J. Ballard Atherton received his B.A. from Princeton University in 1933 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He continued two more years to receive his electrical engineering degree. He studied communications at Ohio State and then joined Mutual Telephone Co., now GTE Hawaiian Telephone Co. in 1940 as plant engineer.
J. Ballard Atherton was promoted to assistant chief engineer, assistant corporate secretary, vice president, and then president by 1950. He directed growth during the decade in which telephones in service doubled to 200,000 and plant investment increased from $23.5 million to over $100 million by 1961. He guided participation in underseas cable, which lined Hawaiian telephone service with the mainland, and ground work was laid for transpacific cable to the Far East. Atherton led the company into participation with others and the federal government in a space communications satellite system. He was director of the USITA from 1956 until his death. He was a leading figure and officer in many Hawaiian civic organizations and in 1960 was elected Citizen of the Year.
He was a guiding hand for 15 years on the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council (president, 1945-56), chairman of the City Charter Commission, 1956-58, and he drafted Honolulu’s charter which has since been used as a model for many other cities. He died in 1962.