The Final Test

A Biography of James Ball Naylor


Theresa Marie Flaherty

A man of myriad talents, James Ball Naylor was a best-selling novelist; a prolific poet; politically outspoken, he was a powerful speaker; an incredible entertainer; a long-time columnist; and a medical doctor. He began his practice as a country doctor who traveled throughout the area visiting his clientele. Born in 1860, Naylor spent his entire life in Morgan County, Ohio. He played several prominent parts in the Ohio scene between the 1890s and the 1930s. He was active in politics, running unsuccessfully for several offices. Early on he became friends with Warren G. Harding and wrote for Harding’s Marion Star for many years, but it was his contributions to Ohio’s literature that brought him the greatest degree of recognition. He wrote eight novels, three children’s books, six books of collected verse, and numerous short stories. All these written while he continued to maintain a medical practice.

There is little question that it was James Ball Naylor’s passion for poetry and writing that brought him the most public acclaim. The true-to-life characters he described in his 1901 best-selling novel, Ralph Marlowe, were drawn right out of rural America at the turn of the twentieth century. The atmosphere of the country, the real flavor of the land and the people struck a chord with readers as far away as Great Britain. The characters in his books were gleaned from the real people he rubbed shoulders with daily. His descriptive powers enabled his readers to easily visualize each scene

Naylor’s story depicts a slice of western American history at the turn of the twentieth century and reflects many of the hardships and successes that were endured by the men and women who moved the country forward. His life story is a truly fascinating human interest story about one individual who passed the Final Test!