Bobby Battle, a former inmate whose 1972 lawsuit led to desegregation and landmark reforms in Oklahoma prisons, died this week at the age of 80.
“Bobby is an unsung hero. He had the guts to stand up and do the right thing,” said Stephen Jones, the lead attorney on the lawsuit.
In 1970, Battle watched as a 275-pound officer pulled a small inmate out of a disciplinary hearing, kicked him and struck him with a tear gas gun. After filing a complaint with the warden at Oklahoma State Penitentiary that May, Battle was sent to a sub-basement known as the “dungeon.”
When the Oklahoma City native, who had a sixth-grade education, emerged two months later, he began researching and writing a lawsuit that would be deliberated for three decades and change the state’s penal system forever.