Eddie Bernice Johnson

Mr. Ernie Banks, a former star player for the Chicago Cubs baseball team who was born in Dallas, was more than just an athlete. Mr. Banks, who recently died, was a man enriched by his faith and fueled by ambition. He won the hearts of many through his skills as a baseball player, and his optimistic views regarding the goodness of life.

While it was Chicago where Mr. Banks made his home, it was the city of Dallas that was his life’s foundation. His parents, Eddie and Essie Banks, raised their family of twelve children in a home located at 1723 Fairmount Street, a historical section of the Congressional district that I currently serve.

Mr. Banks’ father played semi-professional baseball in Texas, and supported his family by working as a janitor and picking cotton. His mother, a homemaker, wanted her son to pursue a life in the ministry. Little did they know that one day he would be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

While pursing his degree at Booker T. Washington High School, Mr. Banks participated in a number of sports, including track and field, softball and football.  He was so talented that during the summer months he played semipro baseball with a team located in west Texas.

After spending two years in the Army during the Korean War and after a brief tenure with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Baseball League, Mr. Banks’ contact was purchased by the Chicago Cubs.

Six years after Jackie Robinson broke the “color line,” Mr. Banks, at 22 years of age, became the ninth African American to play in the previously segregated major leagues.  Today, Mr. Banks still holds the Cubs records for the most games played (2,528), at bats (9,421), extra base hits (1,009), and total bases (4,706). He was voted an All-Star eleven times.

Mr. Banks became the most popular sports figure in the history of Chicago. When he retired from baseball in 1971 he was recognized as the most productive shortstop that had ever played professional baseball. As a sign of his greatness, the Cubs retired the number 14 jersey that he wore as a player.

Although the Cubs had not won the World Series since 1908, each year during his time with the team Mr. Banks promised fans that he would do his best to ensure that they won the fall classic. His belief in optimism was an essential part of his DNA.

In retirement, he worked for major corporations as a spokesperson, and was later hired as a coach by the Cubs. In 1977 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His concerns for young people led him to start the “Live Above and Beyond Foundation,” where he used his celebrity to raise money for causes that improved the lives of children.

On January 27th I entered a statement in the Congressional Record about Mr. Banks, calling him a “true American legend who loved his sport, and adored the fans who cheered for him on and off the field.”

Many members of Mr. Banks’ family reside in North Texas. We are grateful to them for sharing this amazing individual and world-class athlete with us. We shall never forget him, and all that he did to improve the lives of others.