Editor. Ball was born on December 9, 1868, in Laurens County, the son of the attorney Beaufort Ball and Eliza Watts. He attended Adger (preparatory) College at Walhalla and was graduated from South Carolina College in 1887, receiving his LL.D. in 1889. He also attended the summer law school of the University of Virginia. Although he was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1890, he never practiced law. On April 21, 1897, he married Fay Witte. The couple had five children.
Ball, the first editor of the Laurens Advertiser, was also a reporter for the Philadelphia Press and city editor of the Florida Times Union.
He served as editor of the State of Columbia, the Charleston Evening Post, the Greenville News, and the News and Courier of Charleston. During his editorship of the State, from 1913 to 1923, he championed the aging ideals of Bourbon followers of General Wade Hampton and targeted such reformers and populists as Coleman Blease. The controversial and nomadic journalist served as the University of South Carolina’s first journalism dean from 1923 to 1927, when he moved to Charleston. There, as editor of the News and Courier (1927–1951), he relentlessly attacked the Roosevelt administration and the New Deal. He won national recognition for his editorial fight for repeal of Prohibition. In his book, The State That Forgot (1932), Ball was an outspoken critic of democracy. At one time he famously declared, “I love liberty . . . I hate equality.” His biographer John D. Stark described Ball as a “rigid traditionalist” who epitomized “the sort of aristocratic conservatism so often associated with John Randolph of Roanoke.”
Ball received honorary degrees from the University of South Carolina in 1919 and Oglethorpe University in 1937. He retired in January 1951 and died in Charleston on October 14, 1952. He was buried in Magnolia Cemetery.
Ball, William. The State That Forgot: South Carolina’s Surrender to Democracy. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1932.
Holden, Charles J. In the Great Maelstrom: Conservatives in Post–Civil War South Carolina. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002. Stark, John D. Damned Upcountryman: William Watts Ball, a Study in American Conservatism. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1968.