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W.D. Ballard, a 'real force at the capital,' dies at 92
State Sen. Don Ballard of Covington spoke from the Senate Well urging the passage of the Georgia Products Bill. (Previously published in The Covington News on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 1976) - photo by File Photo

Editor's note: Ballard documented his life's work for his family. That documentation was provided to The Covington News for reference on this memorial piece. All quotes from Ballard are directly from that piece. 

OXFORD, Ga. - He helped the community because the community helped him.

In 1949, William Donaldson “W.D.” Ballard earned his bachelor of laws at the University of Georgia and passed the bar examination at the young age of 22. He was a former graduate of Covington High School, class of 1944, and attended North Georgia College and Emory College before earning his undergraduate at UGA.

Previously, Ballard enrolled in the United States Navy, during World War II, from 1944 to 1946.  He was stationed in the Pacific area, aboard the L.S.T. 1076, in preparation for the invasion of Japan. He was trained as an underwater demolitionist - “Amphibs” - to destroy manmade, underwater obstacles. He was between Hawaii and Japan when the war ended.

In 1952, Ballard became a partner with Charles C. King, also known as “Colonel King,” a Covington attorney. 

Ballard served as an attorney for Oxford, for 52 years, Mansfield, for more than 40 years, Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, for 21 years, Covington, Newton County, Porterdale, Newborn, Walnut Grove and Jersey.

Ballard served voluntarily for Oxford, Mansfield and Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, so no fees were assessed.

“I had received great support from my community and wanted to give back,” Ballard said. “Therefore, I volunteered these positions.”

Ballard believed the Authority to be “one of the best-run organizations in this county.” He led the founding of the Authority, both legislatively and creatively. The founding of the organization was first carried out by Otis Spiller, Terry Avery and Oliver Capes.

“During my time with the Authority, I served with fine members, and we put water in all sections of Newton County as well as sewer in the majority,” Ballard said.

In 1957, Ballard was elected into the House of Representatives as the chairman of the highway committee, under Gov. Ernest Vandiver. 

(Previously published in The Covington News on Thursday, Jan. 3, 1957) - photo by File Photo

Ballard was also a member of the Adequate Program for Education in Georgia, a program that provides a financed education structure and ensures each Georgian an educational opportunity.  He was proud of the accomplishments he made as a member of APEG, stating that the program “made great accomplishments for the Georgia School System, including the Head Start Program.”

In the late 1950s, Ballard was a member of Vandiver’s meetings with other chairmen, judges and university personnel to discuss the university’s position as to whether black students should be allowed at UGA. It was decided that the university would be “no Little Rock.”

Ballard was a member of the House of Representatives until 1970 when he was elected into the Senate, as a representative of district 45. He served the areas of Newton, Walton, Rockdale, Morgan, Jasper, Putnam and Barrow. 

In the Senate, he served as the chairman of the secondary education committee, 1970-1971, chairman of the industry, labor and tourism, 1972-1982, and chairman of the Upper Ocmulgee Economic Opportunity Committee, 1976.

“With five reapportionments in 10 years, I prevented Newton, Rockdale, Morgan and Walton from being chopped up into different districts,” Ballard said. “All of the citizens and counties had a strong voice at the capital and faired well even in the weary years.”

In 1979, Ballard was named Legislator of the Year by the Georgia Mental Health Association.

Ballard served under seven governors during his time at the capital: Marvin Griffin, Ernest Vandiver, Carl Sanders, Jimmy Carter, Lester Maddox and George Busbee.

In 2004, Ballard was elected mayor of Oxford, his home. 

It was during Ballard’s first election for mayor that Oxford “had the greatest turnout of voters in more than 40 years,” he said. “I won with 67 percent of the vote, even with two opponents.”

As mayor of Oxford, Ballard created the Citizen Committee, a committee that assisted and advised on city planning. He was able to complete his plans for the city under the committee. His completed plans were: the destruction of the utility and work yard, building of the modern utility system, upgraded city’s equipment and upgraded personnel.

Ballard resigned as mayor after two years, deciding that his tasks were completed and it was time to “get out.”

Ballard had been very involved within the Newton County area, even outside of his political career. He was a member of the North Covington United Methodist Church, for more than 80 years, until it was dissolved. He then became a member of the Allen Memorial United Methodist Church, where he was an active member until his death.

Ballard was a member of the Oxford Lions Club, where he was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award, the highest honor granted. 

“The people of this county and district have been awfully good to me and my family in life and politics,” Ballard said. “They have paid me back tenfold. Nobody owes me anything, rather I owe it to them.”

Ballard passed away Tuesday, July 2, 2019. He was born in Decatur on March 15, 1927 to Robert Hershel “Bob T.” Ballard and Eva Dorminy Ballard, both preceded his death. 

Ballard is survived by his wife, Mary Lillian Ballard, the “love of his life,” married in 1951, and their six children: Rebecca “Becky” Ann Ballard Mask, William Donaldson Ballard, Frankie Jannelle Ballard, Mary Kathryn Ballard Krallman, Thomas Waters Ballard and Susan Kay Ballard. 

Ballard is also survived by his eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Mary Lillian Ballard and William Donaldson "W.D." Ballard. - photo by Submitted Photo

Those who have survived Ballard remember him for his need to help others, thoughtful advice and the love he had for his family.

Rebecca Mask, oldest daughter, remembered the lives that Ballard touched throughout his life, such as this young man, who he put through college. Ballard thought the young man had “a lot of potential” to succeed in life.

“He had six children, but he put seven children through college,” Mask said, believing that to be one of Ballard’s biggest achievements in life.

Melissa Tice, oldest granddaughter, recalled the large amount of cakes and pies Ballard brought home around Christmastime from clients that he helped.

“It was nothing for him when he practiced law,” Tice said. “If you couldn’t pay him, people would bring him food.” She added, “There were more cakes and pies at Christmas.”

Mary Ballard, wife, will always remember the love Ballard had for her over the last 68 years. Ballard wanted Mary to be taken care of, making sure she had everything she needed in life.

“He wanted me to have the best,” she said.

Before Ballard’s death, Mary saw an angel at the side of their bed at 4:08 a.m on Sunday morning. She recalled the angel having blond, shoulder-length hair. The angel told her that “He’s going to be ok” and not to worry about him, adding that she would be coming back in a couple of days to take him home. 

Mary blinked, and the angel was gone. 

Ballard passed away two days later.

“It’s just been amazing to me,” Mary said.

“We were all really at peace,” Mask said. “It was very comforting.”

Denny Dobbs, former state representative and lifelong friend, worked alongside Ballard in the capital. He remembered Ballard being a “real force at the capital.” 

Even though Ballard did not seek public life, Dobbs mentioned that those who survived Ballard are “standing on the shoulders of those people who came before [them], and Don had broad shoulders.”

Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn, of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit and lifelong friend, began working alongside Ballard in the summer of 1974. He remembered Ballard as being a “great family man” and having been very involved in the community. He felt that Ballard had a “tremendous influence” on him and his career, learning from him the importance of treating a client with respect. 

“He had a lot of real practical wisdom that, fortunately, he shared with me,” Ozburn said. “One of the things that impacts me to today is that he talked about the importance of treating your client with respect and letting them know that you genuinely care, not about just their case but about them as an individual.”