Reginald Ballard Sr., the youngest of two sons, was born in Los Angeles, California to Dr. Claudius and Mrs. May Lee Ballard on November 21, 1924. He was a fourth generation Angeleno following father Dr. Claudius, grandfather William, and great-grandfather John Ballard, the first Black landowner in the east Santa Monica mountains.
Reginald, affectionately known as Reggie, matriculated through the L.A. school system attending Foshay and Berendo Junior High Schools, and Los Angeles Polytechnic High School, graduating in the midst of World War II. A friend encouraged Reggie to take a placement test for the Army Air Corps. At the time, Black men in the Army and Navy were relegated to nothing more than cooks or other support/service roles. After passing the test and enlisting, he was sent to pilot training at an airfield in Alabama designated for a new, segregated program considered by bureaucrats to be a doomed experiment at best. Reggie lent his talents to this all-Black flying corps, now celebrated as the famed Tuskegee Airmen. These airmen dominated the enemy so thoroughly in their sorties, bomber pilots specifically requested Tuskegee pilots as their preferred escorts. Later, President Harry Truman formally integrated the military in 1948, the first government institution to take this step.
Following his military service, Reggie returned home to Los Angeles, beginning his civilian career as a mail carrier then a worker in an ice cream factory. In his early twenties, he met the woman of his dreams, Margaret Lewis. Her gregarious cheer complemented Reggie’s planning nature. In preparation for a life with Margaret, and in response to her requirement, Reggie joined the church – not just as a member, but as one of the saints. In pursuit of a more stable career, he joined the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1949. A couple years later, and with great fanfare, the couple tied the knot on June 23, 1951. Lovely Margaret glided down the aisle in a red wedding gown as Reggie watched his incredible future approach. Margaret and Reggie went on to have six children during their life together.
During his 29 years on the fire department, Reggie faced many hurdles that challenged his reserve, the tallest of which was racial segregation. He told many stories of his colleagues’ vile antics, but he stayed up, prayed up and focused. In the early 1950s, he was an original member of the Stentorians, the organization of Black firefighters who sued the city of L.A. to desegregate the fire department and won. He eventually rose to the rank of captain, one of the few of his hue to do so at that time.
Reggie understood that land and property ownership empowered people like little else. He set out to secure a path for his family and that of his community. While serving on the fire department he obtained his real estate broker’s license, as did Margaret, and owned their own office that employed family members and many others. Reggie was one of the early members and past president of Consolidated Realty Board, now Consolidated Board of Realtists, which provides real estate industry training and networking. Reggie’s diligence and expertise in real estate finance and architectural planning assisted many Black churches in purchasing new or rehabilitating their existing places of worship. Reggie also drew the plans and built his family’s longtime residence on Fairway Blvd in View Park where he raised his children and grandchildren for over 30 years.
Margaret, the love of his life, was called home in January 1991. Her loss was a devastating blow to her children, family, church, and most of all to Reggie. She brought so much love, joy, and vitality to everyone around her. Nearly 10 years later, he met and married his second wife, Mary. Reggie and Mary, both retired, shared many getaways, golf outings, swims, and visits with grandchildren until her untimely passing in 2010.
Twice widowed, Reggie remained active with the Los Angeles Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., his golf group and the Stentorians. The 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama was a proud moment for him; he and some of his fellow airmen were invited and attended the ceremony which installed the nation’s first Black commander-in-chief.
After selling his View Park home in the late 1990s, Reggie lived in Oceanside, CA, in a Banning, CA golf country club community, and then the Briarwood townhomes of Inglewood. Even in his nineties, he remained independent – driving his convertible, doing his favorite activities, and living in his own home. Reggie worked very hard during his life for himself and his family, and his legacy endures. He passed away on June 30, 2021, a few months shy of his 97th birthday.
Reginald Sr. is preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Claudius and May Lee, older brother, Albert “Lucky”, wife of 39 years, Margaret Louise, second wife, Mary, eldest daughter, Regina and infant grandson Thomas. He is survived by his sisters-in-law, Joan and Charlotte; children, Roslyn (Stanley), Reginald II (Michelle), Roderick (Toni), Rhonda (Andre’), and Ryan (Nicole); grandchildren, Ivory (Chad), Nickolas (Tia), Christopher, Anna, Asa, Karlynn, Ahijah, Riley, Reece, Dylan, Emile, and Matthew; great-grandchildren, Taylan, Camille, Caleb, Elijah, Jacob, and King; and many extended grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Rest in peace, Poppy.