Eliot Battle, a long-time Columbia educator and leader in desegregation, has died
A little more than a week after celebrating with his family and community the opening of Columbia's Battle High, long-time Columbia educator Eliot Battle, has died. Columbia Public Schools spokesperson Michelle Baumstark says Battle died last night, Tuesday, June 11th, from injuries sustained after a car crash Friday. Battle had been hospitalized following the accident.
Battle High School is named after Muriel Battle, the wife of Eliot Battle. At the June 2 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Battle looked well and happy, sharing the honor with family members and school district and city leaders.
“If we have had this kind of facility back when we were growing up and my children were growing up, we’d have accomplished even more I’m sure,” Battle said at the ceremony.
For his role in school desegregation, Battle was honored numerous times and held up as an inspiring pioneer by the mid-Missouri community.
Wanda Brown, a former assistant superintendent of secondary education for the Columbia school district, had the opportunity to work with Battle at Hickman High School. Speaking to a KBIA reporter before a documentary about Battle was screened in Columbia, she said while he was incredibly impactful on the children, his relevance in Columbia goes far beyond that.
“He and his wife were one of the first couples to move into an integrated neighborhood in Columbia," said Brown, "And they were just outstanding role models for all children and for this community.”
Baumstark says Battle helped Columbia navigate a very difficult time in its history.
“He was a pinnacle educator and leader in our community. (He) helped lead the way to desegregating our schools and really making Columbia a great place. So we will miss him deeply," Baumstark said.
Funeral arrangements have not been made public yet. Baumstark says the news is a shock, just 10 days after the celebration of the opening of Battle High School.
“He’s such a sweet man. One of the things he said to Dr. Kim Presko, who is the principal out at Battle High School, at the end of the dedication event – (he) just said that honoring his wife and dedicating that high school was one of the last things on his bucket list… I think it just goes to show what a great person he was," Battle said.