Born on December 21, 1909, in Des Moines, Iowa, George Ball studied at Northwestern University, earning a law degree in 1933. Moving to Washington, DC, he worked as a government lawyer from 1933 to 1935. In 1935, he moved to Chicago to practice tax law.
Returning to Washington in 1942, he was appointed associate general counsel for the Lend-Lease Administration. Near the end of World War II, Ball directed the US strategic Bombing Survey in London, going on to become an international lawyer representing the European Economic Community (1946-1961). In 1961, he headed the task force on trade and tariff policy for President-Elect John Kennedy. Many of his proposals became part of the Kennedy Economic Program.
On November 26, 1961, Kennedy named Ball Undersecretary of State for economic affairs. He remained at the State Department until 1966. Although he publicly opposed the Vietnam War, he was briefly appointed US Ambassador to the UN in 1968. In 1969, Ball turned to banking, working for a New York City investment banking firm until his retirement in 1982. During the Carter Administration, Ball helped draft American policy proposals in the Persian Gulf. His books include The Discipline of Power and Diplomacy for a Crowded World, as well as The Passionate Attachment, written with his son, Douglas. Ball died in New York City on May 26, 1994.