John E.D. Ball, Irwin E. Blum, Ting-Chu Chao die

Tuesday, April 13, 2010; B06

John E.D. Ball Emmy-Winning T.V. Engineer

John E.D. Ball, 77, founding president of the National Captioning Institute and two-time national Emmy Award winner for his television engineering work, died March 25 at the Fairfax Nursing Center of complications from a stroke suffered in November at his home in Vienna.

Mr. Ball was a native of Scotland who came to the United States mid-career in the 1960s.

In 1971, he joined the Public Broadcasting Service and helped implement the first domestic satellite distribution system. That project, completed in 1978, won Mr. Ball his first Emmy award for engineering.

His second came two years later for his efforts to develop closed captioning for television programs. About the same time, he became president of the brand-new National Captioning Institute, a nonprofit entity that worked to expand the availability of closed captioning.

During his 15 years at NCI, real-time captioning was improved and the first live news broadcasts were captioned. At the urging of NCI and others, Congress passed a law in 1990 that required new televisions with screens larger than 13 inches to be equipped with closed-captioning technology.

Many in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community applauded the work of NCI, and Mr. Ball was awarded an honorary degree from Gallaudet University in Washington. He also received a distinguished service award from the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

John Edward Dewar Ball was a native of Glasgow, Scotland, and a graduate of Glasgow's Royal College of Science and Technology.

He served two years in the Royal Air Force as a radio signaller and 13 years with the BBC before a doctor misdiagnosed rheumatoid arthritis in Mr. Ball's wife and advised moving to a warm, dry climate.

Mr. Ball promptly sought work overseas and in 1966 landed a job at the Computer Science Corp. in the District. He later worked for Intelsat on a global satellite distribution network.

He was a member of many telecommunications industry groups, authored numerous papers and held multiple patents. He was a member of the Cosmos Club and Vienna Presbyterian Church.

Survivors include his wife, the former Elizabeth Rodger of Vienna; three sons, Norman Ball of Leesburg, Adrian Ball of Arlington County and Evan Ball of Vienna; and a grandson.

-- Emma Brown

Irwin E. Blum Supreme Court Staffer

Irwin E. Blum, 96, an attorney who worked on the staff of the U.S. Supreme Court, died of heart disease April 1 at his home in Bal Harbour, Fla.

Mr. Blum, who had worked for the Justic Department, moved to the Supreme Court in 1965 as assistant reporter for decisions and as an aide to Chief Justices Earl Warren and Warren E. Burger. He retired in 1972 and returned several summers as a consultant. He moved to Florida in the mid-1970s.

He was born in New York City and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1933, after supporting his family by selling newspapers in the subway. He moved to Washington and took an entry-level job in the federal government while taking night classes at George Washington University Law School, from which he graduated in 1938. He received an advanced law degree from GWU in 1949 and a master's degree in political science from American University in 1961.

Mr. Blum also worked for the FBI before enlisting in the Navy during World War II. He served as a communications officer in the Pacific theater and was engaged in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

After the war, Mr. Blum rejoined the Justice Department and became branch chief in the Office of Alien Property, handling the disposition of property seized from German nationals during the war.

He then served in the civil rights and antitrust divisions of Justice before moving to the Supreme Court.

His first wife, Esther W. Blum, died in 1996.

Survivors include his wife, June Wagner Blum of Bal Harbour; two sons from his first marriage, Edward Blum of Vienna and Gerald Blum of Annandale; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

-- Patricia Sullivan

Ting-Chu Chao Chinese Journalist

Ting-Chu Chao, 87, a well-known journalist and columnist from Taiwan, died March 23 at his home in Potomac. He had Parkinson's disease.

Mr. Chao, a native of the Chinese province of Gansu, graduated from National Chengchi University in 1947 and began working at the Central Daily News, one of the world's oldest Chinese-language newspapers. He fled mainland China with the newspaper when the Communists took over in 1949.

Mr. Chao, who worked his way up to editor in chief and vice president, retired in 1990 and moved to Potomac.

He was a regular contributor to the Chinese-language Washington Chinese Newspaper, writing about life in America. He also wrote a memoir and poetry.

Mr. Chao volunteered as a tutor for students of Asian studies and Chinese poetry and was a member of member of a senior citizens group, the Kai Yan Club.

Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Meihwa Wang of Potomac; three children, Kelu Chao and Kedong Chao, both of Potomac, and Keou Chao of Oakton; and seven grandchildren.

-- Patricia Sullivan

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