John Ball is an icon in Florida.
He was a member of the U.S. Olympic basketball team, a star in the local football and baseball teams, and a beloved figure in the small town of Biloxi, Mississippi.
His life was also shaped by the state.
He started as a railroad conductor in Mississippi and rose to become a railroad agent and then president of the railroad in Mississippi.
Ball was the first black man to hold the position of president of a state and the first African American to serve as governor of Mississippi.
He became the first president of his state, and in 1953, he was elected governor by a vote of 61% to 36%.
Ball was a tireless campaigner for civil rights, working to expand the rights of African Americans.
In the years after his death in 2007, Ball’s family and supporters organized a park to honor him in Biloxis.
A park was built and John Ball’s remains were interred at a nearby cemetery.
The Biloxin Zoo, built in the 1930s, opened in 2016.
Its primary attraction is a large stuffed animal called the Stuffed Elephant.
It is a gift from Ball’s nephew, John, who also helped finance the construction.
Ball’s life story is intertwined with Biloxia’s and his work as a leader in the African American community.
He played a key role in the establishment of the Mississippi statehood movement, as well as in the founding of the NAACP.
The zoo has also hosted a slew of special events for the Biloximans, including a “celebration of John Ball” in 2020.
John Ball was born in 1873 in Bilcox, Mississippi, to a working-class family that moved to New Orleans.
His father, John John, was a tailor and worked at the city’s sugar mills, where he often saw slaves.
John was the son of a Baptist minister and a lawyer who was also a prominent member of Mississippi’s elite Black community.
Ball grew up in the area, and he attended St. Thomas Episcopal School in Bilton, Mississippi before attending the University of Mississippi and the University Of Alabama.
After graduation, Ball joined the U-S Army, and at age 24, he joined the Mississippi National Guard.
He returned to Mississippi to join the U, where his unit was deployed to the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico in 1942.
The United States had been a staunch supporter of the United Kingdom’s ally France, and Johnson was concerned about the potential for a direct conflict between the two countries.
Johnson was an experienced naval officer and a major in the U’s First Army.
He and other generals planned to use the troops to drive the German U-boat fleet from the Gulf.
Johnson wanted to be a combatant and was eager to take part in any military action.
He had no reservations about committing himself to the mission, which included the use of nuclear weapons.
When Johnson left the U in 1944, he left behind a large amount of personal effects and his uniform.
Johnson and his wife were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the country’s highest award for valor.
After the war, Johnson returned to Bilox, and the two families decided to move to Bilton and raise their son.
John Ball married the sister of a prominent Mississippi businessman and began to teach at a private high school.
Ball graduated from the school in 1944 and received his master’s degree in 1948.
Ball went on to become the first Black president of Mississippi in 1954.
He also served as governor, where the state was still a slave-owning state.
The new zoo opened in 2017 and was named for John Ball.
In the park, a stuffed elephant named Pee Wee is displayed alongside a replica of the White House.
In 2017, Ball donated the zoo’s space to the Bilton Community Center for African American History, Culture and Heritage, which houses the Bilson Library.
Ball also directed the Bilximans’ contribution to the development of the museum, which opened in 2019.