Longtime Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board member Currie Ballard has died.
Board Chairman Marc Dreyer told The Oklahoman that Ballard was found Friday afternoon in his Logan County home. Dreyer said Ballard’s physician told him Ballard likely died of natural causes.
“He was in church Sunday, and then was found today,” Dreyer said Friday.
Found by neighbor
“It seems like, from the bits and pieces that I have been able to put together, that his neighbor found him. It’s conceivable that he could have died several days ago.”
Ballard, 56, was nearing the completion of his second full term as a member of the pardon and parole board.
Terms are for four years, and Ballard served under Gov. Frank Keating and Gov. Mary Fallin, who appointed him to the position in 2011.
Fallin said Friday she was saddened to hear of Ballard’s death.
“Currie Ballard was a renowned and self-taught historian who felt a calling to share his knowledge,” Fallin said in a statement. “He was particularly passionate about African-American history and culture, and the many ways they have impacted the state and people of Oklahoma.”
In 2009, he was appointed assistant secretary of the Oklahoma Senate by then-Sen. Glen Coffee, and he also worked for many years as a historian at Langston University.
“The Langston University family is deeply saddened by the passing of former Assistant Secretary of the Senate Currie Ballard. Ballard was an exemplary and prominent historian. His work and accomplishments touched the lives of many and he will be deeply missed. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time,” Kent J. Smith Jr. president of Langston University said in a statement.
With a vast knowledge of Oklahoma’s black history, he produced, edited and hosted a series about black history and culture on OETA called the “Ebony Chronicles” in the 1990s. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame in 2010.
Ballard grew up in south-central Los Angeles, a rough neighborhood where he watched many members of his family, including his parents, commit crimes that sent them to prison.
‘One-ups’ in life
“There were people who gave me one-ups instead of downs in my life,” Ballard told The Oklahoman in 2011. “By the grace of God, I’m where I am today.”
As a member of the pardon and parole board, Ballard was known for how often he voted in favor of offenders seeking a second chance.
“He was probably, and I’ve said this to others and Currie and I had talked about it, he probably voted in the positive more than any other board member currently serving,” Dreyer said. “And, he always believed in giving people second chances, and he always tried to see the best in people.”
Unique voice on board
Dreyer said Currie was a unique voice on the board, and he will be missed.
Ballard attributed his ability to see the good in those who have made mistakes from watching his mother turn around her life after her incarceration on drug and fraud charges.
“My mother changed,” said Ballard in 2011. “She’s the greatest example of what a parole should be. My cousin, my brothers, they all got it. Sometimes it takes a while, but people do get it.”