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Battle honored for service to alma mater
Livingstone College lauds AME Zion bishop
 
Published Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:03 am
by Laurie D. Willis

SALISBURY – As a boy, George Battle Jr. became quite adept at pulling tobacco, picking cotton and planting corn, soybeans and sweet potatoes. Farming was second nature to Battle, the second of eight children born to Mary Battle. 

“My teachers all felt like I would make a good farmer or a good mechanic because I was good at both,” Battle said recently in an interview. “I could do anything on a farm including getting the fields ready for harvest and planting, but I didn’t want to do that for a living.”

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PHOTO/GERGORY DEAS
AME Zion Church Bishop George Battle Jr. (right), with wife Iris, lead the Livingstone College homecoming parade on Nov. 2 George Battle, a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member,  was given Livingstone’s President’s Distinguished Alumni Award for service.

Battle has come a long way from working the farm in his native Rocky Mount. His resume includes founder of an afterschool enrichment program in Charlotte, several years on the N.C. Community College Board, 17 years on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, 12 years on the Central Piedmont Community College Board, and earning the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by former Gov. Jim Hunt. 

He’s also the senior bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, a proud member of the “One of a Kind” class of 1969 at Livingstone College and chairman of the school’s board of trustees. 

On Nov. 2, Battle and his wife Iris served as grand marshals of Livingstone’s homecoming parade. He was also given the President’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in part because he’s the single largest alumni donor in school history. 

“Anything we get we don’t deserve. It’s all by God’s grace,” Battle said in an interview. “I’m grateful to (Livingstone President Jimmy) Jenkins and his entire staff who selected me for that award. It was exhilarating and a great feeling to know that God can take what we have and do great things with it.” 

Though he’s been honored countless times by businesses and organizations, Battle acknowledges being deeply moved by the distinction. While citing his eastern N.C. roots, Jenkins said Battle repeatedly demonstrates that love isn’t verbal. 

“Bishop Battle has done so much for Livingstone College, and it only made sense for us to honor him in this way at this time,” Jenkins said. “He’s been an exemplary leader as chairman of our board of trustees.”

For his part, Battle became emotional during his acceptance speech, which didn’t surprise his wife of 43 years.

“He’s always filled up when somebody gives back to him,” Iris Battle explained. “He gives so much to other people but when someone takes the time to think about him he’s humbled. He’s always thinking about Livingstone and wanting the best for Livingstone, and for Livingstone to honor him in this way really means a lot to him. After we left Livingstone that Saturday, there were times when he was really quiet at home over the weekend. When I asked him about it he said, ‘I just can’t get over this award.’ ”

Unabashed about his humble beginnings, Battle acknowledges that his mother, who passed away in 2004, had only a 10th grade education and that he put in endless hours of arduous labor on the farm.

“My mom got to see me achieve a lot of things,” Battle said. “I was blessed to have received a number of top awards from the city of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina while she was still alive. I wanted to share them all with her and make sure people knew the only reason I received all of those things was because of her, because I had a praying mother.”

Larry Melton, a 1972 Livingstone graduate and a member of Greater Gethsemane AME Zion Church in Charlotte, where Battle once was pastor, praised Battle’s service at Livingstone and the larger community.

“I came here to Livingstone as a football player going nowhere fast with holes in my shoes, and Bishop Battle taught me how to give,” Melton said, fighting back tears. “Bishop Battle told me if you give, God will give back to you. Bishop Battle walks among us every day, but he’s a legend. He’s always done his part, and Sister Iris has been right there by his side.”

The Rev. Dwayne Walker, pastor at Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte, met Battle through his father, George W.C. Walker Sr., a former AME Zion senior bishop and Livingstone chairman.

“When I first met him I thought he was the tallest man I’d ever seen,” Walker said at the ceremony for Battle, who is 6 foot 2 inches tall. “And after all these years I still think he’s the tallest man I’ve ever seen. At a time when so many leaders fall … we’re blessed to have a leader who loves God, respects his family and has never forgotten from where he came.”

 

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