About Joseph H. Ball, U.S. Senator
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, Minnesota 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 President Roosevelt and the Democratic-majority in Congress, but was also an opponent of isolationism. 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 35, was also the first Senator to be required to register for the draft, when a law passed in October 1940. 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," Though he was an opponent of the New Deal, he supported FDR's foreign policy, voting in favor of 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, serving until January 3, 1949. In 1943, he was one of four Senate sponsors of the bill to establish what would become the United Nations. He soundly lost his reelection bid in 1948 to another young Minnesotan, 37 year old Hubert Humphrey. Ball, who had never stopped writing his column for the Pioneer Press, even during his service in the United States Senate, 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 retiring in 1982, and died in Chevy Chase, Maryland at the age of 89.