PHOTOS BY // MICHAEL GLEASON PHOTOGRAPHY
Anyone who has grown up in the Flint area has undoubtedly driven on Ballenger Highway. Also, if you attended Mott Community College (MCC), you may have gone to an athletic event at Ballenger Field House. In that same field house, MCC hosted the Ballenger Eminent Lecture Series. Guest speakers were Spike Lee, William F. Buckley, Harry Belafonte and Peter Jennings, among many others. In addition, you may have played basketball and ice skated at Ballenger Park at the corner of Flushing and Dupont in Flint or the same at Memorial Park near downtown Flint. Thanks to a recent interview with William (Bill) Ballenger III and his partner Susan Steiner Bolhouse, here’s a historical look at the Ballenger name.
William S. Ballenger I came to Flint to be a bookkeeper at Flint Wagon Works, served as treasurer at Buick and eventually helped form General Motors. He served on the boards of many early Flint banks and was a member of the Flint Board of Education. Recently, a statue was unveiled at Ballenger Park honoring his philanthropic work in Flint. Two other busts were placed at Memorial Park and inside Ballenger Field House. The Ballenger Trust has funded the parks and field house and spearheaded the development of the current MCC site as well as early development of McLaren Hospital on Ballenger Highway.
Bill Ballenger III, 78, lives in the same house in Flint where he grew up and has lived there since he was three months old. He attended Zimmerman school in Flint and graduated high school from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. Bill has a B.S. degree from Princeton and an M.P.A degree from Harvard. He was a Republican state senator and a member of the Michigan House of Representatives as well as Michigan’s Race Commissioner, and director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulation. Under President Ford, he served as deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Bill has been a visiting professor of American government at MSU, CMU, WMU, and U of M-Flint. He has also written extensively for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN and NPR. As of yet Bill states, “I haven’t been successful as a writer of fictional material.”
Bill has continued the Ballenger philanthropy, but in a more political sense. He has been dubbed “Michigan’s Crown Prince of Pundits,” as founder of a political newsletter, Inside Michigan Politics, for 27 years. In his own words, he is “A Michigan political analyst and commentator who forecasts local, state and national elections.” He appears as a panelist on Off The Record, a weekly TV program hosted by Tim Skubick. Bill now publishes The Ballenger Report, an on-line political newsletter, plus he produces Friday Morning Podcast with Dennis Denno. His podcast was just listed as one of the top five political podcasts in the state in the December issue of Hour Detroit magazine.
In closing, Bill Ballenger is a serious, well-respected political analyst who comes from a long line of civic-minded philanthropic family members. In terms of Flint’s future, Bill says, “Flint has a miraculous ability to reincarnate itself, slowly but surely finding its way back. And the state of Michigan is stabilized, and the economic health is good.” Labeled as serious, Bill states, “Most people who know me think I have a sense of humor. I have an explosive laugh and enjoy good humor in daily conversations.” I enjoyed that laugh and humor in my interview with Bill.