Banks, Smith honored with Medals of Freedom
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
President Obama named 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday, the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s establishment of the award.
Two sports stars were among those honored, MLB Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor, and the awards will be presented at the White House later this year.
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours, ” Obama said in a statement. “This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”
Banks, one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, played in 11 All-Star games during his 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He hit more than 500 home runs and was the first player to be National League MVP in consecutive seasons.
Smith, who retired as the winningest coach in college men’s basketball history, piloted North Carolina from 1961 to 1997. During his tenure, he led the Tar Heels to two national championships. He also graduated 96% of his players from UNC.