Born April 2, 1940, in Tylertown, Mississippi, to Jewell Newton Ball and Hasseltine Byrd Ball, Byrd McNeil Ball and his family moved between small towns in Mississippi and Alabama before they settled in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1957, he graduated from Baton Rouge High School and enrolled at Louisiana State University, where he majored in physics. After a distinguished collegiate career—honored as the Outstanding Cadet in Army ROTC all four years, elected president of the Baptist Student Union, inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa leadership society and Phi Kappa Phi honor society, and selected to represent LSU on the G.E. College Bowl team—Byrd enrolled at Yale Divinity School as a Rockefeller Fellow. There he met the love of his life, Alice, whose Citroën aided their courtship with a fortuitous breakdown. They were married in Dallas on July 20, 1963. Byrd worked for two years in signal intelligence and network analysis for the Army before starting a notable career at IBM that spanned the late 1960s to the early 1990s. After significant contributions to IBM in Baton Rouge, Poughkeepsie, New Orleans, and Boca Raton, Byrd was named branch manager of IBM’s Honolulu office. Byrd established a culture of trust, collaboration, and commitment that turned the branch into a top performer in the division. IBM promoted Byrd and moved the family to Atlanta in fall 1979. In four years, Byrd progressed from director of business planning for one IBM division to leader of planning for the entire U.S. sales force of IBM. In just one year as general manager, Byrd transformed the customer education business unit from a loss leader for IBM to a $100 million annual revenue generator. He retired as vice president of business development in 1993. Still able and eager to work, Byrd created and led the consulting firm Ball Family Partners to provide strategic planning and executive coaching to entrepreneurs. Throughout his life Byrd devoted himself to the common good. His church, the Palama Settlement House in Honolulu, Atlanta’s LINK counseling center, the Justice Center of Atlanta, CHRIS 180, Randolph College, and LSU are among the benefactors of his money, time, and attention. Byrd engaged passionately with life. He continued to be a religious scholar and seeker within his church and in interreligious contexts. He recently immersed himself in Reclaiming the Center, a four-year process, which brought together members of Jewish and Protestant congregations for study, dialogue, and debate. He enjoyed various forms of outdoor recreation including skin diving, hiking, kayaking, and photography. With or without high levels of skill, Byrd approached all these activities with zeal. He was perhaps best-known as a voracious reader and perpetual learner. More important than his many achievements was the power of Byrd’s love for other people. Those who worked with and for Byrd counted him as a friend, trusted him as a mentor, and loved him as a person. Friends and family enjoyed Byrd “talking story,” to use a local Hawaiian idiom, and sharing his wisdom, experience, and astute listening. All those who survive him—including his wife, Alice H. Ball, his son, James Edward, his son, Professor William David Ball of the SCU School of Law, his daughter-in-law Farah Brelvi, his grandsons Zaid Atif and Aziz Farid, as well as hundreds of family members and beloved friends—are deeply blessed to have been shaped by his love, commitment, and care. Despite the pain and discomfort of a bent spine (brought on by camptocormia, a complication from Parkinson’s), Byrd bore his disease with patience, intelligence, and good humor. He died in Atlanta on Aug. 20, 2019.

21 Oct 2019