A Marked Heart

( 1 )


The son of a missionary and a Baptist minister, seventeen-year-old immigrant David George Ball was following his destiny to become a pastor. He had always dreamed of making a difference in people's lives. But when he met the then relatively unknown Martin Luther King Jr., the course of Ball's life changed forever.

In this memoir, A Marked Heart, Ball narrates his journey: beginning with growing up in wartime England; immigrating to the United States in 1954 to take the pastor's ...

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A Marked Heart

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The son of a missionary and a Baptist minister, seventeen-year-old immigrant David George Ball was following his destiny to become a pastor. He had always dreamed of making a difference in people's lives. But when he met the then relatively unknown Martin Luther King Jr., the course of Ball's life changed forever.

In this memoir, A Marked Heart, Ball narrates his journey: beginning with growing up in wartime England; immigrating to the United States in 1954 to take the pastor's course at Chicago's Moody Bible Institute; attending Yale University as a scholarship student; and, most importantly, meeting King. Later, he worked on Wall Street as a lawyer, started a family, championed the 401(k) plan, and served as assistant secretary of labor.

A Marked Heart describes how Ball's encounter with King inspired the rest of his life's work, and it provides a multifaceted look at his immigration, education, family relationships, career, and his commitment to public service. Though Ball never became a minister, his story communicates how his commitment to God and prayer guided his life.

"A heartwarming portrait of faith pushing back against adversity, in an amazing journey inspired by Martin Luther King."

-The Right Reverend Herman Hollerith IV, Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia Episcopal Church

"In his early life, David George Ball, like Mr. Justice Homes, had the break of being 'touched with fire,' having a religious father, a strict mother, and contact with Martin Luther King Jr. If this nation is to remain great, such ideas as expressed in David's book should be introduced to persons in their last year of high school or their first year of college."

-William T. Coleman Jr., O'Melveny & Myers, Former Chairman of NAACP Legal Defense Fund 1977-1997, Secretary of Transportation 1975-1977

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781938908040
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/4/2012
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,512,557
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Irene and Harold....................1
Chapter 2: Childhood in Wartime England....................7
Chapter 3: Young Warrior....................15
Chapter 4: Mum Rules out Farming....................23
Chapter 5: Mum Schemes....................33
Chapter 6: My First Year in America....................43
Chapter 7: "For God, for Country, and for Yale"....................53
Chapter 8: Martin Luther King Comes to Yale....................61
Chapter 9: A Major Change of Direction....................71
Chapter 10: My Glimmering Girl....................79
Chapter 11: Starting a Family....................87
Chapter 12: Making a Difference in the Big City....................93
Chapter 13: Mother's Day....................101
Chapter 14: An Empty Bed....................109
Chapter 15: Beginning Again....................119
Chapter 16: The Perils of a New Job....................127
Chapter 17: The Sunny Bankers of America....................135
Chapter 18: A Startling Reminder of Martin Luther King....................147
Chapter 19: A Pension Battle in Washington Inspires a New Dream....................155
Chapter 20: Mum's Secret....................161
Chapter 21: The Kick....................165
Chapter 22: The Labor Secretary's Question....................175
Chapter 23: A Hostile Senator....................183
Chapter 24: The Joy and the Challenge of Public Service....................189
Chapter 25: "The Most Significant Thing to Affect the Pension Industry in Years"....................199
Chapter 26: Epiphany on a Roof....................209
About the Author....................225
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First Chapter

A Marked Heart

By David George Ball

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 David George Ball
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-0214-6

Chapter One

Irene and Harold

Before she married my father, my mother—whose maiden name was Irene Hadley—was a missionary. She never explained what gave her the steely determination, when she was sixteen, to abandon her carefree life as the eldest daughter of a prosperous corn merchant in Gloucester, England, for a job teaching deaf and dumb children in London. But apparently, she wanted to get as far away as possible from her family. As soon as she was twenty-one and legally free to decide for herself, she volunteered to serve with the Lakher Pioneer Mission in a remote part of the British Empire in India, near the border with Nepal.

In 1928 she sailed through the Suez Canal to Calcutta and traveled north by boat, canoe, and on foot along goat paths to a tribe of former headhunters in the foothills of the Himalayas. She worked in a bamboo church teaching young girls personal hygiene, handicrafts, and the Christian gospel.

Years later she delighted in telling me how she discovered a naked boy crying in a clay pot in the dense vegetation at the side of the path to her bungalow. She grabbed the baby and ran to look for the head missionary. "Look who I've found."

The cautious older missionary seemed taken aback. "That's what the Lakhers do with babies when their mother dies in childbirth."

But Mum persisted. "The Lord wants me to take the place of his mother."

