THOMAS HALL BATTLE

THOMAS HALL BATTLE, a leading banker who was termed the “Father of Rocky Mount,” died in this city, January 23, 1936.  He was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, August 2, 1860, a son of Dr. Kemp Plummer and Martha Ann (Battle) Battle.  He was graduated from the University of North Carolina with the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1880 and then took up the study of law in the same institution, being admitted to the bar in 1882 and continuing in the work of the profession until 1895.  Soon after being licensed to practice he made a tour of Europe and upon his return settled in Tarboro, Edgecombe County, where he served as the first solicitor of the County Court.  In 1884 he removed to Rocky Mount and was one of the organizers of the National Bank of Rocky Mount and the Rocky Mount Savings & Trust Company, serving as president of both institutions until their merger with the North Carolina Bank & Trust Company and afterward acting as chairman of the local board of directors.  He assisted in organizing the Rocky Mount Building & Loan Company and the Rocky Mount Insurance & Realty Company, of which he was president, and he long occupied a prominent position in financial circles of the state, being one of the organizers and the first president of the North Carolina Bankers Association in 1896.  Moreover, he was treasurer of the Rocky Mount Cotton Mills and he did everything possible to further the development and upbuilding of the city.

On the 9th day of November, 1887, Mr. Battle was married to Miss Bettie Davis, and they had one son, Kemp D., now an attorney at Rocky Mount.  The wife and mother died in 1890 and on the 23d of October, 1895, Mr. Battle married Sallie Hyman, of Winston-Salem.  Their children were four in number, namely: Hyman L., of Rocky Mount; Annie Lamb, who is deceased; Ethel Hall; and Josephine, a resident of Washington, D. C.  Mrs. Sallie Battle departed this life April 17, 1917, and on the 6th of October, 1920, Mr. Battle wedded Miss Mary Norcom Weddell, daughter of John A. and Laura (McNair) Weddell, of Tarboro, North Carolina.  By this marriage there were two children: Martha Ann, born January 26, 1923; and Mary Thomas, born May 20, 1931.

In the passing of Thomas Hall Battle, Rocky Mount lost a citizen to whom she was deeply indebted.  He not only contributed to the material upbuilding but also to the civic welfare and moral progress of the community.  For years he was chairman of the Rocky Mount school board and for thirty-one years served as councilman and as mayor.  He was also a trustee of the University of North Carolina and during the World War he served as chairman of the district fuel committee and as chairman of the Red Cross.  He was the organizer of the Braswell Memorial Library and he belonged to the Episcopal church, of which he served as vestryman, while his life was always guided by its teachings.  A memorial window in the church was dedicated to him September 26, 1937, and the 5th of November of that year witnessed the unveiling of a portrait of Thomas H. Battle, the cost of which was met by popular subscription among his fellow citizens as an expression of the respect and high esteem in which he was uniformly held.

Transcription from the book, North Carolina, the Old North State and the New, volume IV, written by Archibald Henderson, published in 1941, pages 13-14, found on the website, Hathitrust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org), accessed 12 February 2021.  Photograph from the book, Rocky Mount: the Gateway of Eastern North Carolina, published in 1911, page 94, found on the website, Internet Archive (http://archive.org), accessed 12 February 2021.

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