Published Saturday, December 22, 2012
By ALEX MCRAE
Eddie Ball’s friends and coworkers gathered with his family Thursday at the Coweta County 911 Center to reminisce about the man they had known and loved for years.
Ball died last Saturday, Dec. 15, at his home. He was 67 years old.
Ball was Coweta’s first 911 director and served in that post – and as Coweta Emergency Management Agency director – until his retirement. In 1990, he started the county’s 911 program. Many of those present at Thursday’s gathering met Ball through 911 or other public service activities. But several remembered meeting Ball through a mutual love of amateur radio.
As pictures of Ball played across two big-screen TVs and music from Alan Jackson’s “Precious Memories” gospel album played softly in the background, the stories about Ball were abundant. Each one produced a smile or a laugh.
Eddie Wilson met Ball through the local Bill Gremillion amateur radio club and later became involved with the 911 center.
“He was a big supporter of amateur radio,” Wilson said. “He’d do anything to help you. And he always had a lot of good stories.”
Wilson recalled Ball telling him about times during Ball’s law enforcement career when he would be in a room alone with Spanish-speaking suspects who were unaware Ball spoke their language.
“They’d go on and on about what they did — not knowing Eddie spoke Spanish,” Wilson said. “Then they’d talk about a crime and he’d have them right there.”
Wilson said he will never forget being at the dedication of the former Coweta 911 Center in the County Administration Building on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were attacked by terrorists.
“Boy, that was something to be there when that happened,” Wilson said. “A lot of us didn’t get out of there for a while.”
John Caldwell also met Ball through amateur radio and, like Wilson, was in the former 911 center on Sept. 11, 2001. “We were watching it all happen live right there on TV,” Caldwell said. “And at first nobody knew what was going on, but we got it figured it out very quickly.”
Caldwell remembered Ball’s ability — and willingness — to share a good story.
“He especially loved to talk about his time in the Navy,” Caldwell said. “Those stories were interesting — if not fictional — but he was always a lot of fun to be around. And I never saw him get mad.”
Bill Merritt, who, along with Wilson and Caldwell, was with Ball at the Coweta 911 Center on Sept. 11, 2001, met Ball through the local amateur radio club.
“He was just what I’d call a fine public servant,” Merritt said. “He didn’t care about getting any credit for himself. He was just interested in making sure the job got done and everybody was treated fairly. He was never down about things.”
Local attorney Michael Kam met Ball in 1978, when he moved to Newnan as an assistant district attorney. Kam said the friendship between he and Ball grew after Kam began private practice and Ball was a magistrate judge.
“He was Newnan’s Renaissance man,” Kam said. “He could do anything. And he was always learning something new and doing that as well as anyone.”
Kam — a serious amateur magician — said he once bought an electronically-controlled gorilla in New Jersey. The life-size monkey was broken but Kam hoped to restore it and use it in his act.
Kam didn’t know any local gorilla repairpersons and called Ball.
“He and some of his friends got it fixed,” Kam said.
Kam’s wife would not allow the beast into the family home, but Kam was always proud of his ape. Kam said whenever he visited Ball for business or pleasure, he always scheduled plenty of extra time.
“Once he started telling those stories it was hard to get him to stop,” Kam said. “And you didn’t want to, anyway.”
Assistant County Administrator Eddie Whitlock, who knew Ball as both a friend and co-worker, said, “He was one of the smartest guys you ever met. He was part of the tech revolution before the tech revolution was cool. Eddie was the perfect guy to set up and run our first 911 center.”
Whitlock said Coweta 911’s success is possible because of the foundation created by Ball. Whitlock said that as talented and hard-working as Ball was, he always found time to have fun.
“The stories?” Whitlock said. “They were great. And yeah, he could tell a few.”