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University History

Appendix 3: Biographies of Proposed Names

Luther Battiste III

Reasons for Naming

  • Attended the University of South Carolina, managed campaign of first Black student body president, helped found the African American Studies Program
  • First Black undergraduate from the international studies program
  • One of the first African Americans elected to Columbia city council since Reconstruction
  • South Caroliniana Library has his papers
  • First Black president of the American Board of Trial Advocates, first Black president of the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association, first Black president of RIchland County Bar Association


Luther Battiste III (1949-Present)

By Jessica Allison

Luther James Battiste III was born on July 21, 1949, in Orangeburg, South Carolina, to Mildred Beatty Battiste and Luther Battiste Jr. Battiste graduated from Wilkinson High School in 1967 and decided to attend the University of South Carolina. 

While at South Carolina, Battiste got involved with the University Union Lecturers Committee which working to bring Muhammad Ali, Julian Bond, Dick Gregory and others to campus. Battiste served as the campaign manager for Harry L. Walker, the first African American student body president. During his junior year, Battiste lobbied and co-authored the proposal for the African American Studies Program. He was also named to Who’s Who Among Colleges and Universities as a senior. In 1971, Battiste became the first African American to graduate with a B.A. in international studies from USC. He received his juris doctorate degree in 1974 from Emory University Law School. Battiste was involved in the Black American Law Students Association, Dean Selection Committee of the Law School and Student Government Association during his time at Emory. 

After graduating from Emory, Battiste moved back to Columbia and became an associate for I.S. Leevy Johnson. Battiste is currently founding shareholder of Johnson, Toal and Battiste PA in Columbia. Johnson, Toal, and Battiste PA was founded in 1975 by Battiste with I.S. Leevy Johnson and William Toal. 

In 1983, Battiste and E.W. Cromartie II became the first African Americans elected to the Columbia City Council since Reconstruction. Battiste went on to serve fifteen years on the Columbia City Council and two terms as Mayor Pro Tem while he was in office. Over the years, Battiste has served in various leadership roles throughout Columbia and South Carolina. He was the first African American president of the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association and Richland County Bar Association. In addition, he has served on the Richland/Lexington County Airport Commission, Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Columbia Lawyers Association, National Board of Trial Advocates, South Carolina Bank and Trust boards, and the University Associates at the University of South Carolina. In January 2020, Battiste was sworn in as the first African American president of the American Board of Trial Advocates. 



South Carolina African American History Calendar. “Luther J. Battiste, III, Esq.” South Carolina Department of Education

“Biographical Note.” Luther James Battiste, III Papers. South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, South Carolina

University History

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