No Stranger to Making Friends Count
Dick Batchelor, like Blanche DuBois, has always relied on the kindness of strangers, but anyone who knows him will tell you that, with Batchelor, no one remains a stranger for long.
Artists paint. Writers write. Batchelor makes friends. And he persuades those friends to open their hearts—and wallets—for the politicians and causes he supports.
The third of seven children born to a North Carolina tobacco tenant farmer, Batchelor, 65, moved to Orlando at age five and lived in the Reeves Terrace public housing project, and later Orlo Vista. His family never had much money, but he worked odd jobs to buy the stylish clothes that earned him the yearbook senior superlative “Best Dressed” at Evans High School in Pine Hills.
With no plans after high school, he enlisted in the Marines and served in a maintenance battalion near the Vietnamese port city of Da Nang.
“That was during the Tet Offensive,” he recalls. “The Vietnam experience forced me to take a sober look at policy.”
Returning home, Batchelor attended Valencia Community College (now Valencia College) and Florida Technological University (now the University of Central Florida) on the GI Bill and fell in love . . . with politics. He launched the Young Democrats Club at Valencia and quickly gained a reputation for his ability to corral and deploy massive numbers of volunteers for Democratic causes.
He also discovered a talent for matching politicians and causes with money. He took a leadership role in Hubert Humphrey’s second presidential campaign in 1972 and later became one of the youngest people ever elected to the state Legislature (1974-1982). In 1991, he organized the first Florida fundraiser for presidential candidate Bill Clinton, who would later appoint Batchelor to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, an organization that examines trafficking of women and children, child prostitution and use of children as soldiers.
He has always advocated for the “under-represented.” That includes children in need. Since 1981, Batchelor has served as honorary chairman of the “Dick Batchelor Run for the Children,” a charity race that has raised more than a million dollars for children’s groups throughout Central Florida. He continues to advocate for children and other groups, while advising companies, governments and politicians on public policy through the Dick Batchelor Management Group.
“Dick has amazing energy and heart,” says former Orange County Commissioner Linda Chapin. “He remains as committed to his causes and to improving life in our community as when he was a freshman legislator.”
While Batchelor has done much for children and families in Central Florida—he currently is co-chair of a county panel developing strategies to battle domestic violence—he says his greatest accomplishment is his family: wife Andrea and sons Richard, David and Matt. “Coming out of the environment I came from,” he said, “my biggest motivation is having my family be proud of what I do.”