Joseph H. Ball
|Joseph Hurst Ball|
|United States Senator
October 14, 1940 – November 17, 1942
January 3, 1943 – January 3, 1949
|Preceded by||Ernest Lundeen
Arthur E. Nelson
|Succeeded by||Arthur E. Nelson
November 3, 1905|
Crookston, Polk County
|Died||December 18, 1993
Chevy Chase, Maryland
|Alma mater||Antioch College
Eau Claire Normal School
University of Minnesota
Joseph Hurst Ball (November 3, 1905 – December 18, 1993) was a newspaper reporter who became a United States Senator at the age of 35, as the result of an accident. When Minnesota's U.S. Senator Ernest Lundeen was killed in a plane crash on August 31, 1940, Ball was the surprise appointment to fill the unexpired term. Ball went on to win a six-year term of office in his own right in the 1942 election.
Joseph Hurst Ball was born in Crookston, Minneosta, on November 3, 1905, and graduated from high school in 1922. He financed his education at Antioch College by planting corn on borrowed land and held jobs during his two years there as a telephone linesman, a construction worker, and a factory employee. In 1925, he transferred to Eau Claire Normal, and then to the University of Minnesota, but never earned a degree. In 1927, he got a reporting job at the Minneapolis Journal. When he sold a story to a pulp magazine for $50, he quit to become a free lance writer, and spent a year writing paperback fiction before returning to journalism, this time for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In 1934, he became the paper's state political reporter, and befriended assistant county attorney Harold Stassen, a fellow Republican. As a columnist in the Pioneer Press, Ball was critical of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democratic-majority in Congress, but he also opposed isolationism in foreign policy. In the meantime, Stassen was elected governor of Minnesota.
United States Senator
When Senator Lundeen, an isolationist, was killed in a plane crash, Stassen appointed Ball to fill the remaining two years of Lundeen's term. One of the youngest persons ever to become a U.S. Senator, Ball, at thirty-five, was also the first Senator to be required to register for conscription under a law passed in October 1940 by a one-vote margin the United States House of Representatives. After being sworn in on October 14, 1940, Ball stunned his fellow conservatives in his first speech on the Senate floor, calling for the United States to aid Britain as "a barrier between us and whatever designs Hitler and his allies may have on this continent,"
He opposed the New Deal, but he supported Franklin Roosevelt's foreign policy and supported the lend-lease program on March 8, 1941, in spite of letters from his constituents that ran "25 to 1 against the bill". After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, however, Minnesotans came to appreciate their foresighted senator. The change in sentiment was best illustrated by the editorial pages of the Fairmont Daily Sentinel, as quoted in an article in The New Republic. When he had first been appointed, the Sentinel ran an editorial with the headline, "Joe Ball for U.S. Senator! Good God!"; upon Ball's re-election, the Sentinel ran another editorial entitled "Joe Ball for U.S. Senator! Thank God!".
Ball was elected to the Senate in the 1942 election, receiving 47% of the vote against Farmer-Labour, Independent and Democratic opposition. Because Ball's 1940 appointment had been set to expire on the day of the next senatorial election rather than the expiration of Lundeen's term, Ball ceased being Senator on the day that he won a six-year term. Arthur E. Nelson won a special election to fill the remaining two months of Senator Lundeen's original term, and was sworn in on November 17.
Ball then took office again, as a freshman senator on January 3, 1943, and served until January 3, 1949. In 1943, he was one of four Senate sponsors of the bill to establish what would become the United Nations. In the 1944 U.S. presidential election, Ball refused to support Republican nominee Thomas E. Dewey, the governor of New York, and instead crossed party lines to endorse Franklin Roosevelt. Ball denounced Dewey for making his position on foreign policy so unclear that both isolationists and internationalists "could find comfort and support in what he said." Ball's support for Roosevelt, which may have proved critical to victory in Minnesota, won praise from his senatorial colleague Carl Hatch, a New Mexico Democrat, who said that Ball had "placed his country above his party."
Oddly, Ball played the role in 1944 that Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska had done in 1932, when Norris broke with U.S. President Herbert Hoover over domestic policy and instead supported the first election of FDR.
In 1948, Ball was soundly defeated for Senate reelection by Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey of Minneapolis, a 37-year-old liberal Democrat and civil rights advocate. Ball had never stopped writing his column for the Pioneer Press, even during his service in the United States Senate. He therefore returned to the news business and continued to comment on American foreign policy in a newsletter. He worked as an executive in the shipping industry until he retired in 1982, four years after the death of Hubert Humphrey. Ball died in Chevy Chase, Maryland, at the age of 89.
- Joseph H. Ball at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Joseph H. Ball's personal papers are available for research use at the Minnesota Historical Society.
- Current Biography 1943, pp20-23
- "Young Men, 21-35, Register for Draft Today," The Brainerd Daily Dispatch (Brainerd, Minnesota), October 16, 1940, p1
- Current Biography 1943, p. 21
- Id. at p20
- "Minnesota Voters to Polls Tuesday", The Brainerd Daily Dispatch (Brainerd, Minnesota), November 2, 1940, p1
- David M. Jordan, FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944 (Blomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2011), p. 276, ISBN 978-0-253-35683-3
- David Jordan, p. 276
- The Daily Globe (Ironwood, Michigan), December 20, 1993, p. 2