Editor’s note — This is the latest installment in monthly sesquicentennial moments highlighting Wilmington College’s 150-year anniversary, which is being observed through September 2021.
W. Todhunter Ballard (1903-1980), a member of Wilmington College’s class of 1926, achieved distinction as a story writer of 70 western and mystery novels.
He was born in Cleveland and attended Westtown Friends School (Pa.) before enrolling at Wilmington College. During World War II, he was stationed at Wright Field in Dayton and Clinton County Army Airfield.
Ballard began his professional writing career as the editor of an electrical trade magazine. Following college, he gained knowledge in that field when he worked for his father’s company, F.W. Ballard Co., for two years as an engineer constructing power plants and transmission lines.
His first published story, “Gamble’s Luck,” appeared in the pulp magazine, Brief Stories, in 1927.
A partial bibliography of his novels includes “The Circle C Feud” (1952), “High Iron” (1953), “Guns of the Lawless” (1956), “Trail Town Marshal” (1957), “Trouble on the Massacre” (1959), “The Night Riders” (1961), “Gopher Gold” (1962), “Gold in California!” (1965), “Trails of Rage” (1975), “Sheriff of Tombstone” (1977), “Home to Texas” (1974) and “The Californian” (1971).
“Gold in California!” earned him the prestigious “Spur Award” for that genre in 1965.
In addition to his novels, the prolific writer also wrote literally thousands of magazine stories and more than 50 television scripts. His popular yarns appeared regularly in the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, McCall’s, Esquire and Liberty.
Also, he authored stories for such popular pulp magazines as Black Mask, Dime Mystery, Popular Western and Ranch Romances.
His scripts included the film “The Outcast” for Republic Pictures, and the TV series “Cowboy G-Men”, “Death Valley Days”, “Shotgun Shade”, “Shannon” and “Alias Smith & Jones.”
Ballard’s 70 books also included those written under such pseudonyms as. W.T. Ballard, Jack Slade, Neil McNeil, Clay Turner, Sam Bowie and Parker Bonner.
He resided in California for much of his life and died at age 77 in Mount Dora, Fla. in 1980.