Posted in: Lawyers None, Diversity Committee Spotlight

Creating positive change has been at the forefront of Luther J. Battiste, III’s career as a lawyer and public servant.

As a student at the University of South Carolina, he co-authored the proposal that resulted in creation of the university’s African American Studies program. He was the first African American to graduate from UofSC’s B.A. International Relations program in 1971. After earning his J.D. from Emory University in 1974, he returned to South Carolina to join Johnston, Toal, and Battiste, the first integrated law firm at the partner level in South Carolina since Reconstruction.  

In 1983, Battiste entered the political arena and made history by becoming one of the first two African Americans elected to Columbia City Council since Reconstruction. He served 15 years as a member of the Columbia City Council including two terms as Mayor Pro Tempore. In 1998, the City of Columbia dedicated the Monument and Plaza to Luther J. Battiste, III in honor of his devoted service.

In 2020, he was installed as the national president of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), the first African American in this role. He was admitted to ABOTA in 2000 and has served as a national board member since 2005. He served two terms as national treasurer and was chair or member on a variety of committees and task forces.

In July, Battiste was honored with the National Bar Association’s Civil Trial Advocacy Trial Master Award for his efforts as a trial lawyer and a champion of justice and the American jury system.

“I have tried, in my practice and in my community endeavors, to produce positive change. I hope that my legacy will be of a lawyer who worked hard, practiced law the correct way and who worked to set a positive example for a new generation of lawyers to do good work and be social engineers for positive change,” Battiste said reflecting on his career in this August 2020 Bar News story

Battiste and his wife, Judy, are spearheading the ABOTA Foundation’s Civics Education Literacy Program, which provides free books related to the U.S. Constitution to elementary schools. 

In a statement when he was installed as ABOTA national president, Battiste recognized his mentor, the Hon. Matthew J. Perry, Jr., who served as the first African American U.S. District Judge in South Carolina.

“Judge Perry demonstrated under difficult circumstances that lawyers who practice with skill, civility, and integrity are respected,” Battiste said. “We should continue, as an organization, to stress that in an increasingly intemperate world civility and integrity matter. We must continue the efforts of the ABOTA Foundation to communicate the need for civility among lawyers and to educate our youth through civics education.”