U.S. Postal Service to review stamp honoring Florence Ballad of The Supremes

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent | 8/6/2020, 6 p.m.
The Supremes legend Mary Wilson is on a crusade that she hopes will end with the U.S. Postal Service commemorating ...
Florence Ballard, left, with Mary Wilson and Diana Ross. Photo by NNPA

The Supremes legend Mary Wilson is on a crusade that she hopes will end with the U.S. Postal Service commemorating her late bandmate and close friend Florence Ballard on a Forever Stamp.

“I get so emotional when I speak about Flo,” said Ms. Wilson, who received a 2020 NNPA Lifetime Achievement Award during the Black Press of America’s recent virtual convention. “I’ve been working hard to get that recognition for her because she deserves it.”

Ms. Wilson noted that the U.S. Postal Service has done a brilliant job of issuing commemorative postage stamps about iconic pop culture heroes who have helped shape the world.

Ms. Ballard

Ms. Ballard

In the past, postage stamps have been issued celebrating the lives and accomplishments of several legends in the music business, including Elvis Presley, Sarah Vaughan, Patsy Cline, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye and Janis Joplin.

Ms. Wilson’s quest to get the postal service to issue a stamp honoring Ms. Ballard, a founding star of The Supremes, has gained momentum.

Ms. Wilson

Ms. Wilson

“We have received a proposal from the public and it will be reviewed at our next Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee meeting,” Roy Betts, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman, told BlackPressUSA.

The USPS and the citizens’ advisory group have set specific criteria to determine the eligibility of subjects for commemoration on all U.S. stamps and stationery, Mr. Betts added. Among them are that stamps and stationery would primarily feature American or American-related subjects. The postal service also will honor extraordinary and enduring contributions to American society, history, culture or the environment.

U.S. stamp programs are planned and developed two to three years in advance, with consideration if suggestions are submitted three or more years in advance of the proposed stamp.

In 2018, the postal service began considering proposals for deceased individuals three years following their death. Ms. Ballard died in 1976 at age 31.

Born in Detroit in 1943, Ms. Ballard was the eighth of Jesse and Lurlee Ballard’s 13 children. Almost from the start, music played an essential part in her life, according to her biography. Her father was her first teacher. He would play songs and teach his daughter to sing them. Those early lessons made a deep impression, and legend has it that Ms. Ballard soon was outsinging her father.

Her musical gift was hard to ignore. As she grew older, she found an outlet for her singing in school music classes and choirs. She was in her early teens when her music career was set in motion. Two of her neighbors, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, sang in a group called The Primes, which later became The Temptations. They introduced her to manager Milton Jenkins, who was so impressed with the 14-year-old’s voice that he asked her to perform as a soloist with The Primes. After Ms. Ballard appeared with the group for a few engagements, Mr. Jenkins knew he had found an outstanding talent, her biography read. He suggested that Ms. Ballard form a sister group to The Primes.

Immediately, she asked her friend, Mary Wilson, to be a member of the group. Betty McGlown and a friend of Ms. Wilson’s, Diana Ross, also were recruited. After gaining their parent’s permission, the four teens officially became known as The Primettes in the spring of 1959. They began rehearsals with Ms. Ballard as the lead singer.

Ms. McGlown departed just before the group found fame at Motown with the name The Supremes.

“The memories are so vivid,” Ms. Wilson said. “Florence Ballard was such a wonderful person. It’s my sincere hope that we can get the postal service to honor her now.”