Edward Ball (March 21, 1888 - June 24, 1981) was a powerful figure in business and politics in Florida for decades.
Ball's sister Jessie (1884-1970) became the third wife of Alfred I. du Pont (1864-1935) in 1921, and through this connection Ball soon became closely associated with du Pont's business interests, especially after the couple's move to Florida in 1926. On du Pont's death in 1935 Ball took control of the trusts established by his will, which controlled large Florida landholdings and industrial interests, including the Florida East Coast Railway. Ball eventually came under strong criticism for obsessively reinvesting the trusts' income to build up their value instead of fully respecting the requirements of du Pont's will that, after Jessie Ball du Pont's death, trust income was to be used to aid the Nemours Foundation in caring for the crippled children and indigent elderly of Delaware.
Ball used various means to acquire enormous unofficial political power in Florida. He amassed a wide network of connections, and was the key figure in a group called the "Pork Chop Gang" that was known for toasting "Confusion to the Enemy" with Jack Daniel's whiskey. He was a main financer of the defeat of Claude Pepper's effort to be reelected to the United States Senate in 1950.
Arguably the most noteworthy chapter in Ball's business career was his battle against the railroad unions in the Florida East Coast Railway strike of 1963 to 1977. In order to try to save the railroad from its decades-long state of bankruptcy, which if allowed to continue would have threatened the railroad with physical decrepitude and even partial abandonment, Ball fought ferociously for the company's right to engage in its own contract negotiations with the railroad unions rather than accept an industrywide settlement that would almost certainly be larded with egregious featherbedding and intolerably wasteful work rules. His use of replacement workers to keep the railroad running during the strike led to violence by strikers that included shootings and bombings. Eventually Federal intervention helped quell the violence, and the railroad's right to operate during the strike with replacement workers was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. As the strike continued, the Florida East Coast took numerous steps to improve its physical plant, install various forms of automation, and drastically cut labor costs, all to an extent that most other railroads would not succeed in matching until years later. Ball therefore stands as a great pioneer in the American railroad industry's struggle, in the mid to late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, to improve its economic efficiency.