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Community celebrates the life and legacy of Coach Willie Batchelor

Willie D. Bachelor is pictured sitting in a black suit with a bowtie smiling to the right side

Mr. Willie D. Bachelor

Sunrise: April 7, 1934

Sunset: Jan. 17, 2024

The community mourns the passing of Coach Willie Batchelor, 89 years old, the first African-American elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners and the longest serving County Commissioner at the time he retired from the board.

Batchelor represented the people of District 1 (Adel West/Sparks) and the entire community during his 21 years on the Cook County Commission, from October 1985 to December 2006. Batchelor’s wife Julia, who survives him, retired as an educator after 40 years.

Batchelor, known to most as “Coach,” was inducted into the Cook County Sports Hall of Fame in September 2012. 

A native of Quitman, Batchelor played on three state championship teams in football and track at Brooks County High School. He earned degrees in health education and biology at Savannah State University, which he attended from 1955 to 1959. While attending Savannah State, he set the pole vault record at the National Relays at Tuskegee University. Wilma Rudolph, who later became the first American woman runner to win three gold medals at the Olympic Games, competed in the same National Relays.

More of Coach Batchelor’s achievements over the years:

• Achieved All Conference status as football halfback, averaging at least 1,000 yards per year.

• Candidate for All American in both his junior and senior years in college, which led to recruitment by the St. Louis Cardinals.

• Excelled in track and field.

• Taught in the Cook County School System for 30 years. Subjects were driver’s education and health/P.E.

• Coached football, wrestling, track, and girls’ basketball at Cook County Training School. The school fielded six conference championship teams and one state championship team.

• Coached Nate Wright, who went on to play professional football for the Minnesota Vikings.

• Founding father of the Cook High School wrestling program, which became held in the highest esteem at the state level. 

During the Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, funeral service at Adel Church of God Family Life Center, a crowd of those whose lives Coach Batchelor touched during his many years of community service gathered to thank his family for sharing him with them.

A black and white photo with Probate Judge Dan Coward swearing in Mr. Frank Moody (left) and Coach Willie Batchelor (right) as Cook County's first Black elected official positions.

Cook County Probate Judge Dan Cowart swears in Mr. Frank Moody (Board of Education) and Coach Willie Batchelor (County Commissioner) as Cook’s first Black elected officials to those positions. All three gentlemen are now deceased.

The service began with a processional by the clergy, officials, and family. Tommy Evans offered a prayer of comfort, followed by a hymn of comfort from Reginald Lane. Pastor Jimmy Williams offered scripture readings from the Old Testament (Psalm 23) and the New Testament (I Corinthians 15: 51-57). Shady Grove Baptist Church performed a musical selection.

The service featured Remarks from a Colleague, Thomas Jordan; Remarks from Former Students, Nate Wright (who did not speak due to a travel conflict) and Tommy Sutton; Remarks from Goddaughters, Mrs. Delayne Stephens Raiford and Mrs. Vickie Silas; Remarks from a Commissioner, Jeff Lane; Remarks from a Niece, Mrs. Jeanette Jenkins; and Remarks from Grandchildren, Christian Evans, Chandler Evans, and Ms. Lauren Evans.

Jordan described Coach Batchelor as “a giant of a man” and “a living legend.” He said the best word to define Coach Batchelor’s life was, “Magnanimous.” Coach Batchelor was “a good friend to everybody,” Sutton said. “He was a real life coach on and off the field,” Mrs. Silas said.

“Coach, we love you,” remarked Jeff Lane, speaking on behalf of the Cook County Commissioners. “He has been like a father to this community.”

Lane said Coach Batchelor did a lot to improve the lives of all Cook County citizens. Commissioner Batchelor’s accomplishments ranged from having sidewalks installed along Elm Street so going to and from school is safer for students, to helping bring about such important facilities as the current Cook County Jail, the E-911 Center, the Carolyn Harris Performing Arts Center, and Workforce Development Center (Wiregrass Tech); from creation of the Economic Development Commission, to establishment and development of new industrial areas, so many more jobs could be added for local residents.

Commissioner Lane noted that Coach Batchelor was his (Lane’s) driver’s ed teacher in high school: “He was the calmest man I have ever known,” even while Lane and other students were hanging on for dear life as passengers while some learners were driving.

Coach Batchelor “was a public servant,” Lane said. “He made me the guy I am today. … This community has lost a pillar, the pillar. … I pray each of us will stand up and continue his legacy.”

In November 2010, the County named the Public Works Building in honor of Coach Batchelor, another first for an African-American in Cook County.

Mrs. Evans said Coach Batchelor was also called “Papa” and “Batch” by different family members. During his early years, “he was a young man from Quitman, Ga., with a dream, and he could play some ball,” Mrs. Evans said. She added that Coach Batchelor would make sure everyone he met knew that “they were seen and heard.”

As the service continued, Reginald Lane performed a selection. Pastor Darryl Silas then delivered the eulogy. He said Coach Batchelor changed the trajectory of lives for the better for many in attendance at the funeral. Referring to 2 Timothy 4:7-8, Pastor Silas said, “Coach ran his race. He has finished his course. … Now he is receiving a crown.”

The service concluded with acknowledgements and a special presentation to the family by Jim McGhee and staff. Following the closing prayer and benediction, the recessional featured the song, “Let the Church Say Amen.”

The pallbearers were the 1976-77 Cook High Track Team, Michael Walton, David Griffith, Ronald Mitchell, Ricky Thomas, Dale Dean, and Danny Copeland. 

EDITOR’S NOTE – Please see complete obituary information for Coach Batchelor on this week’s Church Page.  

1 Comment

  1. Timothy Cross on February 8, 2024 at 4:35 pm

    Coach Bachelor was one of a kind and a man of substance not just talk!!! My condolences to the family.

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