Ball’s Auditorium historical marker

A marker recognizing Ball’s Auditorium in Lake Charles. The auditorium hosted many of the top acts of the 1950s and 1960s.

The Southwest Genealogical and Historical Library will present "Tidbits of History: The Life and Legacy of Reginald McWilliams Ball Sr." from 10 a.m.-noon Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 411 Pujo Street.

Free and open to the public, this culminating event will take community members through 18 months of genealogical research conducted by Joyce Sonnier, genealogy associate with the library.

Sonnier will present previously unknown and/or little known facts about one of the "visionary black pioneers" of 20th century Lake Charles. Using research from the Genealogy Library, including American Press archives, online resources, the Lake Charles City Directory and first hand accounts from Ball's ancestors, she will recount Ball's entrepreneurial genius and rise to prominence within the Lake Charles community both black and white.

The founder of Ball's Industrial Institute, the first black trade school for WWII veterans in 1947, Ball's Auditorium, a premiere entertainment venue for African American performers during segregation, Ball's Cafe, the original Ball's Fried Chicken, and Ball's Hotel, a 20-unit apartment complex.

Sonnier said Ball was "doing things that African Americans at the time weren't really known to do during the Jim Crowe era."

Ball Sr.'s son, Gladwin W. Ball, will be present for "Tidbits of History" and helped Sonnier in her research of his father. Noting his father's strong ambition and work ethic, Ball said, "I didn't realize we were doing anything special. It was just work. It was just life for me. I had no idea at that time that the community was in its inception. But the block of Enterprise and St. John that is where the history took place."

Sonnier said she believes historical series like these are a necessary ingredient for community improvement and empowerment. "Reginald McWilliams Ball Sr., as well as other people in the community, had ambition and dreams during a time when the odds were stacked against them, but you would never know. To hear those stories and what they accomplished then, that should give this generation hope to succeed and go far and beyond because these were the people that opened the doors for you."

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