A large number of citizens recently seized the opportunity to view the documentary "Battle." It was for me a privilege and a pleasure to learn of Eliot Battle's life experiences, challenges and success.
The lines of people around Cornell Hall and the packed auditorium spoke both to the popularity of Eliot and the interest in his story. It reflected the history of blacks in Columbia as well as the housing and education practices before and during the desegregation process.
The team of professionals who produced the documentary accomplished a difficult task of developing a family history while explaining cultural, legal and political phenomena. The documentary was a technical product accomplished with the kind of integrity that reflects Eliot. Eliot’s family attended the showing. They were a testimony to Eliot’s success as a father. Memories of his deceased wife permeated the experience.
The film is an excellent reference for those seeking information on race relations in Columbia. Eliot’s philosophy of “change from within” is not one that I espouse because I am not endowed with Eliot’s discipline, patience or faith in man. But Booker T. Washington and many others shared his philosophy.
I certainly respect and understand Eliot’s quiet grace. Moreover, I am among those in Columbia who admire and love this gentleman who has been nothing but an asset to those seeking to make Columbia and MU the best that they can be.
Congratulations to Eliot and all of those who have been affected by him. We applaud you. I hope Muriel is looking down on you with a smile as she whispers, "I told you, you’re great!"
William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.