After King’s election as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) at the start of the Montgomery bus boycott, Maude Ballou became Martin Luther King’s personal secretary. Upon leaving Montgomery, Alabama, in January 1960, King praised Ballou as “a real associate and a real encouraging person in this total struggle” (Papers 5:355).
Ballou was born in Fairhope, Alabama, and raised in Mobile. She received a BS in business administration in 1947 from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After marrying music instructor Leonard Ballou, she and her husband relocated to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1952. Ballou met Jo Ann Robinson before the start of the bus boycott and talked with her about how to obtain better conditions for blacks in Montgomery (Ballou, 23 July 1998).
After becoming King’s secretary at the MIA, Ballou helped coordinate carpools during the boycott. She often responded on King’s behalf to his correspondence. Ballou accompanied King when he moved to Atlanta in 1960, staying with the King family and assisting him in establishing his office at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference headquarters there. Ballou left that summer to rejoin her family in Petersburg, Virginia, where her husband had accepted a position at Virginia State College.