I heard a lot about this little fellow whom she named Peter after her brother in Australia. He slept in her bedroom. She couldn't get enough cow or goat milk for him so she chewed up rice to pass with her mouth. One night as he lay contented on the bed with milk dripping down his chin, a large snake slithered into her room. She killed it with a rake.

Life in the rain forest was tough. Mosquitoes got inside the tattered netting over her bed and she caught malaria. As the years passed, her teeth rotted. Another missionary pulled them out with pliers.

Seven years later, Irene left Peter with the other missionaries and returned to England on furlough. She was emaciated and suffering from the recurrent malaria that was to plague her off and on for the rest of her life. She planned to remain in Gloucester for a few months to train as a midwife so she could help the Lakher women with childbirth. In Gloucester she was fitted with false teeth, but her poor health made her dread going back. She couldn't admit to anyone how she felt.

A friend told her about Trinity Baptist Church, a new chapel in a development of concrete council houses called the "White City." The next Sunday morning Irene cycled to this mission field of poor families. Over a hundred needy souls gathered in a temporary building to hear the good-looking, muscular, young preacher named Harold Ball proclaim the gospel. On that fateful day after the service she shook his hand and offered to help.

Since Harold rented a room on Calton Road not far from Tuffley Avenue where she lived, they cycled home together. According to Dad, when they reached her home she continued to ask questions about the work at Trinity. For his part he was impressed. Miss Hadley came from The Lawn, a gentleman's house. He was just a farm boy.

Harold's dearest childhood memory was pleasing his mother. She liked him to rub her back when she was tired from farm chores and caring for her family of six. In the epidemic at the end of the Great War in 1918, his mother caught the Spanish Flu. Eleven-year-old Harold lay awake listening to her cough and moan with pain. He prayed, "I'll be ever so good, God, if you let Mother get better."

One night he awoke to silence. In the morning a neighbor asked, "How's your mother today?"

Harold had to say the black words, "She died."

Farmer neighbors pulled the hearse up the road to Thornbury cemetery. Harold and his nine-year-old brother followed on either side of their father holding his hands. His two younger sisters stayed at home.

His father hired a housekeeper named Miss Pitt. She was an upright Christian who kept the house straight and got food on the table. But she gave the children no birthday parties and no warmth. On the Lord's Day, after milking, his father took them to Sunday school and chapel.

As a teenager, Harold drove the horse and cart with the milk churns to Thornbury Station in time for the eight o'clock train to Bristol. Then he drove back to Oak Farm, turned the horse out to graze, and cycled to school in Thornbury. After school he helped his father milk their herd of cows. At age sixteen he started as an apprentice on a farm in Charfield.

Dad said this was a turning point in his life. He heard a sermon in the local chapel about the second coming of Christ. He shuddered because he had no assurance of his salvation. That night after he blew out the candle, he knelt beside his bed. He prayed with the words of a hymn, "My Jesus, I love Thee, I ..." but he stopped, unable to finish the sentence. In the darkness he begged, "Lord, help me finish that line." Suddenly, it seemed as if the light of heaven flooded his soul and he cried out, "My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine." For the rest of his life he never doubted God's presence.

He began to preach in country chapels and decided to train for the ministry. I've heard him say a thousand times, "Farming was in my blood, but preaching was in my heart!"

His father admired the American evangelist Dwight Moody, who held legendary revival meetings in England in the 1870s. He suggested Harold consider attending the school called Moody Bible Institute, which the evangelist founded in Chicago. The idea of going to America thrilled Harold. He sailed for New York at Christmas in 1927.

Despite working long hours as a waiter at Marshall Field's to meet his living expenses, he embraced Moody and America. He became student pastor of a church in the suburbs of Chicago. He used to tell me, "It's a land flowing with milk and honey." His enthusiasm made me wish I could go to America too.

After returning to England, for two years he devoted his energy to a church in a poor area of London. In 1932, he received a call to Trinity Baptist Church in Gloucester.

Dad always chuckled when he told me what happened after that young missionary showed up at the morning service. The very next day she arrived at his lodging with many practical ideas as to how she could help the cause at Trinity. She said, "I want to double the attendance."

Dad put her in charge of the primary Sunday school and the children's Band of Hope. Soon she gave him an intriguing token of their friendship—a wall plaque that carried a text from the Bible: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Unsure what to make of the gift, he hung it in his bedroom. She told him she had another plaque that she would give him sometime. He wondered what it said, but she admonished him. "Wait and see."

The next time she visited his lodging, she dropped a hint. "I think we make a great team at Trinity."

He didn't know quite how to answer but managed, "You certainly are helpful to me in my ministry."

A few weeks later Irene was more direct. "Harold, I believe it's the Lord's will for us to be married."

He swallowed and looked down.

