He was 85 when he died Saturday, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Ballas, a native of Ruston, La., served in the Air Force in World War II and the Korean War. He served as an instructor and troubleshooter for the Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire chains of dance studios before founding Dance City USA Studio in Houston in the late 1950s.
After selling the studio in 1964, Ballas got the idea for a device that could be used to dig up weeds for difficult corners and the areas around trees. He later said it came to him while he was sitting in an automatic car wash watching the brushes rotate.
Ballas founded Weed Eater in 1971 and later sold it to Emerson Electric. Part of the deal was that the price could not be disclosed, even to Ballas' family.
In his later years, Ballas was involved in real estate development in the Houston area and taught entrepreneurship as an adjunct at Rice.
His wife Maria Louisa was a champion flamenco dancer, and a son, Corky, also became a professional. A grandson, Mark Ballas, has become a star on "Dancing With the Stars."