REVEREND DR. JAMES W. BATTLE, SR. (1972-1998)
Reverend Battle answered the call to pastor Mount Olivet Baptist Church in June of 1972. A recent graduate of The American Baptist College of Nashville, Tennessee, where he received his B.A. degree. Rev. Battle received a Masters of Divinity Degree from Luther Seminary of Saint Paul and a Doctorate of Ministry Degree from the United Seminary in New Brighton, Minnesota. He was highly recommended by the Dean of Students, Dr. J Lewis Powell. A native of Huntsville, Alabama, he then moved his family to Saint Paul. Reverend Battle was installed as pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church on September 17, 1972. Reverend Julius R. Scruggs, pastor of Antioch Church of East Chicago, Indiana, delivered the dedication message.
Reverend Battle immediately recognized the need for additional space in which to worship, especially on special days. Plans were initiated to build a new church. Brother Carl Walker served as chairperson of the building committee. The church purchased two acres of land, and the groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 28, 1973.
Rev. Battle organized the 8:00 AM worship service. He revived the bible classes and instituted Family night. Under the coordination of his lovely wife Elnora, the Children’s Story became a regular part of Sunday worship service.
As the church grew spiritually, many auxiliaries were added, such as: The Brotherhood, Nursing Unit, Advisory Briefing Committee for New Members, Personnel Committee, Matron’s Society, Voices of Praise Choir, Nominating Committee, Spiritual Board, Black History Awareness Month, Youth Recognition Sunday, and the Scholarship Fund. The Scholarship Fund provides graduating seniors with assistance toward tuition and books for college and trade school. The first scholarship was given in 1973.
An Environmental Learning Center started in 1975 to provide day care for pre-schoolers. This was a joint venture of Reverend Battle and the center’s first director, Woodson Walker. A volunteer tutorial program was in existence for three years under the educational direction of Mrs. Willarene Beasley.
On December 2, 1986, Mount Olivet rededicated the church sanctuary with seat cushions, newly upholstered pulpit furniture and new carpet. One of the most beautiful contributions to the structure is the stained glass window above the pulpit, which was donated by the Senior Citizens of Mount Olivet. During that time, two portable buildings were dedicated for use as part of the educational facility. A new public address system was also installed to accommodate the six choirs and instrumental ensemble.
Under Rev. Battle’s leadership, the church purchased a computer, a copy machine, a piano, central air conditioning for the church and parsonage, constructed a parking lot, and put a new roof on the parsonage.
Members were strongly encouraged to attend Sunday School, Bible Study and Prayer Meeting and are a requirement for leaders of any special program or to serve on any boards. Reverend Battle involved the membership in the political growth and interest of the community and nation. He never failed to encourage his membership to vote. He organized the Dr. Martin Luther King March on the State Capitol in 1979.
He also established an annual visit between Mount Olivet and Emmanuel Baptist Church in Beloit, Wisconsin. The annual Black History Awareness Month held during the month of February hosted many activities including the Family workshop and a Baby Contest featuring twelve beautiful babies. Also, the Queen and King contest netted over 312,000.00. Using the bonding program as a resource for increasing the scholarship fund, $12,500.00 was set aside in bonds for scholarships.
During his tenure, Reverend Dr. James Battle licensed and ordained the following ministers: Reverend Elijah Thigpen, Reverend Matthew Shelton, Reverend Ruth Magler, Reverend Henry Bonner, Reverend Harold Frelix, Reverend Nick Cooper-Lewter, Reverend Henry Martin, Reverend Carl Walker, Reverend J. T Hill, Reverend F. R. Thompson and Reverend Walter Little.
The Memorial Wall was installed to honor those members who worked tirelessly in Mount Olivet and on August 11,1990, the walls were hung in the church sanctuary. On September 16, 1990, the Memorial walls were unveiled and blessed.
The church voted to hire Brother Lorenzo Williams to be the architect and to accept plans for a new expansion. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on Sunday, May 5, 1991. The dedication of the education wing was held on Sunday, February 2, 1992.
Rev. Battle was invited to be part of a Public Policy conference called by Reverend Jessie Jackson in Washington, D.C. on January 30,1995. Rev. Battle was appointed by Governor Arne Carlson to be
one of the Commissioners for Martin Luther King celebration.
Rev. Battle was instrumental in bringing, Juan Williams as the speaker for the Martin Luther King celebration. Williams is the author of “Eyes on the Prize”.
Central Avenue was renamed to Rev. Dr. James W. Battle, Sr. Avenue from Dale Street to Western Avenue in May of 1998. During thsi same year, after 26 years of faithful service, Rev. Battle retired in 1998, to live in Newnan, Georgia.
DEACON MACEO (ANTOINO) SIMMONS
The last of the Charter Members went home to rest on July 6,1993. Deacon Simmons was a warrior for the Lord. He was faithful and devoted to his family, church and community. He labored at Mt Olivet as the last charter member for 71 years. He served on the Deacon Board for numerous years. He was a Sunday School Teacher, Superintendent of Sunday School, Church Treasurer, Secretary, Church Janitor and a Choir Member.