Ball first became active in Texas politics in 1887 as an advocate of a prohibition amendment to the state constitution. He held many state Democratic party posts and was elected to the United States Congress in 1896. He resigned in 1903 to return to a Houston law practice that primarily served railroad and corporate clients. In 1911 he was selected chairman of the Prohibition Statewide Executive Committee, and many prohibitionists encouraged him to run against incumbent governor Oscar Branch Colquitt, who was up for reelection in 1912. Ball declined, and lent his support to Judge William F. Ramsey, who was easily defeated by the anti-prohibitionists. In 1914 at a pre-primary elimination convention, Ball emerged as the prohibitionist standard-bearer with the slogan "Play Ball." Both wet and dry forces assumed he would win the coming gubernatorial nomination. But political newcomer James Edward Ferguson won support by focusing on farm tenant reform. Late endorsements of Ball by President Woodrow Wilson and William Jennings Bryan backfired when Ferguson also asserted that national politicians should stay out of Texas politics. Ferguson won the nomination in July. Ball lost because of his refusal to embrace other prohibitionist demands, growing uneasiness about his legal service for large corporations, his friendship with Joseph Weldon Bailey, his own lackluster campaigning, and Ferguson's skillful demagogy.
In addition to Ball's prohibitionist activities, he was also a lifelong, vigorous promoter of publicly owned port facilities in Texas. As a member of the Rivers and Harbors Committee in the United States House of Representatives, he secured the first federal aid for development of the Houston Ship Channel in 1899. After leaving Washington he lobbied the state legislature and the United States Congress heavily, determined to facilitate local, state, and federal efforts to upgrade Houston port facilities. Both bodies soon passed measures significantly aiding local navigation districts. Following the development of Buffalo Bayou, Ball served as general counsel to the Port Commission of Houston.
Ball married Minnie F. Thomason in 1882. They had three children and adopted three more. In 1907 the community of Peck, just northwest of Houston, was renamed Tomball in Ball's honor. Ball died in Houston on May 7, 1944.
29° 43.164, -095° 18.239
Mimosa Section 11
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery