MASKED Ball and became the second woman in the organization to serve as vice president of the southern region. After retiring in 1994, she and her husband started the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation to award scholarships to assist the education of low-income children.

A longtime member of the NAACP, Aaron chaired its premiere fundraiser, the annual Freedom Fund Dinner, for five years. She was named director emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and has been honored with numerous awards for her service, including the 2003 Martin Luther King, Jr. “Salute to Greatness” and the YWCA Woman of Achievement award.

Aaron and her husband, Hank Aaron's children include Ceci Haydel, Aaron’s daughter from her first marriage, and Gaile, Hank, Jr., Lary and Dorinda, from Hank Aaron’s first marriage. They also have two grandchildren, Emily Jewel and Victor Aaron Haydel.

Billye Aaron was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 1, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.065

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/1/2016

Last Name

Aaron

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Suber

Schools

Lincoln High School

Texas College

Clark Atlanta University

University of California, Berkeley

Clemons High School

Mound Prairie Institute

First Name

Billye

Birth City, State, Country

Anderson County

HM ID

AAR02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas, Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Help Me To Do Unto Others As I Would Have Them Do Unto Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

10/16/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Nonprofit executive and television personality Billye Aaron (1936 - ) hosted 'Today in Georgia' and 'Billye,' and served as a regional vice president of the United Negro College Fund.

Employment

Atlanta Public Schools

Spelman College

Morehouse College

South Carolina State College

Morris Brown College

WSB-TV Atlanta

WTMJ-TV Milwaukee

United Negro College Fund

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Billye Aaron's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Billye Aaron lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Billye Aaron describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Billye Aaron describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Billye Aaron talks about how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Billye Aaron lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Billye Aaron describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Billye Aaron describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Billye Aaron remembers her paternal grandmother's farm

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Billye Aaron describes her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Billye Aaron recalls her extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Billye Aaron describes her early interest in television

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Billye Aaron remembers her classmates at Lincoln High School in Dallas, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Billye Aaron recalls attending Texas College in Tyler, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Billye Aaron remembers enrolling at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Billye Aaron talks about her first husband

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Billye Aaron recalls her teaching experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Billye Aaron remembers the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Billye Aaron recalls commuting to Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Billye Aaron describes the civil rights activities of Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Billye Aaron recalls her first husband's relationship with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Billye Aaron remembers the night of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Billye Aaron remembers the night of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Billye Aaron talks about the aftermath of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Billye Aaron remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Billye Aaron talks about the contention between the black church leaders in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Billye Aaron remembers the challenges of desegregating Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Billye Aaron talks about her first husband's religious affiliations

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Billye Aaron remembers joining WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Billye Aaron describes her experiences as co-host of 'Today in Georgia'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Billye Aaron remembers the death of her first husband

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Billye Aaron recalls her early relationship with Hank Aaron

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Billye Aaron talks about her life after marrying Hank Aaron

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Billye Aaron talks about her involvement with the NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Billye Aaron describes her experiences in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Billye Aaron remembers working for the United Negro College Fund

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Billye Aaron describes her work with the United Negro College Fund

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Billye Aaron talks about Hank Aaron's philanthropy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Billye Aaron describes the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Billye Aaron talks about her scholarship endowments

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Billye Aaron describes her and husband's business ventures

