Mark Battle (1924 – 2011)

mark battle

The NASW Family wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to the family of Mark Battle as we are greatly saddened by the loss of this great social work pioneer. We want to acknowledge his loving wife, NASW Social Work Pioneer® Evelyn Kays-Battle, and extend our deepest sympathies to her and their family. We join a host of friends, colleagues, students, and fellow social workers in remembering and celebrating Mark Battle.

As Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers, Mark Battle demonstrated a pioneering leadership which stimulated the organization and the social work profession to broader areas of social concerns. He was a social worker, educator, consultant, businessman and former government official. Throughout his career, he blended expertise in management and labor issues with social work skills and knowledge. Battle served as the Executive Director of NASW from June 1984 to June 1992.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 1:00 pm at the Cosmos Club, 2121 Mass. Ave, NW, Washington, DC. If you plan to attend, please RSVP with the names of all attendees to Elizabeth Cox at




    MARK BATTLE was a man I admired since I met him as a young social work educator from Virginia Commonwealth University in the early 1970s. Mark agreed to serve as a field instructor for a student from VCU who was placed at the NASW office in the newly created legislative office known as ELAN. We met at his office at Howard University as I recall. He was welcoming of me, a relative neophyte to evaluating field experiences and the competency of students in community organizing. He was one of those rare social work leaders/educators I have met over the years who was able to set high standards for people whether students, staff, colleagues, volunteers, and at the same time be an advocate and support them.

    Over the years we became colleagues, even friends, as I was becoming active in NASW and he was a leader carrying a range of major responsibilities with our professional association and beyond. I watched his engaging leadership style and interacted with him as I assumed different appointed and elected national positions. I always felt that he listened intently (an essential skill of social workers) and also respectfully disagreed when it was called for. He put forth creative solutions to problems—sometimes going against the tide of the majority.

    Mark seemed indestructible to me. Ever optimistic and charming, and forever engaged in building our profession which he clearly loved. Even as I saw him become physically weaker, he never lost his warmth and smile. He always asked me how I was doing and how my projects were making a difference. And that’s how I remember my last encounter with him a year or so ago—and always will.

  2. I had the privilege of meeting with Mark Battle on many occasions for over 20 years. He was always the source of wise counsel and vision–and of wonderful songs. For example, he assisted the California Chapter to in funding for its unlikely projects on institutional racism and on occupational social work. He actively supported the work of the initial national Council on Clinical Social Work. It was my pleasure to serve on the Board of Directors when he was appointed Executive Director. My deepest sympathies to Evelyn and family. He continues to represent the best of Social Work and NASW for me.

  3. I was fortunate to work with Mark Battle in many different capacities and points in time. It will be difficult to think about any social work issue — organizational or substantive — without hearing his always thoughtful, wise, and positive views. Mark was a true “visionary” leader. He did not think small and got us to reach along with him. Mark never flinched from a fair and necessary fight, and he prevailed in many of them. His spirit, determination, humor, and deep humanity must remain with us.

  4. I was very saddened by Mark’s death. He was a true friend and supported. Even though I had not seen him for many years, when I thought about NASW, I remember his enthusiasm, persistence, leadership and humor…My most sincere condolences to the family.

    Emilia E. Martinez-Brawley
    John F. Roatch Distinguished Professor and Professor of Social Work
    School of Social Work, College of Public Programs
    Arizona State University

  5. In Memory of Mark Battle

    Back in the 80s when I ran the California State University, Long Beach School of Social Work, I learned that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was to appear at a local church. Anxious to take advantage of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates proximity to the university, I inquired and found that I needed funding to create the speaking event on campus. I contacted Mark, and through NASW, he provided half of the funds, and the university provided the other half. Mark flew in for the event to represent the association and to help out; it was a highly successful partnership, one that I look back upon quite fondly.

    Mark was a great visionary and he was someone I could go to for wise counsel. It was my honor and pleasure to know and work with Mark Battle, and I will miss him very much.

    Jim Kelly

    James J. Kelly, PhD
    President, Menlo College
    Immediate Past President, NASW

  6. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Battle in 1990. He was truly a wonderful gentleman and a passionate Social Worker. His service to NASW will always be honored and cherished. My heart goes out to Mark’s family and friends, as well as our Social Work colleagues whose lives and careers were blessed by him. Social Work is a better profession today thanks to his great work.

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