Native son honored with Wright award

Published 12:03 am Sunday, March 1, 2015

Native Natchezian and six-time Grammy Award winner Glen Ballard speaks after receiving the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award during the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration’s award ceremony Saturday. Ballard is a renowned lyricist, songwriter, producer and arranger in the music industry. He currently lives in Los Angels. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Native Natchezian and six-time Grammy Award winner Glen Ballard speaks after receiving the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award during the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration’s award ceremony Saturday. Ballard is a renowned lyricist, songwriter, producer and arranger in the music industry. He currently lives in Los Angels. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Glen Ballard has lived in Los Angeles for the last 40 years pursuing a dream that began on the streets of Natchez.

“I lived such a charmed life growing up in such a magical place,” Ballard said Saturday morning to the audience at the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration. “I always think of this as home.”

Ballard was one of the two writers who were awarded the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award at this year’s NLCC writing awards ceremony.

Ballard, a Natchez native, is a six-time Grammy award winner and is an acclaimed songwriter for artists such as Paula Abdul, Michael Jackson, Shakira, Wilson Phillips and Stevie Nicks.

He has worked with American record producer Quincy Jones and has co-written and produced songs for films such as “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf.”

Ballard said he was lucky to have grown up in Natchez.

“The kind of good will that I just feel among the citizens is something very rare — you don’t find that in other places,” Ballard said. “So when you are away for 40 years and come back, you are reminded how friendly and how much the spirit of love really transcends everything that may have happened here in the past.”

Ballard said he feels a sense of longing in Natchez, which is really inspiring.

The world needs to know how this city gets along, Ballard said.

Although Ballard is an acclaimed songwriter, he was honored to share the stage with accomplished Mississippians.

“The fact that a songwriter is up here with all of these beautiful and intellectual people is amazing to me,” Ballard said.

At the age of eight, Ballard was paid to write a musical piece, an event that set a roadmap for his life.

“I said, ‘If I can get paid for doing this, I want to do this for the rest of my life,’” Ballard said. “I was fortunate to make that happen.”

Ballard said he probably wrote 10,000 songs in his life, but only 300 of those songs were good.

“I can tell you it’s about working everyday,” Ballard said.

To be welcomed back here unconditionally is something I’m grateful for,” Ballard said. “That’s why I will always be a Natchezian.”

Ballard attended Cathedral Elementary School, Margaret Martin Junior High School, Natchez-Adams County High School and the University of Mississippi.

Myrlie Evers-Williams and Robert V. Haynes were also honored with the Richard Write Literary Excellence Award, however, because of flight cancellations in Dallas because of the weather, Evers-Williams was not able to attend the program.

But thanks to modern technology, Evers-Williams was able to talk to the audience via speakerphone as her voice filled the room from the surrounding stage speakers.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award,” Evers-Williams said. “The whole concept of the program is such a wonderful idea. I have looked forward to this for months, so sorry that I could not be there.”

Evers-Williams was the wife of the assassinated civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

Following her husband’s assassination, Evers-Williams continued his work with her book, “For Us, The Living.”

Evers-Williams established the Medgar Evers institution in Jackson, linking business, government and communities to further human rights and equality.

Lastly, Haynes, author of “The Mississippi Territory and the Southwest Frontier, 1795-1817,” which won the 2011 Mississippi Historical Society’s McLemore Prize for best book on Mississippi history, said he appreciates the NLCC.

“I want you to understand what this prestigious award means to me,” Haynes said.

Screenwriter and director of the critically acclaimed film “Mud,” was not present to receive the Horton Foote award for special achievement in screenwriting because of his new film’s production deadlines.