Monday, October 12, 2015
TSU Professor Dr. Harriet Kimbro-Hamilton Honors Father with 'Daddy's Scrapbook: Henry Kimbro of the Negro Baseball League'
By Chuck Whiting
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (October 2015) -- Tennessee State University Associate Professor Harriet Kimbro-Hamilton's mother challenged her with the sacred task of preserving the memory of her father, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame member Henry Kimbro. Shortly before her death, Cuban-born Erbia C. Mendoza-Kimbro gave Harriet an old scrapbook filled with articles, pictures and other items from Henry's career as a star in the Negro Baseball League.
"No one in my family ever saw it with the exception of my mother," Harriet said with a smile. "When she placed it in my hand, she told me to do something with it. 'You know what to do,' she told me. The look she had on her face at that time was, 'I trust you.'"
Harriet's efforts to honor her father started in 2003 with a challenging but successful campaign to have her father inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Now she is about to honor his life again with release of the new book, "Daddy's Scrapbook: Henry Kimbro of the Negro Baseball League, A Daughter's Perspective." She will celebrate with family members and friends during a special exhibition, storytelling and book signing at the Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School Library from 2-3:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 (Saturday). Admission is free.
"It was a great joy to write this book because, through the process, I became good friends with other Negro League heroes such as Butch McCord, Jim Zapp, Shannon Jones, and Sydney Bunch, who knew and worked with my dad," Harriet added. "My siblings also contributed. The toughest part of the book was the chapter on my mom. I had a connection with her that most family members were not aware of. This book has given me such a peace with my mother's wish."
Attendees of the school event will enjoy a special exhibition honoring players in the Negro Baseball Leagues. Several items on display were donated by Harriet, the McCord family, and others.
Her heartfelt family tribute honors a legendary outfielder once dubbed the "Black Ty Cobb" of the NBL. According to The New York Times, Henry played mostly with the Baltimore Elite Giants. The Negro Leagues were disbanded in the 1960s when African-American players began joining Major League Baseball. After Henry's death in 1999, Erbia gave Harriet the tattered, 60-year-old scrapbook her father had assembled during his life.
The book includes insights on Henry's Nashville upbringing, controversial off-the-field shenanigans, baseball stardom in Latin America, marriage to Erbia, role as the father of five children, and induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
"My favorite story was when my father gave me a left-handed glove," noted Harriet, who wanted to show the humble side of a man who loved his wife and children. "I don't think he knew what an impact he had on a little girl's confidence, someone who loved learning how to play baseball alongside her brother. I look back and see a man ahead of his time in terms of gender equality, and I truly appreciate that."
The professor also recounts other stories, both funny and sad, about her son's temporary disappearance at a hotel before the 1993 Baseball All-Star Game and her father's awkward courting of Erbia during visits to Cuba.
"During their dates, he had to take her chaperones along with them and pay their tabs," Harriet laughed. "He would always smile or laugh when telling that story. He truly loved my mother."
Harriet drew more quiet when talking emotionally about her mother, whose touching story is recounted halfway through the book.
"My mother was the foundation of our family," she said. "She was a very loving, caring and supportive person to her children. I can't remember anytime she wasn't there to see us participate, compete or complete an endeavor. For me, my mother was my first teacher. I was also my father's child in many ways because I inherited many of his ways both good and bad, but she made me more of a lady, too."
Harriet also uses the book to recognize some of the individuals who helped Henry Kimbro succeed. She said her efforts to have her father posthumously inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of fame would not have been possible without the lobbying support of former Negro American League Manager Buck O'Neil, Canadian Major League Baseball star Larry Walker, former Nashville Sounds owner Larry Schmittou, and former Nashville Councilman Ronnie Greer.
"Daddy's Scrapbook" includes a host of pictures, including Henry's baseball days, family snapshots, and post-career activities in the latter part of his life. The last photo of Henry on Page 125 shows him waving a baseball cap at fans while being recognized at the 1993 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Baltimore.
"Before the game began, 24 surviving Negro League Baseball players were paraded onto the field wearing replicas of their team uniforms," Harriet remembered. "It was blistering that day, and I worried about the effects of the heat on those guys. As each player was introduced, a giant picture of them was shown on the scoreboard while the announcer described their accomplishments as a player. When it was my father's time, he stood up straight with a huge grin and tilted his Baltimore Elite Giants hat to the crowd. The crowd, I felt, gave him the loudest response because he had played for Baltimore, and he relished this, his finest hour."
During her athletic career, Hamilton served as head coach in various sports and athletic director of Fisk University. The author also chaired the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Committee and served on the ABA-USA Committee that selected the 1984 USA Olympic Gold Medal Women's Basketball Team. She has received awards from the Women's Sports Foundation; the National Association of Girls and Women in Sports (the Dr. Nell C. Jackson Award); and the Temple University League for Entrepreneurial Women (Hall of Fame inductee).
"Daddy's Scrapbook", which retails for $14.95, is available at Amazon.com and other major online retailers. For more information about the book, call (615) 963-5581 or send an e-mail inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.