Member Spotlight

Grace & Lamar Battles

The lightening flashed, the thunder roared, and Lamar Battles was saved

It took a bolt of lightening for Lamar Battles to turn his heart over to Jesus.

“It was in 1946, and I was 15 years old,” recalls the 92-year-old. “Me and a cousin were shooting fish on Canoe Creek. I was leaning against a tree and a storm came up. The tree was struck by lightning.”

The bolt split the tree and knocked Lamar out. His eyes rolled back in his head, and when he came to he was face down on the edge of the creek bank, feeling numb all over. “My dog was licking me on the face,” he says. “I had burned spots on my belt and on my rear end. There was an old barn nearby, about half a mile away. I was crawling through a field to get to it when a storm came up. That’s when I accepted Christ.” He had been attending FBC because Grace Langston went there. He joined soon after his conversion.

Born in January and November 1931, respectively, Lamar and Grace Battles live on U.S. 231 between Ashville and I59. They’re right across the road from where Lamar and his four siblings were raised on their family’s 1,000-acre farm. The property where the Battles now live was once part of that farm. “Granddad’s house is still there on Sanders Drive, but it’s covered in siding,” Lamar says. His dad, Fred, ran a grocery store and filling station, Battles Grocery, just a short way up the road. He was also an inferior judge for two terms. “That’s the same position Alan Furr has now, but they’ve changed the title to district judge,” Lamar explains.

The Battles Farm was mostly timberland, but they also raised 75 acres of corn, 20 acres of cotton and 15 acres of peanuts, the latter for the government during WWII. “We raised four acres of watermelons where Lyman Lovejoy lives now,” Lamar says. “We sold syrup we made from ribbon cane, and made crossties that we sold to the railroad.”

Grace's roots in Ashville aren’t quite as deep. The 91-year-old was born in Mississippi. She, too, was one of five children. Her family moved to Ashville when she was four so her father could teach vocational agriculture at Ashville High School. “My daddy was a deacon at FBC and played a big part in the church,” she says. “He was superintendent of Ashville schools for four years. His name was D.O. Langston, as in Langston Park.” She accepted Christ when she was 12 at FBC, the only church where she has ever been a member.

Known as Rooney among his friends, Lamar grins widely as he tells how he got that nickname. Eyes crinkling as they always do when he smiles, he says a childhood friend started teasing him about being sweet on a girl whose last name was Rollins. (He still swears he wasn’t.) Nevertheless, the young friend started calling him Rooney Rollins, then shortened that to Rooney. Other friends picked up on it, but his family still calls him Lamar.

He played baseball and basketball at Ashville High School, and was offered a football scholarship to Livingston State Teachers College (now the University of West Alabama). He turned it down because he was tired of school. “I was just finishing Snead Junior College when I got drafted into the Army,” he says. “When I got to Alaska, they sent me to school again, to learn to be a radio operator. I didn’t pass because I was not interested.” He served in the infantry instead. “I stayed two years, including 19 months in Alaska,” he says. “Then I came back and worked 38 years at Hayes International.”

He got home in November 1953, and he and Grace were married in January 1954. She had graduated from Jacksonville State University and was teaching second grade. Other than one year in Springville, she spent her career at Ashville Elementary. She retired at age 55 because, after 33 years in education, “I was just ready.”

Both have served in various capacities at FBC. Grace taught Grades 1 and 2 in Sunday School for many years, and Lamar was a deacon.

The couple has two children, Jenny and Rod. Jenny taught first grade and was FBC’s organist for many years. Rod works with drug and alcohol rehabilitation, now at West Alabama Mental Health in Jasper. Between them, they’ve given Grace and Lamar six grandchildren.

Since retiring, the Battles have traveled extensively by boat, car, plane and motorhome. “We’ve been to every state except Hawaii,” Lamar says. “We’ve been all over the West. “

“Two of my cousins went with us to Nova Scotia by motorhome,” Grace says. We’ve also cruised the East Coast, Alaska and the Caribbean.”

“We drove all the way to Hyder, Alaska, which is the southern-most place you can get to by car,” says Lamar. “Then we got on a ferryboat (with their car).” Nowadays, they read a lot and watch sports programs on television. “If there’s a game on TV, I watch it,” Lamar says.

“I like Christian and historical novels,” says Grace. “I’m between books right now.” Rooney is reading through the Bible again. He finished the Book of Job in early June.

Except for their day trips with Jenny, their traveling life is over. “We don’t go anywhere now except to church and the doctor’s office,” Lamar says. — By Elaine Hobson Miller