She continued. "I'm going to pray about it!" and sped off on her bike like a post office messenger who had just delivered a telegram.

After she left he realized he felt overwhelmed and excited that someone wanted him. She seemed so self-assured, so confident. A dedicated Christian and a hard worker, she would make a good minister's wife. As the weeks went by he came to believe the Lord had sent her to him. They decided to get married at Trinity on January 14, 1936.

I have often studied the photograph taken at The Lawn after their wedding for clues about Mum. The grass glistened white with hoarfrost. Harold stood almost six feet tall with square shoulders and a serious, handsome face. Irene, with her sparkling brown eyes and radiant smile, had found in him an honorable way not to return to Lakherland. Slender and healthy again and all of five feet four inches in height, she clasped his arm decisively.

They laughed when she produced the other plaque. It said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." He was flattered that she had marriage in mind all along. It came as no surprise that I was born less than a year later, on November 16, 1936.

At first we lived in a rented house, but a few months later Irene's mother, whom I would learn to call Granny Hadley, helped them buy a house of their own. Squeezed into a narrow lot with a few windows back and front, it stood modestly in a row of identical drab brick houses on Lewisham Road.

When I was one month old, Dad conducted my dedication service at chapel, just as he would for the parents of any child born to a member of his congregation. On behalf of himself and Mum, he prayed for grace to bring me up in a Christian home, so that once I reached the age of discretion, I would choose to be baptized and join the church.

But Mum had an additional agenda. With all the force of her dominating personality, she tapped me for the ministry. Just as Abraham bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, so she offered me. Like Isaac, I was not in a position to make the decision myself. Mum heard God tell her what to do. From then on, I was a marked man.

The story that follows describes my struggle to affirm my true self.

Chapter Two

Childhood in Wartime England

On a summer day in 1939 when I'm almost three, Mum takes my one-year-old brother, Jonathan, and me on the green double-decker Calton Road bus to visit her sister, Joyce, and my cousins Jeremy and Jane on the posh side of Gloucester. She stops at a dairy to buy ice cream. She must want to please Auntie Joyce, because Mum can't afford ice cream for us. As Auntie slices the frozen block on the kitchen table, they talk about Uncle Cyril, who is an architect and has drawn up plans for a new building at Dad's church.

The next time we visit Auntie Joyce, the dairy has stopped making ice cream. Mum says, "It's because of the war."

Soon after I begin Calton Road Primary School on my third birthday, I arrive home to find Mum and Dad cutting up large strips of black paper in the front room. Mum explains, "We have to black out all the windows so the German planes can't see us at night." Dad doesn't have enough black paper for the front window of our brick row house so Mum tells him to use a poster with a verse from the Bible: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." People passing by say they find it comforting.

On Christmas morning Mum tells me to put on my best clothes and we walk over to The Lawn, the big house where my grandparents live. Mum's father, Grandpa Hadley, instructs us to wait in the hall for Father Christmas and disappears into the kitchen. A loud knock makes Granny open the front door. Father Christmas stands laughing on the doorstep with a strange white beard, a floppy red hat, and a large red dressing gown. He has glasses on the end of his nose, just like Grandpa. He says, "Ho, ho, ho! Who are you?"


"Who's that?"

"My brother, Jonathan."

"Well, that's lucky." He hands us several packages wrapped in shiny red paper.

Grandpa Hadley returns from the kitchen to watch us open our presents. This is the last time I see him, but the magical memory of my kindly Father Christmas stays with me forever.

A few weeks later, I awake to find the iron railings in front of our house and all the other houses in the row have been ripped away. One of our neighbors complains to Dad. "Nobody asked permission to take the railings, and nobody paid for them!"

Dad doesn't like to see them gone either, but says stoically, "They'll be melted down to build tanks."

At Calton Road Primary School, my teacher, Miss Morgan, hands out cardboard boxes. She says the boxes contain masks to protect us if the Germans use mustard gas. My mask is rubber with a small, round cylinder in front of the mouth and goggles for the eyes. The mouthpiece pinches my chin. Miss Morgan tightens the buckle at the back of my head, and I feel trapped inside a small, dimly lit room. She tells me to breathe normally. She must be kidding because I can't help but breathe fast. I'm smothering. The other members of the class bob around, but I can't see them very well.

Finally, Miss Morgan tells us to take off the masks and put them back in the boxes. She says, "When the air raid siren goes off, line up at the door in pairs with your gas masks." I wonder what an air raid siren sounds like. She keeps going over to the window to listen, but nothing happens. At the end of class she tells us to take the gas masks home with us in case we need them at night. From then on, I take my gas mask to and from school every day.

