Carola Lillie Hartley
The Ballard Trade School of Opelousas was opened for business in May of 1949 to train Black ex-GI’s of the area. The school was located along the Port Barre Road on the property owned by Lawrence J. Ballard, Sr, (1898-1977), a professor at the St. Landry Training School. The trade school was affiliated with the Southern Trade School.
Lawrence Ballard was instrumental in starting this first trade school for Blacks in Opelousas and St. Landry Parish. Many Black Americans who returned from the fighting in WWII received their trade certification at the Ballard Trade School.
The first classes offered at the school was training in carpentry. Later classes in automobile body and fender repair, shoe repair, bricklaying, cement finishing, electrical wiring, and upholstery were added. When the school opened, twenty-two students were enrolled during that first year, with plans to create more rooms to accommodate from 300 to 400 students.
John Carr, who worked as director of the Rapides Trade School in Alexandria, was hired to direct the Ballard Trade School, with H. J. Wier, Sr. as the school’s Vice-President. The VA financed the veterans in the school under the GI Bill of Rights which allowed them to receive from $90 to $105 per month for expenses while in training. They were also paid funds to cover expenses for their instruction and tools.
When the Ballard Trade School opened it was an economic boost to the local area recovering from the effects of WWII. It brought a monthly payroll of about $30,000 to Opelousas.