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Mark Battle (1924 - 2011)



Mark Battle, as Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers, 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. During his tenure, the membership of NASW grew from 96,000 to more than 143,000.  NASW also grew in complexity and in political strength.

Battle joined NASW in June 1984 after leaving his post as professor of Social Service Management at Howard University School of Social Work, where he was also chairman of the Department of Macro Specializations. Earlier he had served as Administrator of Work Training Programs of the US Department of Labor's Manpower Administration. He was appointed to this post by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In this position, he guided a complex series of programs including the Neighborhood Youth Corps, New Careers, Operation Mainstream, Work Incentive Program, On the Job Training, and other special programs.

After leaving the Department of Labor, Battle formed a consultant firm in which he provided management consultation services to a number of federal agencies including St. Elizabeth's Hospital, the President's Advisory Council on Executive Organization, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He also served on several national committees including membership in the Cabinet Division of Social Policy and Action, and the National Committee on Function, Structure and Operations Review.

Battle received a bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in Social Service Administration from Case Western Reserve University. He was the recipient of the James M. Yard Brotherhood Award given by the National Council of Christian and Jews and the Youth Service award of the US Employment Service.

Battle was a supporter of high quality in social work practice and education and promoted basic practice standards in his work with various agencies. At the same time was open to innovation and new approaches both to organizational entities and policies as well as service objectives and methodologies. He was particularly effective in inter-organizational liaisons and planning. As Executive Director of NASW he placed a high priority on developing close relationships with other professional voluntary organization as well as government agencies; a notable example was his work with the other mental health organizations in the Joint Commission on Interprofessional Affairs.

Battle's innate political acumen and sense of values were reflected in his achievement of an increased clout in governmental affairs for the social work profession and for NASW. He made being a social worker a matter of pride.

Mark worked closely with Ruth Knee to create the NASW Social Pioneer Program to honor members of the social work profession who have contributed to the evolution and enrichment of the profession.  He stepped down as Founding Co-chair of the Pioneer Steering Committee in 2010. 

Following his retirement from NASW, Battle taught at the University of Maryland and continued his social policy consultation activities and organizational management. He also continued to write poetry, entertain with his singing, play poker, and cook remarkable chili.

"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."