Historian Currie Ballard honored by state Senate

Legislative Staff Release

Published: 03-May-2010

The Senate on Thursday (April 29) honored one of its own, Assistant Secretary of the Senate Currie Ballard, for his many accomplishments and life of public service.

“It is quite an honor for me to present this resolution to Currie. I’m very proud of where he came from,” said state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre of Tulsa, author of Senate Resolution 105. “This is a true example of just because you’re born and have situations that put you behind the Eight Ball, through determination and associating yourself with people that can help you and inspire you, you can go on and do whatever it is you need to do. I thank you very much for all that you have done.”

Ballard was inducted into the Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame on Friday, April 30 for his dedication to preserving African American history. He has collected African American artifacts and documents for more than thirty years. His 1997 “The Ebony Chronicles” documentary won him a Regional Emmy award for best historical documentary.

In 2002, Ballard was appointed by President George W. Bush to a Presidential Commission to build an African American Museum in Washington, D.C. Then in 2005, he was appointed by Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives J. Dennis Hastert to a special taskforce to study the history and contributions of slave laborers in the construction of the U.S. Capitol.

Ballard’s love of history stems from his family’s heritage. His ancestors were slaves of the Choctaw Indians in Oklahoma and he is the descendent of the two slaves, Wallace and Minerva Willis, who wrote the song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

Ballard was born in Los Angeles, California in 1958. He grew up in the Watts area of Los Angeles, raised by his grandparents because both his parents were in prison. He frequented the Southern Area Boys Club on 120th Street where he says he learned self-respect.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Langston University. From 1993 to 2006, he was the Historian-in-Residence at the university.  Then in 2009, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Oklahoma State Senate.

“I thank Jesus. He brought me a mighty long ways from Watts to the White House,” said Ballard. “I thank Pro Tem Glenn Coffee. I work with a staff that is second to none. As my grandfather would say to this magnificent body of senators, ‘you may fight like cats and dogs in a Croker sack’, but at the end of the day you all love Oklahoma. I thank you!”