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Sam Hairston Celebration

Columbus, Miss. – August 10, 2010 – Plans to recognize the achievements of a man who distinguished himself at every level of baseball during his professional career spanning more than 50 years have expanded to include performances by Blues Hall of Fame inductee Bobby “Blue” Bland and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Percy Sledge. The Sam Hairston Celebration Committee and the Columbus/Lowndes County Convention and Visitors Bureau (C/LCVB) are excited to announce that Bland and Sledge have agreed to share their time and talents with the city. Other popular regional acts participating in the celebration include Big Ben Atkins & the Class of ’65, Big Joe Shelton, and Keith & Margie.

A native of Lowndes County, Miss., Samuel Harding Hairston, (January 20, 1920 - October 31, 1997) is credited with being the first African-American player signed by the Chicago White Sox. Hairston’s professional baseball career as a player, scout and coach spanned 53 years, 47 of which he spent with the White Sox organization. Hairston played for the Negro Leagues’ Birmingham Black Barons and the Indianapolis Clowns before debuting with the Major League’s Chicago White Sox on July 21, 1951. As the father of MLB players Jerry Hairston, Sr. and John Hairston, and grandfather of MLB players Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Scott Hairston, Sam is patriarch to the largest three-generation baseball dynasty in baseball history.

The Sam Hairston Celebration will take place October 13-16, 2010, in the city of Columbus, Miss. The celebration shines a spotlight on two historically significant sites. Hairston’s childhood neighborhood will be recognized with the unveiling of a Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) historic marker and the dedication of the Sam Hairston Baseball Park at Weyerhaeuser Field near Hairston’s first home. The site of the Queen City Hotel, which served as home base for Hairston and other Negro League Baseball players such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Satchel Paige, and James “Cool Papa” Bell while on the road, will also receive an MDAH marker.

static exhibition was developed from Lester’s research and personal collection of photographs and memorabilia.

While planning the event, the Sam Hairston Celebration Committee and the C/LCVB learned of two $1,000 grant opportunities available to local public school libraries through the Negro Leagues Committee (NLC) of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and distributed the application information to local school libraries. Both grants were awarded in early May to two schools in Lowndes County–West Lowndes Elementary School and Lee Middle School. Larry Lester, NLC chairman, observes that this is the first time in the history of the grant that both prizes have been awarded to schools in the same community. According to Minnie Williams, librarian for West Lowndes Elementary, their grant proposal, “Batter Up, Reader Up!” will be the basis for a program the school will launch in the fall to engage and motivate students to build their academic skills through baseball-themed books, guest speakers, library décor,

daily attire, and events involving baseball activities, music and food. Traditionally, Lee Middle School has brought Black History Month into the classroom each February with relevant academic themes in all areas of its curriculum. According to Lee’s librarian, Jamie Davidson, Negro Leagues Baseball will take center stage in 2011.


In conjunction with the Sam Hairston celebration, the Columbus Public Library will house an exhibit focusing on Hairston and the history of Negro Leagues Baseball during the months of October and November. The official opening of the exhibit will take place during the Sam Hairston Celebration and will feature an autograph- signing session with players from the Negro Leagues, including members of the Birmingham Black Barons.

Other special guests expected to attend the celebration are members of the Hairston family, including Sam’s sons, John Hairston, former catcher and left fielder with the Chicago Cubs, and Jerry Hairston, Sr., who played 14 seasons with the Chicago White Sox and currently coaches for the Bristol White Sox. Also expected to attend are Hairston’s grandsons, Jerry Hairston, Jr., and Scott Hairston, both of the San Diego Padres.

What began simply as an effort to honor a Lowndes County native of great achievement has developed into an opportunity to motivate area youth to strive for excellence in all aspects of their lives. The event will feature educational and motivational lectures at area schools by author and Negro League Baseball historian, Larry Lester. Lester is one of the founders of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., and served as its Research Director and Treasurer from 1991-1995. The museum’s

Contact: Stacy M. Clark, Marketing Manager, stacy@columbus-ms.org Columbus/Lowndes County Convention & Visitor Bureau P.O. Box 789, Columbus, Mississippi 39703 Ph: (662) 329-1191 www.columbus-ms.org

The Courier, September, 2010 – a SABR publication – Page 9 of 10

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