Positive, upbeat, soft-spoken, innovator, gentleman and pioneer are just a few words that have been used to describe Eliot Battle, an educator in the Columbia Public Schools for more than 40 years, who died Tuesday night from injuries sustained in a car accident.
Battle was a key player in ending segregation in Columbia's school district. Columbia's newest high school, Muriel Williams Battle High School, was named in honor of his wife, who died in 2003.
The Missourian will be posting tributes, memories, reflections and thoughts about Battle's legacy here. If you would like to contribute, email submissions@ColumbiaMissourian.com. Please include a sentence about your connection to Battle, though we're happy to publish contributions from those who did not know him personally but still have something to share.
Here are the remembrances of Eliot Battle we've collected.
From Ray Sanders, president of the local graduate chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.: In his time, Bro. Dr. Battle was heavily involved in the Fraternity. He was one of the charter members of the Xi Epsilon Lambda Chapter here in Columbia, and was also involved with the Beta Zeta Lambda chapter in Jefferson City. Personally, I had only interacted with Bro. Dr. Battle a few times during my undergraduate time at Mizzou as a member of the Zeta Alpha Chapter and as an alumni, but I can say that each time we spoke, he was warm, brotherly and a true humble servant of the Columbia Community. On behalf of the Xi Epsilon Lambda Chapter, I offer my condolences to the Battle Family.
From Bragg Stanley, director of guidance and counseling at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: I was a school counselor at Hickman from 1981 to 2002. Eliot hired me and it was my privilege to work under him until his retirement. He was a true role model as to what a school counselor should be — working to address the academic, personal/social and career development needs of all students. When barriers existed that blocked student success, he worked diligently to remove those barriers. However, he not only cared about his kids, he deeply cared about his staff and he strove to see that they had what they needed to do their jobs well. We could not have asked for a better "boss." The school counseling profession lost a part of its heart and soul with his passing.
From Jana L. Earnest Wilson, a former Hickman High School student: Not many people can say that they went to college on the word of one man. I had no diploma, no GED, no SAT, no ACT, just the faith and word of one man — Eliot Battle. (Read Wilson's full reflection here.)
From Mary Jo Roberts, Dr. Marjorie Southard Roberts and Merlin Wood: We have all lost a man of great integrity and style. He was one of a kind, and with Muriel by his side they were the ideal couple. They were always meticulously dressed as if every day was a special day — and in their case each day was special! (Read their full reflection here.)
From Ben Henick: There were four staff at HHS who, with their personal investment of time in me, made certain that I left in a gown and not handcuffs or a straitjacket. Dr. Battle was one of those four. (Read Henick's full reflection here.)
From JoAnn Moser: So very very sorry to hear of this tragedy! Eliot was a guidance counselor at Hickman during the years I attended (1960-1962) and he was a very kind and gentle person. Will always remember both he and his wife presenting such positive attitudes! Great people ... the world has lost another great one! Will miss seeing him at HyVee (I work part time) where he would come for breakfast ... Sending my condolences to the family.
From Carl W. Kenney II: I often wonder what would have come of my life without Eliot Battle to catch me when I was falling. Would I have been another casualty among countless black men trapped by the madness in their heads? Would my label be high school dropout with stories about what could have been if? Would my tag be "he could have been, if"? (Read Kenney's full reflection here.)
From Lori Wright-Lear, a Columbia native who now lives out of state: I don't know how to describe how I feel about Eliot Battle. I can tell you that he was a gentleman. I can also tell you that no less than 15 people have contacted me about his death. Their age ranges from 75 to 23 years of age. Maybe that says it all. He touched all our lives in some educational way that was positive and we all were better for it. There are few people today that will ever have that kind of impact on so many people. His children have my deepest sympathy.... He was just so nice to everyone. No matter what you looked like, or who your parents were, or your academic standing, he was just so fair. For anyone who had a problem, he would listen. I had a great High School experience — so many people do not. He was a champion for everyone and we were blessed to have him…. Even when I would see him out and about (way after I was grown) you could hear people call his name with affection. It's a loss for the community.
From Susan Phillips, who taught at West Junior High School with Muriel Battle and knew Eliot Battle because of his involvement at the school: I remember his gentle ways. Eliot had a way of getting his point across clearly and persuasively, even forcefully if need be, yet in the kindness and most soft spoken, gentle way. He moved mountains with his smile. Everyone loved Eliot and Muriel because they were genuine. I also remember Eliot for his devotion to Muriel. They were always in each other's corner. He will be remembered and loved forever. We are all saddened by this loss…. I truly feel my life is enriched for having known them both.
We've also been collecting online reflections here:
If you can't see the Storify embedded below, view it online here.
This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.