Justin Ford Kimball, education official and originator of the Blue Cross hospital insurance plan, the son of Rev. Justin A. and Elizabeth (Ford) Kimball, was born on a farm near Huntsville, Texas, on August 25, 1872. After graduating from Mount Lebanon College in Louisiana in 1890, he attended Baylor University, where he received an M.A. in 1899. After postgraduate work at the University of Chicago and law school at the University of Michigan, he began his career in education as a teacher in rural Louisiana. Subsequently he moved to Mexia, Texas, where he taught, and then on to Navasota, where he was principal. In 1895 he became a principal in the Temple school system, and in 1900 he was hired as superintendent of schools there. In 1902 he resigned to practice law in Waco. Two years later he moved to Austin to become the law clerk for the State Department of Education. In 1905 he returned to Temple as superintendent.
During the next nine years Kimball established a statewide reputation as an administrator, prompting Dallas officials to extend an invitation to him to become superintendent of Dallas public schools. He accepted and during his tenure from 1914 to 1924 strengthened his reputation as a pragmatic, hard-working administrator. His success as Dallas superintendent resulted in his election to the presidency of the Texas State Teachers Association. In 1920 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by Baylor University. His busy schedule, however, affected his health. In 1924, on advice from his doctor to reduce his workload, he resigned as superintendent. After retiring he received invitations to be a summer lecturer at Baylor, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas, and the Peabody College for Teachers at Nashville, Tennessee. He joined the faculty of Southern Methodist University as professor of education in 1925.
In 1929 he became vice president of Baylor University in charge of the College of Medicine, School of Nursing, College of Dentistry, and hospital, all located in Dallas. In his first year in office Kimball designed an individual hospital prepayment plan, adapted from the prepayment plans of the lumber and railroad industries, which became the forerunner of Blue Cross Group Hospital Insurance. After discovering that Baylor Hospital had a large number of unpaid bills, many from Dallas schoolteachers, Kimball developed a plan whereby a teacher could prepay, at fifty cents a month or six dollars a year, for twenty-one days of semiprivate hospitalization at Baylor Hospital. The plan would take effect after a patient's first week in the hospital, with payments being five dollars a day. By December of 1929, 75 percent of Dallas teachers had enrolled in the plan. Within two years employees of the Dallas Morning News and Dallas radio station WFAA had also joined. The success of the prepayment plan resulted in an invitation from the American Hospital Association for Kimball to present a paper discussing the mechanics of his idea. Although he was unable to attend, his paper was read and well received. Shortly thereafter the association elected him an honorary life member.
In 1939 Kimball, sixty-seven years old, retired as vice president of Baylor University. He returned as an adjunct professor to SMU, where he lectured on educational administration and wrote Our Dallas, a popular history of the city, which was published in 1927 and used by Dallas grade schools for a number of years. Kimball was a life-long Democrat. He served as the chairman of the civil service commission in Dallas and from 1949 to 1952 was a member of the State Board of Education (see TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY). He was married in 1905 to Annie Lou Boggess; they had two sons and two daughters. Kimball spent his last years revising Our Dallas and supervising the work on his three farms. On October 7, 1956, he died at his home in Dallas. Two years later a new Dallas high school was named after him.