Maude Lerita Williams Ballou, a civil rights activist and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first personal secretary, passed away on 26 August. Born 13 September 1925 in Fairfort, Alabama, and raised in Mobile, Ballou earned a BS in business administration from Southern University, Baton Rouge in 1947. She married Leonard Ballou, a music instructor, and the couple moved to Montgomery in 1952, where Ballou met Jo Ann Robinson. As a member of the Women’s Political Council, Ballou worked with Robinson to improve social conditions for African Americans and organized carpools during the Montgomery bus boycott.
Ballou became King’s secretary when he was elected as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association in December 1955. As King’s secretary she replied to correspondence on his behalf, managed his travel arrangements, and facilitated the success of the bus boycott. When King relocated to Atlanta in 1960, Ballou accompanied him to help establish his new office at the SCLC headquarters. Ballou rejoined her family in Petersburg, Virginia when Leonard began work at Virginia State College in August 1960.
To read a letter from Ballou to King describing her move to Virginia, click here: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/maude-l-ballou
Ballou's obituary can be found here: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/clarionledger/obituary.aspx?n=maude-lerita-williams-ballou&pid=193788189&fhid=11932