Like baseball legend Jackie Robinson, whose story is told in the movie “42,” North Carolina’s Walter F. “Buck” Leonard was an outstanding athlete. Leonard played baseball in the Negro National League during the 1930s and 1940s, when segregation barred African American players from major and minor leagues. The Rocky Mount native helped pave the way for athletes such as Robinson, who in 1947 became the first black athlete to play Major League Baseball.
Leonard (1907-1997) is featured in the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. The athlete was inducted into the hall in 1974, and the exhibit showcases a ball, bat and uniform from his career with the Homestead (Pennsylvania) Grays, a Negro National League team. Leonard is also a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Leonard was named an All-Star first baseman 12 times, and he led the Homestead Grays to nine consecutive pennants from 1937 to 1945. Excellent at bat, he was often compared to Lou Gehrig. Leonard hit 42 home runs in 1942, and he achieved a .396 batting average in 1948 at age 41.
When baseball leagues became integrated through the efforts of Robinson and others, Leonard did not play in the major leagues because he considered himself too old.
Come visit the N.C. Museum of History to see Leonard’s items in the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame and learn more about this North Carolinian.
For information about the Museum of History, call 919-807-7900 or access ncmuseumofhistory.org or Facebook.
About the N.C. Museum of History
The museum is located at 5 E. Edenton Street, across from the State Capitol. Parking is available in the lot across Wilmington Street. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The Museum of History, within the Division of State History Museums, is part of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.
About the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources (NCDCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s cultural resources to build the social, cultural and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susan W. Kluttz, NCDCR’s mission to enrich lives and communities creates opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history and libraries in North Carolina that will spark creativity, stimulate learning, preserve the state’s history and promote the creative economy. NCDCR was the first state organization in the nation to include all agencies for arts and culture under one umbrella.
Through arts efforts led by the N.C. Arts Council, the N.C. Symphony and the N.C. Museum of Art, NCDCR offers the opportunity for enriching arts education for young and old alike and economic stimulus engines for our state’s communities. NCDCR’s Divisions of State Archives, Historical Resources, State Historic Sites, and State History Museums preserve, document and interpret North Carolina’s rich cultural heritage. NCDCR’s State Library of North Carolina is the principal library of state government and builds the capacity of all libraries in our state, developing and supporting access to traditional and online collections such as genealogy and resources for the blind and physically handicapped.
NCDCR annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported symphony orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council and the State Archives of North Carolina. NCDCR champions our state’s creative industry that accounts for more than 300,000 jobs and generates nearly $18.5 billion in revenues. For more information, please call 919-807-7300 or visit www.ncdcr.gov.