Politician, Political Pundit, Journalist, Blogger
March 2, 2022
You might have been to Ballenger Field House, or Ballenger Park, and the odds are you have driven down Ballenger Highway. But you may not know why that name graces so many of our communities iconic spots.
It goes back to the great - grandson of a Revolutionary War soldier, William S. Ballenger, Sr. Living in Indiana. He was invited to Flint in 1888 by James H. Whiting, then President of the Flint Wagon Works, to become a bookkeeper. Twenty years later he rose to become the treasurer of the Buick Motor Company where he was one of the original investors along with William C. “Billy” Durant. He stuck with Durant during the formation of General Motors, and then, still working with Durant, became the secretary and treasurer of Chevrolet when Durant created that company.
W.S., as his friends called him, was the key force behind developing McLaren Hospital, providing a trust fund that is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He was also a director for Citizens Commercial and Savings Bank. Not stopping there he went on to endow two parks, Memorial Park downtown, and Ballenger Park on the west side.
His other charitable donations went to fund what became the Flint Community Schools. In 2017 a statue honoring his towering contributions to Flint was erected in Ballenger Park.
His son, W.S. Ballenger Jr., was a long-time member of the trust department at Flint’s iconic Citizens Bank, and a member of its Board of Directors.
He passed on this familial love and devotion to Flint to his son William S. ‘Bill’ Ballenger, III, born in the town his family helped make famous - Flint.
William distinguished himself in a variety of capacities, including obtaining a degree from Princeton, and a Master's Degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Ballenger the Third then served as a state representative from 1969-70, state senator from 71-74, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education & Welfare in the Ford administration from 75-76, then Director of State Licensing and Regulation from 77 - 81.
In 1987 he launched a newsletter called Inside Michigan Politics that was published for 27 years along with six of those years working as a horse-racing columnist for the Detroit Free Press. From 1992 to 2004 he hosted a weekly hour-long, political show on WKAR. Still a frequent commentator with The Ballenger Report he has appeared on and in : the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Roll Call, USA Today, CNN, NPR, PBS, and the BBC.
Ballenger remains one of the most articulate and fascinating people on the Michigan political scene, and is carrying on a legacy started by his grandfather who helped build not only cars and Flint, but the entire United States.
It’s a heckuva heritage, and William ‘Bill’ Ballenger III joins Fish in the Aquarium to tell you all about it!