Longtime Fixture in Baltimore’s Sandtown Community Passes Away at 75

Minister John Battle died peacefully in his sleep and awoke to be with the Lord on Sunday, May 27, 2018. Just days before his unexpected death, the long-time Master Barber shared that he had dreamed that his late father Deacon Johney B. Battle was reading his “Big Bible” to him. On May 27, 2018, the same day as Deacon Johney Battle’s birthday, the father and son were reunited in Heaven. Minister Battle is the father of Baltimore Times Staff Writer and Playwright, Ursula V. Battle.

The viewing for Minister Battle was held on Thursday, June 7, 2018 from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Howell Funeral Home, located at 4600 Liberty Heights Avenue in Gwynn Oak, MD. Homegoing Services will take place on Friday, June 8, 2018, 11 a.m. at New Rehoboth Baptist Church, 6318 Windsor Mill Road in Gwynn Oak, MD.

Minister Battle, who was affectionately called “Mr. John,” and “Uncle John,” was born on December 29, 1942 in Blakely, Ga. to the late Deacon Johney B. Battle and the late Jimmie Lee Collins. He was one of seven children: Rose B. Lindsay, Johney B. Battle and Roy Walker who preceded him in death, Josie Celistan, (New Orleans, La.) Essie Mae Brown (Baltimore, MD), and Dartha Mae Battle (Baltimore, MD).

In 1958, Minister Battle graduated from Washington High School in Blakey, Ga. at the age of 16. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Baltimore, MD where he enrolled at Apex Beauty School and completed his studies in Barbering. In 1965, he married Vashtied M. Stokes, daughter of the late New Hope Baptist Church Pastor and Founder Dr. William Nelson Stokes and First Lady Vashtied Stokes.

Minister Battle soon began cutting hair with the late Pastor William Rivers (New Bethlehem Baptist Church) at Rivers Barber Shop on Riggs Avenue. In 1969, he branched out on his own, and opened Battle’s Barber Shop at 1001 N. Mount Street in Sandtown/Winchester (across from Phil’s Bar). Battle’s Barber Shop would become one of the city’s most successful, well-known, black-owned businesses. It was also among the city’s most entertaining. Anyone who had a haircut and shave there knew an enjoyable time always waited at Battle’s Barber Shop. The trash-talking among barber and customers, and the photo collage of family and friends that hung on the wall, are fond memories that will never be forgotten.

In his “heyday”, the self-made entrepreneur who came to Baltimore with little more than the clothes on his back, owned a successful barbershop, a carry out, snowball stand, and houses. However, he did not keep his prosperity to himself – he shared it with others. The people he helped financially, with shelter, and other means, would be too numerous to count. He helped everyone. He also mentored several other barbers.

After losing Battle’s Barber Shop in a fire, he worked at other barbershops, which included L&B Unisex on N. Bentalou Street, Metro Esquire at Mondawmin Mall, and most recently Mark’s Barber Shop on Edmondson Avenue. The Master Barber’s career spanned 60 years.

He retired two years ago following eye surgery at the age of 73. He cut several generations of hair and was known all over Baltimore. Everywhere he went someone would say, “Hey Mr. John you remember me? You used to cut my hair.”

While he loved cutting hair, his greatest love was his personal relationship with God. He was a member of New Life Fellowship in Pikeville, MD (Pastor Edward Ferguson). Minister Battle loved reading and preaching the Word of God. He received his Certificate of Ordination from Pilgrim Christian Baptist Church on October 8, 1999.

Over the years, he served as a faithful shepherd in God’s Kingdom. He was an Associate Pastor at Christ Temple Church under the late Pastor Levester Waddy. Other church affiliations included New Bethlehem Baptist Church, First Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, and Grace Memorial Baptist Church. In addition to his constant reading of God’s Word, one of his favorite pastimes was watching Shepherd’s Chapel with Pastor Arnold Murray every weekday at 5:30 a.m.

Minister Battle was witty, wisecracking, and funny. Back in the day, the popular barber loved buying new Cadillacs with white-wall tires, which he always kept pristine. A handsome man and dapper dresser, he stayed as sharp as his razor with his suits, shoes, hats and manicured nails.

Minister Battle leaves to mourn his children: Ursula V. Battle, LaTonya (Toni) M. Battle-White, Tyiese (Moonie) M. Battle, Jonita G. Battle, Shantel Washington and John (Lil’ John) Battle, Jr.; 14 grandchildren: TaKisha, Devin, Michael (Man), KaNeisha (Pumpkin), Vashtied (Girly), Jermaine, Lania, Mark, Marquis, Asha, Joy’Day (Joy), Linnard, Lynnya, and Skylar; two great-grandchildren: Keon and Tyler; close friend “Miss Doris”, and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.