Longtime OWU Politics & Government Professor Ben Arneson challenged his students to prepare for lives of public service by asking them to sign cards that became known as the Arneson Pledge. The cards stated: “With a view to serving the public interest and regardless of the nature of my future vocation I pledge that, upon leaving college, I will devote a portion of my time to active and definite participation in public affairs.”
One of the firmest adherents to that pledge was William G. Batchelder III ’64. Batchelder, who died in February—on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday—devoted his life to helping Ohio become stronger, smarter, and better.
Bill Batchelder was first elected to the Ohio House of Representatives just five years after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan. At the time, he was the youngest state representative in Ohio history.
After 38 years of serving his district, with a brief pause to serve as an appellate judge, he left as speaker of the Ohio House in December of 2014, saying, “I’ll miss most the idea of being able to change things in a way that makes us a stronger, better state, that gives our children better opportunity to have a good education.”
He did it with conviction, compassion, keen intelligence, oratorical flair, and an unrivaled understanding of the legislative process. Former Ohio Governor Bob Taft called him “a lawmaker’s lawmaker.”
Governor Mike Dewine called him “a pillar of the Ohio House of Representatives.” He added, “Bill was a consummate legislator who helped me as we passed a drunk driving bill in 1982 for which I will always be grateful. I have sought his advice many times over the years. He was a Ronald Reagan Republican—a classic conservative whose guiding principle was freedom.
His dedication to conservative principles was so strong that early in his career he became a charter member of the conservative faction of House Republicans known as the “Caveman Caucus.” His early mentors included John Ashbrook and Robert A. Taft.
Nevertheless, Batchelder worked with colleagues across the aisle to pass legislation with bipartisan support and tackle complex problems.
One of the most daunting of those challenges occurred in 1985, when Cincinnati-based Home State Savings Bank collapsed, placing Ohio’s entire savings and loan industry at risk and threatening the savings of hundreds of thousands of depositors.
Democratic Gov. Richard F. Celeste, knowing Batchelder’s grasp of the complexities of the Ohio Deposit Guarantee Fund, appointed him to the team developing solutions. Celeste said Batchelder used his intelligence to understand the complex problem and his wisdom to pull people together for a solution. As a result of the legislative solutions, Ohio lost no money during the crisis.
Speaking to the Columbus Dispatch, Celeste said, “He was a stalwart in the House in fashioning a bipartisan solution. No member worked harder on the House side than Bill Batchelder.”
He served as speaker of the Ohio House during his final four years in office.
After serving in the minority party during his first 26 years in the House, he was determined as speaker to provide bipartisan leadership. He ensured that all representatives had an opportunity to speak on pending legislation, and he restored the practice of allowing amendments to be offered on the floor of the House by either side prior to a vote.
While he was speaker, he also returned to Ohio Wesleyan in February 2012 to address students and the entire university community at Mock Convention. He urged students to engage in the political process throughout their lives.
Professor Emeritus of Politics & Government William Louthan, who has been the parliamentarian at every Mock Convention since 1972, says, “It is always a great experience for students because ‘real world’ politicians participate. Batchelder played that role to perfection in 2012. His enthusiastic involvement brought the whole room to life.”
Bill and his classmate and future wife, Alice Moore Batchelder ’64, met at OWU. She also has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in public service, serving as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the U.S. 6th Circuit since 1991. They have two adult children, William G. Batchelder IV and Elisabeth Akers, and eight grandchildren.