This gentleman lived quite a life. Rest in peace, Captain Ball.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 11 St. Luke's Lane, San Antonio, Texas, for Capt. Thomas Prioleau "Pre" Ball, who died Feb. 23. The record-setting Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame pilot and former Delta vice president-Operations was 99. Capt. Ball will be buried with his wife Teresa in College Park, Ga.
Capt. Ball developed the Delta flying safety program that became the model for other airlines. He set seven transcontinental speed records, four of which have never been broken. He pioneered the Category II and Cat III instrument landing systems used first by Delta at what is now Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He became vice president of Operations and later retired from Delta in 1971. He was so loved and respected by his pilots that they presented him a new BMW sports car at his retirement.
"Pre Ball was part of the airline business long before it was an industry and part of Delta from the days when, as he once recalled, he could land a plane in Monroe to see the company's entire staff – all five of them – standing by the fence," said Jerry Grinstein, chief executive officer. "Pre was part of a long, unbroken chain of Delta people who have – and will again – see this company safely through hard times to a stronger, better future. He will be sorely missed by us all."
Capt. Ball grew up and learned to fly in Jacksonville, Fla., where, in 1928, he soloed in a WWI Jenny biplane. He served as the Charleston, S.C., airport manager, flight instructor/charter pilot and owner of Hawthorne Flying Service, until being hired as one of the first Delta pilots in July of 1935. During WWII he rose from second lieutenant to colonel in the Army Air Corps in less than three years and served on the Air Staff as division chief in the Office of Flying Safety. Following the war, he returned to Delta where he flew as a captain and became the chief pilot.
"Captain "Pre" Ball set the standard for all of us at Delta to follow," said Gary Beck, senior vice president-Flight Ops and chief pilot. "His pioneering spirit led to one of the industry's earliest flight safety programs and established Delta as the first to implement special category instrument approach for landings during inclement weather in Atlanta - achievements we benefit from still today. Without question, Pre's achievements and legacy will live on."
Capt. Ball is survived by two sons, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Thomas Prioleau "Pre" Ball Jr. of San Antonio, Texas, and Dr. Espy Daniel Ball of Tampa, Florida; a nephew Ken Daniel of Washington, D.C.; and six grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, a donation may be sent to the Thomas P. "Pre" Ball and Teresa Ball Memorial Fund of the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 8427, Warner Robins GA 31095, or to a charity of choice. You are invited to sign the guestbook at www.porterloring.com.