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  • Writer's pictureJody Ferguson

Robert Ball

Robert Ball, c. 1900

My maternal great grandfather was Robert L. Ball, known for most of his adult life as “Judge Ball.” Ball was a prominent lawyer in San Antonio. He was born in western Missouri during the Civil War and orphaned by the age of six. He was reared by a foster family on a farm and by the time he was sixteen, he had taken a rent on a piece of property in Jackson County, Kansas and worked the land alone. He was able to accumulate enough cash to enroll at the University of Kansas and he finished his studies there in 1880—before the age of twenty. That set the tone for his life. He believed in hard work, and he set the best example.

After reading the law in Galveston, he was admitted to the State of Texas Bar in 1882. He then moved to Colorado City, Texas and became known as the “cowman’s lawyer” for his work with cattlemen. The firm of Ball & Burney was the first general partner for the Cattle Raisers’ Association of Texas. Ball also successfully defended several suspects in noted murder cases. In 1894 he moved to San Antonio, where he began a number of successful business ventures, including serving as the founding chairman of the National Bank of Commerce (which is today known as Bank of America). He was involved in a wide number of civic and public works. Judge Ball was also an active member of the Masonic Lodge of San Antonio, where was one of the leading Masons in all of Texas.

In San Antonio he met and married Ms. Marion Cooke of Washington County, Texas (Brenham) in 1891. They had three daughters, including my grandmother Hallie Ball Dewar. At his funeral in 1940 one of the eulogies read, “Shirking work and responsibility was to him a cardinal sin and he had the utmost contempt for men who sought the easy way. If his generation had not so believed, this country would still be a wilderness.” Ball’s home on the 100 block of East Kings Highway (just off McCullough Avenue; known as “the Avenue of the Cattle Barons”) in San Antonio still stands today.


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