The Ballard House in some ways has been my life. Dr. Ballard, he was our family physician and I was always at the Ballard House for one reason or another. You could go to the doctor, you could go to a meeting, you came in the evening and you had fun and delicious food. It was one of the few places that African-Americans had to come to socialize.
In the fifties, Dr. Ballard left Birmingham and Mrs. Jessie Perkins purchased the Ballard House. She catered parties, meetings, weddings, anything you needed here. And they were all lavishly done with the beautiful linen tablecloths and the silver and the flower arrangements. My husband, Dr. Hamilton, and Mrs. Perkins were very close. Before she died, she told my husband that she wanted him to buy the Ballard House.
My husband came here to practice in 1958. He was the first black General Surgeon to become Board-certified in the state of Alabama. We were heavily involved in civil rights. If they needed a special place with the SCLC to have a meeting, he would open the doors for the meetings. Dr. King, Dr. Abernathy, all the other people who were ill, he would treat them at no cost. It’s the same thing with the young people who were sprayed on, or the dogs had bitten them. He treated them at no cost. But also, when the marches progressed to Selma, he, Dr. Stewart, Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Barfield Pendleton alternated, they would all go to be in the medical staff in case someone needed them. He was very involved because he felt like that was our way to progress and to lift ourselves up and to be quote-unquote equal.
If I were called upon to really give my favorite room, it would have to be here where the socialization was. Because that’s a pleasant memory, and then I would take them across the hall and say, this is the business part. This is the body, this is the heart of the Ballard House because this is where you come to be treated. To be helped and to be encouraged.