About Dr. L. Heisler Ball, U.S. Senator
Dr. Lewis Heisler Ball (September 21, 1861 – October 18, 1932) was an American physician and politician from Mill Creek Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, near Stanton. He was a member of the Republican Party, who served as U.S. Representative from Delaware and two terms as U.S. Senator from Delaware. He was known by his middle name.
Early life and family
Ball was born in Mill Creek Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, son of John Ball and Sarah (Baldwin) Ball. He attended the Rugby Academy at Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the Delaware College at Newark, Delaware in 1882. He received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia in 1885 and began the practice of medicine at Brandywine Springs, near Wilmington in 1887. He married Katherine Springer Justis on November 14, 1893.
The Addicks Era
At the turn of the twentieth century Delaware was going through a political transformation. Most obvious to the public was the bitter division in the Republican Party caused, in part, by the ambitions of J. Edward Addicks for a seat in the U.S. Senate. A gas company industrialist, he spent vast amounts of his own fortune to build a Republican Party, with that purpose in mind. Largely successful in heavily Democratic Kent County and Sussex County, he financed the organization of a faction that came to be known as "Union Republicans". Meanwhile he was making bitter enemies of the New Castle County "Regular Republicans", many of whom considered him nothing more than a carpetbagger from Philadelphia.
Ball was a Regular Republican, and an outspoken opponent of Addicks. As such he was elected State Treasurer of Delaware from 1899 to 1901. He was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1900. During this term, he served with the Republican majority in the 57th Congress from March 4, 1901 until March 3, 1903. This was during the administrations of U.S. Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1899, one of the U.S. Senate seats came open and the Union Republicans in the Delaware General Assembly were committed to electing Addicks. Without the votes to do so, they were able to block the election of anyone else. As a result, one of Delaware's U.S. Senate seats remained vacant for four years, and when the other came open, it too was left vacant due to the deadlock. Finally, in 1903, the matter became national news and too much of an embarrassment to continue. Addicks relented and allowed Ball to be elected to the remaining two years left on the first seat and Addicks' lieutenant, J. Frank Allee was elected to the second seat.
United States Senator
Accordingly, Ball was elected to the U.S. Senate on March 2, 1903, and served the remaining two years of the term with the Republican majority in the 58th Congress. But the controversy was not over. In 1905, when Ball's term ended, the General Assembly again deadlocked and it took another two years to fill the seat. In the meantime, Addicks suffered major business setbacks and ceased to be a political factor. Regardless, the repeated inability of the Delaware General Assembly to fulfill this constitutional duty contributed strong evidence throughout the nation of the need for the Seventeenth Amendment providing for the popular election of U.S. Senators.
Several years later, in the second popular election of a U.S. Senator in Delaware, Ball was again elected to the U.S. Senate, this time in 1918, defeating incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Willard Saulsbury, Jr. During this term, Ball served with the Republican majority in the 66th, 67th and 68th U.S. Congress. In the 66th Congress he was chairman of the Committee on Enrolled Bills and in the 67th and 68th Congress he was a member of the Committee on the District of Columbia. He was also appointed as a member of the rent commission of Washington. Ball's actions with the rent commission angered some people. In August 1921, a shot was fired at Ball as he drove in an automobile, although he was not injured. The senator had received a threatening letter the day of the assault.
In June 1919 he cast his vote in favor of the Nineteenth Amendment providing for Women's suffrage. Despite this, a year later, when Delaware had the opportunity to be the 36th and decisive state to ratify the amendment and make it law, supporters in the General Assembly failed to get the needed votes and the honor passed to Tennessee.
Ball was never considered an especially effective U.S. Senator in terms of gaining patronage for Delaware. However, he ensured his eventual defeat by becoming a rival of T. Coleman du Pont, the former President of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, and the effective leader of the Republican Party in Delaware. Du Pont had hoped to be the Republican candidate for U.S. President in 1920, but his efforts began to collapse when Ball deserted him after the first ballot at the 1920 Republican National Convention. Then, in 1922, Ball failed to support du Pont as he sought a full term in the U.S. Senate himself. By 1924 du Pont thought he had a score to settle and defeated Ball for their party’s nomination for a full term in 1924.
In all Ball served two separate terms, the first from March 4, 1903 until March 3, 1905, during the administration of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and the second from March 4, 1919 to March 3, 1925, during the administrations of U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
Death and legacy
Ball died at Faulkland, near Wilmington, and is buried in the St. James Episcopal Church Cemetery at Mill Creek Hundred, near Stanton.