Social Security Pioneers

Robert M. Ball

photo of Bob Ball

ROBERT M. BALL began his career working in a local Social Security field office in 1939. By 1949 he had risen to a key position as Executive Staff Director of the important 1948-1949 Advisory Council on Social Security. The work of this Council led to the passage of the watershed 1950 Amendments to the Social Security Act, which, in the words of Bob Ball, "really saved the concept of contributory social insurance in this country." During the 1950s, Ball held important executive positions at the Social Security Administration (SSA), eventually being named Commissioner by President Kennedy in 1962. He served as SSA's Commissioner until 1973.

OASIS magazine profile of Ball -- 1973
Description of Ball and Wilbur Cohen by Ted Marmor

Ball's Letter of Resignation -- January 1973
President Nixon's Reply to Ball's Resignation -- January 1973
Ball's Good-bye letter to SSA Employees -- February 1973


Ball Photo Gallery

Ball Speeches & Articles - TEXT

  • Guide to field interviewers -- 1942
  • Speech to National Conference on the Churches and Social Welfare -- 1961
  • Ball speech at scroll presentation ceremony -- 1962
  • Ball speech at 30th anniversary of Social Security -- 1965
  • Report on Implementation of 1965 Amendments -- 1965
  • Report on the 1967 Amendments -- 1967
  • Ball's Final Report on Managing the Social Security Program -- 1973

  • Ball Speeches - AUDIO

    During his tenure as Commissioner, Ball made extensive use of audio recordings of speeches and other public events (the first SSA Commissioner to do so). Thanks to this archive, which we have only recently been able to recover, we have a good sampling of Ball's speeches during his time as Commissioner.

    All files are in RealAudio format.

    Speech at Western Gerontological Conference - 1964

    This speech was delivered before the Western Gerontological Conference at Fort Mason, in San Franciso, California on June 27, 1964.

    Speech to Gerontological Conference
    (49 min./5.9 meg. RealAudio file)

    Speech to Region IX Managers - 1965

    Bob Ball speech to SSA Region IX managers on April 19, 1965. This speech took place at the Sheraton Villa Motor Inn in San Mateo, California. He discusses in some detail the recently passed House version of the1965 Amendments, which would create the Medicare program and make many changes in the Social Security cash benefits programs. This speech was made prior to the Senate consideration of the bill and it signals SSA's views on the pending legislation. A key focus of Ball's remarks was the administrative challenges facing SSA in carrying out the Medicare legislation.

    Speech to SSA Managers in Region IX
    (66 min./8.1 meg. RealAudio file)

    Speech to SSA Headquarters Staff - 1965

    This speech, delivered at SSA Headquarters in Baltimore on November 18, 1965, begins with an interesting historical overview of major organizational changes at the Social Security Admininstration through the years.

    Speech to SSA Headquarters Staff
    (55 min./6.8 meg. RealAudio file)

    Speech to SSA Staff on Implementation of Medicare - 1966

    On July 7, 1966 Bob Ball addressed an assembly of SSA personnel at SSA Headquarters in Baltimore. The Medicare program had taken effect six days before and in this speech Ball recounts the administrative efforts required to implement the new program.

    Speech to SSA Staff on Implementation of Medicare
    (26 min./3.2 meg. RealAudio file)

    Speech at Seminar on Equal Employment Opportunity - 1967

    This speech, from a September 22, 1967 seminar, expressed SSA's commitment to equal employment opportunity and Ball' strong personal feelings on the matter.

    Speech on EEO
    (22 min./2.7 meg. RealAudio file)

    Speech at Conference on Aging - 1970

    This August 14, 1970 speech was delivered at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor--on the 35th anniversary of the Social Security Act.

    Speech at Conference on Aging
    (47 min./5.8 meg. RealAudio file)

    Speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco - 1973

    On the afternoon of January 5th, 1973, Bob Ball spoke before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Earlier that morning, President Nixon has informed Ball that he was accepting his resignation as Commissioner of Social Security. With amazing pluck and grace, Ball spoke that afternoon and presented what many believe to be one of the finest explications ever made of the traditional view of Social Security as a form of social insurance. Ball's deep convictions about Social Security and its future are evident both in his spoken remarks and in the question and answer period which followed. This speech is remarkable too for the degree to which the issues being discussed in 1973 are in many ways the same issues that are resonant today, more than a quarter century later.

    Speech to the Commonwealth Club of California
    (28 min./3.3 meg. RealAudio file)

    Q & A Session Following the Speech
    (23 min./2.8 meg. RealAudio file)

    Speech at National Organizations Conference - 1973

    Speech before the National Organizations Conference--February 15, 1973. In this speech Ball explains in detail the many changes to Social Security and Medicare resulting from the 1972 Amendments. He also discusses the new SSI program. He also touches briefly on some of the same issues and themes from his Commonwealth Club speech.

    Speech at Organizations Conference
    (46 min./5.6 meg. RealAudio file)

    Q & A at Organizations Conference
    (14 min./1.7 meg. RealAudio file)