Versatile Genius - Genial Versifier

A man of many talents

James Ball Naylor, one of the most well known authors in the country at the turn of the twentieth century, has since faded into the shadows of obscurity. His rise from an impoverished childhood, his fight to get an education, his struggle through hardships in becoming a country doctor in rural Ohio, the development of his passion for writing that took form in poetry, novels, short stories, and children’s books is an inspirational one. He became well-known as an entertainer and a speaker on the Lyceum and Chautauqua Circuits, as well as a political force both as a candidate and as a newspaper columnist.

A man with strong moral character and integrity, Naylor was dedicated to his family and to making life better for others as a medical doctor. His contributions and accomplishments as an educator, public speaker, entertainer, public servant, and politician were numerous. His involvement in politics brought him more than passing friendships with local and national politicians, including Warren G. Harding, whom he knew from their earliest days in politics. This close association with Harding led to Naylor’s thirteen-year stint as a columnist for the Marion Star, but his staunch support of Harding in the face of the scandals after Harding’s death affected Naylor’s reputation as well.

Exceptionally gifted with a natural ability, Naylor’s passion for writing led to his greatest success, that of a poet and best-selling author. He painted word pictures that rivaled the finest brush strokes on canvas to bring his stories and poems to life for his readers. Ralph Marlowe, Naylor’s 1901 best-selling novel, remained on the best-seller list for six months and could be found throughout the United States and Europe.

Special thanks to the Morgan Country Historical Society for several of the photos included here, as well as for ongoing support in this project.

Thanks also to Greg & Ellen Hill for use of photos from their special collection.