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Billye Aaron describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Billye Aaron talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Billye Aaron describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Billye Aaron remembers the night of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, pt. 2
Billye Aaron describes the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation
Transcript
So anyway, Coretta [Coretta Scott King] was preparing to get the, get a flight to Memphis [Tennessee] and she invited us back, as I said. We talked. She said that Mayor Allen [Ivan Allen, Jr.] was on his way to pick her up and that he had called to get the--see if he could get the plane delayed because otherwise she would never make the flight. It was a rainy, nasty kind of night, drizzly night and she--well we stayed back there with her while she packed. Maybe, maybe ten minutes. It may not have been that long. When we were told that the mayor was there. So we went out. Mayor Allen came to me to ask if I would mind--if I knew the city. Of course I know the city. Said, "Would you mind riding with Louise [Louise Allen] to the airport [Atlanta Municipal Airport; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, Georgia] because she doesn't know the city," and the police cars they would be going as fast as they could go so of course I agreed. So I left my car there. I got in the car with Mrs. Allen who drove and we followed to a degree the police car. Of course they lost us and we about fifteen or so minutes maybe twenty minutes later, we got to the airport and when we got to the airport we found I mean we were told at the desk what am I saying? You know what I'm trying to say where the people were to put, to check in on the flight, we were told that they were in a bathroom. I can't remember whether it was a male bathroom or a female bathroom but when we got, when we opened the door to go into the bathroom and they were standing there in a huddle obviously crying because it was Coretta, Dora McDonald [Dora E. McDonald] who had gotten, who had arrived, Christine [HistoryMaker Christine King Farris], the mayor and, and I believe a policeman was in there but I'm not 100 percent sure. I might have that wrong. But anyway they were standing there in a huddle and Mayor Allen looked up at us and did kind of you know message, he didn't make it was the message that we got and surely enough he [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] had passed. So he asked Coretta after a while what she wanted to do. Because they had held the plane and she said, "Well I'll go back home and see about my children." So that was that. And we went back. I went back again and with Ms.--she went in the police car, I followed with Mrs. Allen in her car and I stayed for a while and I went on home too. But people had begun to arrive at her house so I don't, I don't know who they were. And I can't even tell you how many there were, but--there weren't many but they were there to, you know, to do whatever I guess they could do.$Now Chasing the--the Chasing the Dream Foundation that was founded by you and your husband, [HistoryMaker] Hank Aaron, tell us about it? In fact I asked him about it and he said ask you (laughter). He said you know everything about it and can explain it a lot better so we're depending on you.$$Well, I, I just had a conversation with him and, and asked him if he would consider doing a foundation that would help youngsters. I had seen the documentary that Mike Tollin [Michael Tollin] did on him and it was called or is called 'Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream' and that was what really gave me the idea. After seeing him in his early days running across the, whatever some kind of patch across from his home with bottle tops and a stick trying to hit a baseball and it just sort of brought home to me how many of us and particularly our kids come up with little or nothing but who somehow make something out of little of nothing. And I realized as I did when I was growing up, well having the desire to participate in various activities at school but they almost always require that you have some money. You even had to have money at least to buy clothes or to go to an event to showcase what little talent you might have. So we came up with the idea why not use the same name that Mike used for the documentary and just turn it into a foundation. So we call it the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation [Atlanta, Georgia] and we started raising money so we could help kids who just needed a hand really who needed in some instances they needed somebody to pay for the piano lessons. Their parents couldn't pay for piano lessons or they needed somebody to pay for tennis lessons or whatever their interest might be. So we agreed that we would start this little foundation and try to serve as that middleman to help get the kid to the person that can do the most for them to develop, help them to develop their talent. So that's it just kind of grew from that and we proudly recognized the talents of a few of our kids who are really, really outstanding now. We have a young man now who is, well I'll start with Mason. Mason went from Brown elementary school [Brown Middle School, Atlanta, Georgia] down here a few miles away from us and started taking harp lessons. There's a lady here who Roselyn Lewis who just has done marvelous things with a lot of our kids because you don't expect kids from the inner city to be playing the harp or the cello or whatever, whatever but she, she gets them involved, specifically the harp is her area of interest and she has started a foundation, but Mason Morton was one of her students and he of course started taking harp. Then when he got out of high school he went on to he got a scholarship to Michigan [University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan]. He followed his, his music teacher from Michigan to Rice University in Houston [Texas], graduated in Houston and we were helping him all along the way. Not--helping him is the key word here. We weren't--I don't wanna think want you to think that we were footing the bill because we couldn't possibly, we were not that large an organization or foundation but we were there to help him with those things that he really desperately needed that scholarship money and other funds did not take care of. Mason--today Mason, he's a member. I don't know if I--of a group called Serendip [Sons of Serendip] and they were on 'America's Got Talent' and they have cut two or three records now, he and a little group, but he also teaches harp in the public school system in Boston [Boston Public Schools]. So we are so, so proud of him. Then we have a young man who's working toward his Ph.D. at Juilliard [The Juilliard School] in New York [New York] and he's been, been in our program since he was ten or twelve or something like that so these are just two of the really, really outstanding ones and others some of we just made good, good citizens. We have a young lady who went to Fisk [Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee] who was a Phi Beta Kappa [Phi Beta Kappa Society] who is--who went to Yale [Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut] and got her master's degree. We stay in close touch with her and she is now in some field of healthcare. I can't remember what precisely but they come home generally at Christmas and we have them over for our big New Year's Eve and they perform for us and we, we just have a wonderful relationship with several of the kids who have had very good high school and college careers and who are now in the broader community and doing well.