Remembering William Ronald Ballew, Re-integration Pioneer

Bereans mourn the passing of William Ronald Ballew, one of the first two African American students to “re-integrate” Berea in the post-Day Law era. His funeral service is today, September 30, 2014, in Riverside California.

Mr. Ballew was born the second of nine children to Edgar T. Ballew and Georgia Louise Benton in Richmond, Kentucky, who preceded him in death. He was Valedictorian of his high school class. He entered Berea College in September 1950 where he became a world class track and field athlete. He left Berea College in 1952 to serve 4 years in the U. S. Air Force during the Korean War. He then returned to Berea College to finish his degree in Psychology, graduating in 1958. He also studied at Kentucky State to continue his education in that field. Mr. Ballew retired after working at Douglas/McDonald Douglas/Boeing for 41 years as a Human Resource Specialist.

Survivors include his wife Norma Cowans Ballew of 49 years; his three children DeVonne, Kevin and Thor (Caitlyn) and his adorable granddaughters Kehlan (7) and Seryn (4); one brother George A. Ballew (Alice) and three sisters Sharon L. Ballew, Jacquelyn M. Carpenter (Willie) and Donna E. Ballew, along with numerous nieces, nephews, brother and sister-in-laws, cousins and friends.

The Day Law, introduced in the Kentucky legislature in 1904 by Carl Day of Breathitt County, was targeted at Berea College and was aimed at forcing segregation. Berea College fought the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but lost. The judgment was made in favor of state’s rights. Later, when the Day Law was amended in 1950, the College once again began admitting African-American students, living out its historic interracial commitment.