Services are this week for North Carolina Democratic politician Frank Ballance, who served briefly in Congress and later went to federal prison for activities related to a charitable organization.
Family spokesman Carlton Pressley confirmed on Monday that Ballance died Friday at a Raleigh hospital, saying he didn’t survive after undergoing a procedure there. He was 77.
Ballance served over two decades in the state House and Senate, rising to the No. 2 post in the Senate chamber. He was elected to North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District seat in 2002, but resigned in June 2004, citing ill health. Ballance pleaded guilty later that year to conspiring to divert taxpayer money to his family and others through a foundation he helped start while at the General Assembly.
Prosecutors said Ballance, during his time at the legislature, channeled $2.3 million in state money to the John A. Hyman Memorial Foundation, created to help low-income people fight drug and alcohol abuse. Ballance then diverted some of that money from its intended purpose, according to authorities, giving some of it to his children and to share with his mother for community programs.
Ballance left prison in 2009 after more than three years behind bars. In a television interview after his release, Ballance said he was unfairly targeted by prosecutors and should have never served prison time.
A Bertie County native, Frank W. Ballance Jr. was an attorney who lived in Warrenton, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) north of Raleigh. He was among several black elected officials in northeastern North Carolina whose prominence grew over the past 40 years as civil rights legislation and rulings increased access to the levers of power.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, who succeeded Ballance in the 1st District seat, said Ballance and his law partner gave him his first job out of law school.
“Frank was a voice for everyday North Carolinians, working tirelessly to elevate issues impacting our communities,” Butterfield said in a release. “Frank was a giant of a man and I am honored to have called him a friend.”
Ballance’s memorial service is set for Thursday evening at Elevation Baptist Church in Raleigh, followed on Friday by a funeral at Indian Woods Missionary Baptist Church in Windsor.
Pressley said Ballance, who was married, died on the same day as his mother-in-law. Her funeral is Tuesday.