U-1098 Interview with Joseph Battle

Reverend Joseph Battle is pastor of the 136-year-old Quankey Missionary Baptist congregation. He was born at home in 1951 near Roanoke Rapids, N.C. and grew up about four miles south on a farm where his grandfather sharecropped. His other grandfather broke out of the sharecropping system by working nights and eventually buying his own farm. Rev. Battle recalled starting his schooling at a Rosenwald school in the community, and he mentioned Mr. Turner Battle, a vocational teacher in high school, as an important positive influence during his school years. After graduating in Halifax County, Rev. Battle went to work for New York Telephone and Telegraph in 1969 in computer operations. He moved to Richmond, Va., in 1972 to work for Reynolds Metals, and then came home to Roanoke Rapids in 1974 to work for the J.P. Stevens textile manufacturer. He was the first African-American manager in computer operations for that company’s plants in Roanoke Rapids, and he went on to work there for the next twenty-five years. Rev. Battle became a manager at the company whom people trusted to share their problems and grievances with, as they felt he listened well and understood their perspectives. At J.P. Stevens, a credit union was established for employees in 1984, and Rev. Battle became a member. He went on to serve on the credit union’s board and became chairman, with a strong commitment to helping credit union members received the loans they needed, rather than looking for reasons to turn them down. After Stevens closed its plants, the credit union continued as Industrial Credit Union, and eventually merged into Generations Community Credit Union. Rev. Battle was shaped in his views about credit unions by negative experiences with traditional banks, such as the time he sought a loan in the 1970s for $700 and was turned down by a bank where he had been a customer for many years. His father was a role model in that he always sought to do the right things, and as a Baptist and a pastor, Rev. Battle feels the Lord has guided him throughout his life. This interview was one of several interviews conducted by the SOHP for a project on the history of minority credit unions in North Carolina.

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