Ernie Banks was honored on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Dallas ISD’s Booker T. Washington High School, where he graduated in 1950. Three years later, Banks would begin playing baseball for the Chicago Cubs, starting a highly successful 19-year career in the game.
Banks passed away Jan. 23, 2015, at age 83.
Members of the Banks family and the Booker T. Washington Alumni Association attended the ceremony, along with Trustee Bernadette Nutall, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, state Rep. Eric Johnson– who hosted the event – and state Rep. Morgan Meyer.
Johnson presented a memorial resolution honoring Banks from the Texas House of Representatives. A framed version was hung in Booker T. Washington’s historic hall, where other honors and memorabilia from the school are housed.
Earl Riggs, national president of the Booker T. Washington Alumni Association, presented a framed photo of Banks from the association, giving copies to members of his family.
Hinojosa recalled a time he was playing baseball with his brother as a child and made a spectacular catch. “I looked just like Ernie Banks,” he recalled saying, joking that he wasn’t tall enough to mimic Banks exactly.
Principal Scott Rudes recalled a time he got a call from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who asked him to name his school’s most famous alumnus. “Ernie Banks,” Rudes remembers answering. “You passed the test,” Rawlings told him.
Banks’ high school didn’t have a baseball team, so he played fast-pitch softball for a church team during the summers. He also played for semi-professional team the Amarillo Colts, and later as a pro for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League.
After being drafted to serve in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Banks returned to the Monarchs in 1953 to finish out the season. Late in 1953, Banks signed with the Chicago Cubs to become that team’s first African American player.
His positive attitude earned him the nicknames “Mr. Cub” and “Mr. Sunshine.”
Banks found much success with the Cubs, playing shortstop before moving to first base. He retired in 1971 with a career 512 home runs and continues to hold Cubs records for games played (2,528); at-bats (9,421); extra-base hits (1,009) and total bases (4,706). In 1982, he became the first Cubs player to have his uniform number retired.