Black History Month: Celebrating Those Who Came Before Us
Eliot (1924 - 2013) and Muriel Battle (1930-2003)
Not only were Eliot and Muriel Battle honored educators in Columbia Public Schools, they were local civil rights pioneers who played leading roles in desegregating schools, housing and restaurants in the Columbia community. Eliot was the subject of an award-winning 2012 University of Missouri Extension documentary.
In 1956 the couple moved to Columbia to take jobs at Douglass School, which served the African American student population before integration. In 1961, Muriel became the first African American teacher at West Junior High School. In a career that spanned 40 years in Columbia Public Schools, Dr. Muriel Battle taught eighth grade and later became a department head, then principal. She was the first female assistant superintendent for secondary education in Columbia. She was involved in numerous national, state and local boards, including the President's Task Force of Drug Free Schools, the Lincoln University Board of Curators and the Stephens College Board of Trustees. She received the Outstanding University of Missouri Alumni Award from the University of Missouri College of Education. Columbia's Muriel Williams Battle High School is named for her.
Eliot Battle was an assistant principal and guidance counselor at Douglass High School. He was the first African American faculty member at Hickman High School in 1960, after the school merged with Douglass. He played a pivotal role at Hickman, serving as an advocate for desegregation, mediator of conflicts and mentor during the crucial early years of Hickman’s transformation into an integrated school. Eliot and Muriel led by example when they chose to be the first Black family to move into a predominantly white neighborhood in the early 1960s. Columbia’s Battle Elementary is named for Eliot Battle.
Eliot and Muriel Battle were inducted into the Boone County Historical Society's Hall of Fame in 2018.