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Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Battle, John S., 1913

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, members of Congress, ambassadors, educators, business people, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

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John Stewart Battle

Governor of Virginia

John S. Battle was born in New Bern, North Carolina in 1890. He earned an associate's degree from Mars Hill College in North Carolina, a bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University, and a law degree from the University of Virginia. Battle was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1929 and to the Virginia State Senate in 1934, where he served until his election as governor in 1949. Battle was a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, and 1968. His speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention helped to forestall the Virginia delegation's expulsion from the convention and to prevent a split such as the party had experienced in 1948.

After his term ended in 1954, Battle went into semi-retirement in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he practiced law. In 1956, he was a candidate for the Presidential nomination, eventually losing to former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson. In 1959, President Eisenhower asked Battle to serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, citing his moderate history on issues of race. Battle died in 1972 at the age of 81 and was buried in Monticello Memorial Park in Charlottesville. His friend T. Munford Boyd, a former professor of the law school, remembered Battle in this way: “He became one of Virginia’s most popular chief executives when he had never before aspired to state office, because the people believed in his integrity and ability. To disputes in Party caucuses, debates in committee and on the floor of the legislature and to controversial executive decisions, he brought the reasoned judgment of a scholarly and dignified gentleman.” John S. Battle High School in Washington County, Virginia, and Battle Hall at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind are both named for him.

John Stewart Battle Papers, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.