The following week we hear a loud whining in the distance. It must be the air raid siren. Miss Morgan says, "Stand in line and no talking." We walk to the playing field carrying our cardboard boxes. There are four large barrage balloons way up in the sky and tethered to stakes in the corner of the playing field. They are supposed to stop German planes from flying low over Gloucester.

Somebody has dug huge holes at the edge of the fields, covered the holes with corrugated iron, piled dirt on top, surrounded the entrances with sandbags, and created mysterious caves in the ground. Miss Morgan tells us to step down into the air raid shelter. We sit on a bench and put on our gas masks. There are several other teachers inside the shelter with their pupils. It is dark and scary. We stay there until we hear the all-clear siren.

Mum takes Jonathan and me to Sunday school. She keeps everyone spellbound by acting out the Bible stories and teaching us to use our hands and arms as we sing choruses about the Savior's love. Because she always tells me what to do, I feel safe. I don't know yet about her ferocious determination to make me a minister.

On the spur of the moment in early spring, Mum shows us the tennis court at the bottom of the garden at The Lawn. The close-cut grass is freshly marked with white lines. I ask, "What are those for?"

"You must keep the ball inside the lines."

"Did you really play tennis here?"

"Yes, with Auntie Joyce."

"Can we play?"

"No, the equipment is put away in the summer house."

I run over to look in the window. Mum jerks me away and snaps, "Don't go in there!" Her face colors. She rushes us off and never takes us back. I wonder why the summer house made her cross. It will be many years before I discover it is connected to a family secret.

In May 1940 Dad listens to the news on the BBC. It sounds bad. The German army has overrun Holland and Belgium and swept into France. A few days later three hundred thousand soldiers are evacuated from Dunkirk. I see a picture in the newspaper of the new prime minister, Winston Churchill, giving a defiant V-for-victory sign. He says on the radio, "We shall go on to the end ... whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!"


Excerpted from A Marked Heart by David George Ball Copyright © 2011 by David George Ball. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted June 9, 2012

    This book was a total surprise! It really was! I was deceived

    This book was a total surprise! It really was! I was deceived by the book cover; or rather I caught myself pre-judging this book, based on the three colour book cover. Isn’t there an old saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, when I received this book from Bostwick Communications, (in exchange for an impartial review), I had second thoughts about whether or not I would enjoy reading it. And I will admit to putting it to the side of my TBR book stack. It just looked to be more of a reference book, than a story book.

    I could not have been more wrong.

    A short time ago, while checking my TBR books, “A Marked Heart”, caught my attention. And after some review of the front and back covers, and recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. pictured on the front cover with the author, I decided I would begin this read.

    Unexpectedly, “A Marked Heart” by David George Ball, was soon to display so much more than its simple cover implied. By the end of the first chapter, it was not a question of being caught up in the story; it was a matter of needing to know everything I could about the author and those around him. David George Ball. I would hazard a guess that most of us have never heard the name, let alone know what his life was all about. And part of that I would suggest, was by plan – David George Ball’s plan. In “A Marked Heart”, David George comes through the pages as a humble man, a quiet man, definitely a family man, a very intelligent man, a man filled with compassion for family and friends, and a man filled with pride of his birth country, England, and his country of residence, the United States.

    The author speaks of his growing up years with fond memories, and some not so fond. He brings us through his university years, as he earns multiple degrees. David Ball’s style of storytelling is one that engages the reader, to a desire to learn more. Ball’s meeting with Martin Luther King Jr., is a turning point in his career, and his personal creed for life. I found it fascinating to read of M.L. King before his rise within the culture of the day, and his impact on the world. Although King was a great influence on David Ball, this book is not about King. We simply see how King affected individuals who became part of his life, and vice versa.

    “A Marked Heart” reaches all parts of the life of David George Ball. We are with him through his marital happiness and struggles, his desire to serve God, the love he is given by his family, and at times the hard life he was forced to live. I found myself on life’s journey with the author, through his highs and lows, through his two marriages, and the lives of his children, as they grew and started families of their own.

    To be truthful, I do not think that my words do justice to Ball’s life, to his great mind, and kind heart. I would suggest this book be added to your library, as part of history. Although not given real credit for this, Ball was the originator of the 401K plan, designed to secure quality of life for individuals, once they retire. I am not an American, so do not pretend to understand the 401K plan, but in Canada we have Registered Retirement Plans, which would be comparable. So, I do understand the need to plan for the future. And I was quite impressed with Ball’s quiet, yet powerful, contribution to American lifestyle. And the telling of this story was not a mundane presentation, but a story that I felt part of, a story that held joy. Such is the style of Ball’s writing.

    I encourage readers of this blog to seek out this book, “A Marked Heart”, add it to your library, and set aside time to read and learn, about events that impact your life, through the life of David George Ball.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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