First Black county commissioner in Cook County, Georgia, dies

Willie Batchelor taught for 30 years before launching his career as the first Black commissioner in Cook County and eventually retiring from the position.

The first Black county commissioner in south-central Georgia’s Cook County has died at 89.

According to WALB News 10, Willie Batchelor held several titles throughout his career, including athlete, coach and driver’s education teacher. He also belonged to the NAACP.

“He has always been that guy to serve the community,” said Batchelor’s daughter, Stephanie Evans. “So, while he was daddy to me, he was also such an integral part to a lot of people in the community.”

Willie Batchelor, the first Black commissioner in Cook County, Georgia, has died at 89. (Photo: Screenshot/ News 10)

Batchelor was an outstanding athlete at Brooks County Training School, where he played on three state championship teams in football and track, according to his obituary from Stevens-McGhee Funeral Home.

After high school, he earned health education and biology degrees from Savannah State University. While at Savannah State, he set the pole vault record at the National Relays at Tuskegee University.

He launched his professional career as a teacher at Cook County Training School, where he also coached wrestling, track, girls basketball, and football; one of his students went on to play in the NFL.

Batchelor retired from teaching after 30 years yet remained determined to make a greater impact in his community — launching his tenure as Cook County’s first Black commissioner. The community reelected him repeatedly between 1985 and 2006, and he eventually retired from the position.

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The county named the Public Works facility in Cook County in his honor, marking yet another first for an African American in the area.

“He wasn’t just a hero of the Word; he was a doer of the Word,” Evans said of her father, according to WALB. “So, he was always involved and active and just wanted to be present. He was always a good listener — always wanted to make sure people were seen, as well as heard.”

In addition to his daughter, Batchelor is survived by his wife of 60 years, Julia Batchelor; his son-in-love, Lonnie B. Evans; three grandchildren, Christian, Chandler and Lauren Evans; four sisters; two goddaughters; and several nieces, nephews and extended family members, according to Stevens-McGhee.

“A lot of people believe that celebrities and athletes come from the city, but here in South Georgia, we have examples like Coach Batchelor that prove that you don’t have to be from a huge or a large city,” said funeral director Delphanie McGhee, WALB reported. “You can be from a small town, and your athleticism and your talents will prove themselves, if you believe in yourself.”

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