Henry Aaron's "homecoming" service Wednesday was one of those Atlanta moments when business, race, education, religion and politics intersect.
Unlike the memorial service the day before at the Braves ' suburban "Truist Park," no ballplayers participated in the event Wednesday at Friendship Baptist Church in southwest Atlanta.
Instead, former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, civil rights leader and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, former Major League Commissioner Bud Selig, Braves executive Terry McGuirk and TV sports announcer Bob Costas gave remembrances of Aaron, who died last week at age 86.
The most inspiring talk came from Quianna Lewis, a young woman currently working on a doctorate at Johns Hopkins after earning degrees at Fisk University and Yale thanks to a scholarship from Aaron's foundation.
She thanked Aaron on behalf of the hundreds of children he helped to achieve educations and successful careers.
Also noteworthy was Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine, who told of Aaron's $3 million gift to the school, in coordination with his wife, Billye Suber Aaron.
Young and Clinton in succeeding talks echoed Southern Protestant rhythms, the zest for storytelling shared by blacks and whites in the region.
The former mayor was amusing with his anecdote about white "country boys" watching Aaron in a parade down Spring Street in downtown Atlanta when the Braves first arrived in 1966, at the height of the civil rights movement.
Young recalled overhearing one of the group admit that Aaron should be allowed to buy a house anywhere he wanted in the then segregated city. Thus, Young said, Aaron changed Atlanta for the better even before playing a game.
While Carter in a Zoom appearance sounded frail, Clinton displayed vitality in his in-person address. Lord, that man can talk.
Clinton mentioned, a bit too many times, about Aaron's taking credit for Clinton winning Georgia in his first presidential campaign, when Aaron endorsed Clinton during an appearance with him at a suburban high school stadium.
At age 74, four years younger than Joe Biden, Clinton sounded rejuvenated by the Democrats' recent victories for the presidency and control of the Senate. As Clinton talked about his warm friendship with Aaron, he gave an image of the good, benevolent Clinton, not the self-destructive one.
While I like many others have long suffered from Clinton exhaustion, his speech made me wish that Biden would find a place for him in his administration. After all, John Kerry at age 77 is serving as the climate change adviser.
In his appreciation of Aaron as a ballplayer and humanitarian, Clinton spoke movingly of Aaron prevailing over the racial hatred he suffered growing up in segregated Mobile, Ala., and when approaching Babe Ruth's career home run record.
The service highlighted how much good Aaron did for Atlanta, the nation and the world after his stellar baseball career.
Unlike the students and others he helped, Aaron did it on his own, a poor black kid from the deep South who didn't have to be taught how to hit a baseball or love his neighbor. He was truly a natural, in baseball and in life.