Plans under way for Columbus tribute to local Negro League player

May 5, 2010 10:38:00 AM

Allen Baswell - [email protected]


Government and educational leaders from Columbus, Lowndes County and Starkville, as well as those honoring a local person who was a Negro League baseball standout, are taking a trip to Birmingham, Ala. today. 


The crew is visiting "Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience" at the Birmingham Public Library, to get ideas for events to honor Lowndes County native Sam Hairston. 


Pride and Passion is an exhibit that honors numerous Negro League baseball players including Hairston. The exhibition tells the story of Negro League baseball and how it became the focus of great pride in the African-American community. 


Other notable players the exhibit features include Satchel Paige and Starkville native son James "Cool Papa" Bell, along with storied teams including the Kansas City Monarchs and the Birmingham Black Barons. 


Glenn Lautzenhiser, a member of the Sam Hairston Celebration Committee, is also making the trip to "The Magic City." He said one of the reasons he and others, including Columbus Mayor Robert Smith Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John, and Columbus School District Superintendent Del Phillips are making this trip is to learn more about the Negro League and the contributions it made to baseball. 


"Larry Lester, who is going to speak at the Birmingham Public Library on Wednesday, will be here in October for our Sam Hairston Celebration. This will give us a chance to meet with Mr. Lester and also promote our celebration for Hairston," Lautzenhiser said. 


Along with being a member of the Hairston Celebration Committee, Lautzenhiser is also a member of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau board and is an avid baseball enthusiast. 


Lester is a Negro League scholar and co-founder of the Negro League museum in Kansas City, Mo. He has written numerous books and articles on the Negro League and its players. 


According to information obtained from websites on Negro League baseball, Samuel Harding Hairston was born Jan. 20, 1920 in the West Lowndes community of Crawford. However, Lautzenhiser said it is now believed he was born in the Plum Grove community in Lowndes County. 


"We are trying to do additional research and get some kind of documentation," he said. 


Hairston played for the Birmingham Black Barons and the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues and played part of one season (1951) with the Chicago White Sox as a catcher. He made his official debut with the White Sox He died Oct. 31 1997 in Birmingham, Ala., is buried in Birmingham''s Elmwood Cemetery. 


Hairston has a Major League Baseball family, as the father of MLB players Jerry Hairston Sr. and Johnny Hairston; he''s also the grandfather of Jerry Hairston Jr. and Scott Hairston.  


Lautzenhiser said Johnny will meet with the Columbus contingent Wednesday at the library. 


"Johnny, who lives in Washington state and once played for the Cubs, is scheduled to join us for the program. Not only will we have the chance to meet with Mr. Lester, but also with one of Sam Hairston''s sons," he said. 


The Sam Hairston Celebration is planned for Oct. 14-16 in Columbus. Along with Lester scheduled to speak at several local schools including Immanuel, New Hope, Caledonia, Columbus and Starkville schools. Several members of the Hairston family are also scheduled to attend the event. 


"This will be to educate and motivate the youth for a better tomorrow," Lautzenhiser said.

Allen Baswell is a former staff reporter for The Dispatch