Mr. and Mrs. Hank Aaron
Originally from Baldwyn, Mississippi, Pierce was among the millions of African Americans who left the South during the first half of the twentieth century. He settled in Columbus, Ohio, in the 1920s. Pierce, an ordained minister, turned to wood carving as a way to supplement his ministry. In 1974, after Atlanta Brave star Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run and eclipsed Babe Ruth’s record, Pierce carved the iconic portrait Mr. and Mrs. Hank Aaron, paying tribute to the slugger and his wife, Billye.
As collector, scholar, and advocate Gordon Bailey notes: “Pierce underscored Aaron’s accomplishment, which resounded across the country, particularly within the African American community, by writing ‘715 ha ha’ on the back of the piece.” Ebony magazine featured the Aarons on their July 1974 cover, which Pierce used as a reference for his sculpture. According to Bailey, “Pierce altered the composition of the cover photograph by upraising his subjects’ eyes, thereby acknowledging the Aarons’ sustaining faith.”