Gymnasium and basketball court renaming honors Chapel Hill community leaders

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The Hargraves Community Center indoor sports hall and basketball court were renamed in honor of longtime community leaders from the historic Northside community in Chapel Hill.

The center’s Northside Gym is dedicated in honor of Nate Davis, while the indoor basketball court is renamed in honor of Fred Battle.

Both men served as directors of the Hargraves Center. Davis held the position for more than three decades until his retirement in 2019, while Battle held the position from 1970 to 1987.

Chapel Hill City Council unanimously approved the name change last Wednesday on the recommendation of the city’s naming committee.

John French, the recreation supervisor at Hargraves, said Davis and Battle had had a positive impact on countless young people in the community.

“These two gentlemen are synonymous with Hargreaves,” French told the board last week. “Their acts of humanity have not only benefited the African American community for generations to come, but the entire town of Chapel Hill has benefited from their service.”

The Hargraves Community Center on North Roberson Street has served many purposes since its construction in the early 1940s.

“B-1 Band, African American Navy Band assigned to Chapel Hill, 1942-1945.” (Photo via ‘Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of College History.’)

The building was home to the B-1 Navy Band, a group of black musicians stationed in Chapel Hill during World War II who were the first to break the Navy color barrier. Civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Hargraves Center in May 1960. Over the decades, the center has served as a center of community life for the historically black neighborhood of Northside.

In addition to their work at Hargraves, Davis and Battle were tireless civil rights advocates.

Nate Davis is a longtime member of the NAACP, served on several city and county councils, and received the Cal Horton Employee of the Year Award with the City of Chapel Hill in 2011.

French said he saw Davis’ impact in the community firsthand.

“Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t come back and talk about how Mr. Davis impacted his life,” he said. “And I will say he had an impact on mine.”

Battle, who died in 2019, was a life member of the NAACP and an active member of the 1960s civil rights movement. Battle attended Lincoln High School in Chapel Hill and graduated with the class of 1962.

Battle’s name is expected to join the names of other key community figures carved in granite at the Peace and Justice Plaza. Following council members’ vote Wednesday on the name change, Chapel Hill Library Director Susan Brown said the city plans to add Battle’s name in the fall.

Photo via Steve Rankin/OpenOrangeNC.org.


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