Among his fellow judges in Sedgwick County’s 18th Judicial District, Judge Richard Ballinger was known for many things.
Like his father, Owen, Mr. Ballinger was an avid Wichita State University fan.
“Huge,” Judge David Dahl said of his dedication to the Shockers. “We would talk when we saw one another about the law, but also about the Shockers.”
Mr. Ballinger also took pride in his Harley-Davidson, often taking trips into the Colorado mountains or the Oklahoma plains with fellow lawyers.
“He just loved riding his motorcycle,” Judge Doug Roth said. “In the judges’ parking compound, you’d always see his motorcycle and leather jacket.”
But perhaps most importantly, Mr. Ballinger was known for his genial manner – kind, but decisive – in the courtroom, his fellow judges said.
“He was thorough, he was considerate, and he was fair,” Dahl said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Mr. Ballinger died Friday morning as a result of complications from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 62.
Mr. Ballinger received his law degree from Washburn University in 1976, and soon after graduation went to work for Sedgwick County District Attorney Vern Miller.
There, he met Roth, and the two became friends, Roth said.
“We would get together once a week and play basketball together, then go out and have a cold beer,” Roth said. “One day I told him, ‘Hey, I’m looking for a cheaper place to live,’ and he said, ‘Hey, I’m looking for a roommate, buddy.’ ”
The two lawyers lived together in a south Wichita home near Pawnee and the Canal Route in the late 1970s. Mr. Ballinger developed a taste for rugby, Roth said, and founded a team called the Ole Yellers Rugby Club. Naturally, Roth was recruited to join the team.
“I think he always wanted to go over to England and just tour and play for the heck of it,” Roth said. “He never quite made it, but I know we talked about it.”
Mr. Ballinger worked on Joan Finney’s 1990 campaign for governor. After Finney won, she appointed Mr. Ballinger to the bench succeeding his father, Owen.
“It meant a lot to him to succeed his dad on the bench,” Roth said. “He was real proud of the fact.”
Mr. Ballinger served as the chief judge of the 18th District from 2001 to 2006, where he met Judge Joe Kisner.
Kisner said Mr. Ballinger was a key figure in his early days, helping him adjust to the new post.
“He was somebody I leaned on from time to time,” Kisner said. “He’d usually laugh a little bit and then tell you to go back and take another look at it, be patient with the lawyers, and take your time so you make the right decision.”
In 2008, Mr. Ballinger was the impetus behind the formation of the Sedgwick County Drug Court, Kisner said.
“While a lot of people considered him to be a ‘law and order’ judge, he also understood that people who committed crimes did it for a number of reasons,” Kisner said.
“Not only do you have to punish people, you also have to say, ‘How are we going to address the problem more long-term?’ That was a credit to him, and that’s the legacy he will leave behind.”
A memorial service for Mr. Ballinger will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Botanica’s Lotus Hall, 701 N. Amidon. Motorcyclists with Mulvane’s American Legion Riders, of which Mr. Ballinger was a member, will lead a flag line for him at the funeral.
Former judge Greg Waller, another close friend of Mr. Ballinger’s, will eulogize him at the service.