Official honored for his service
Dentistry was a natural career fit for Bill Battle, following in his father’s footsteps while growing up in Etowah [McMinn County].
Though Battle was a quarterback for Etowah High School in the early 1950s, football officiating wasn’t a natural career fit.
Eventually, however, dentistry and officiating would go side-by-side for Battle, a Farragut resident, in Etowah, Oklahoma and West Knox County for 55 years.
“It came out of nowhere in 1959. … I didn’t want to do it at all because I didn’t know anything about officiating,” said Battle, honored for 55 years as a highly respected high school and college football offi-cial/supervisor. Battle was one of 10 inductees into Greater Knoxville Hall of Fame, Class of 2016, in Knoxville Convention Center Tuesday evening, July 26.
“I had just got back from dental school, and hadn’t been home but a couple of days, when the head supervisor [of officials] down in Etowah stopped me in the street and said, ‘Well you’re back.
“I need a football official,’” Battle added. “I said, ‘Bob [Deal] I haven’t even picked up a football in years.’
“… But he talked me into it. Handed me a uniform and sent me up to Knoxville the next day. I went to one meeting and I was in a ballgame. It was in Ellijay, Ga., a varsity high school game.”
Later in 1959, Battle opened up his dental practice in Knoxville. “I worked with Jack Key up here, he was the supervisor of officials. He gave me two or three games and I was tickled to death,” Battle, a member of Knoxville Football Officials Association Hall of Fame, said. “Then the Army got me for two years. I was an Army dentist at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.”
A “neighbor next door” in Oklahoma, a football official, happened to be talking to Battle one day. “… A week later I was working games out in Okla-homa,” he said.
Working his first-ever games as a referee while in Oklahoma, “I worked out there for two years at the high school level,” Battle said before returning to Knox County, this time West Knox, and opening a dental practice in 1964.
Reflecting on the ceremony, “It’s a honor. I’m at a loss of words sometimes to say how much it means to me.
“I had a chance to meet some men tonight that I hadn’t seen in years,” Battle said.
“I enjoyed all the years of officiating. It was fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said.
Dr. William Rose was one of the first people there to congratulate Battle, dental school colleagues and friends dating back to the late 1950s, after the ceremony.
“I love Bill, he’s very amicable. A dependable person. His word was always his bond,” Rose said. “The coaches whose teams have been officiated by Bill and his crew always had good words to say about Bill Battle.
“A real gentleman, a great dentist a great friend and a great official.”
Tommy Schumpert, another of the 10 inductees as a championship baseball and football coach at Central High School, had kind words for his fellow class members as inductee spokesman during the ceremony.
“A great official but a greater person,” Schumpert, a former Knox County executive, said of Battle. “A true Southern gentleman. … I know that coach Battle has helped a lot of young officials and also helped a lot of young coaches learn the rules. And I was one of them.”