by Marc Maurer
A man who became a prominent leader in work with the blind in the twentieth century, William Gallagher, died at age seventy-seven on April 19, 2000. His career in the blindness field began in 1954 and continued for the next thirty-six years. In 1980 William Gallagher was appointed Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind. During the 1970's and early 1980's there was dramatic strife between organized blind consumers and certain of the agencies established to serve the blind. Mr. William Gallagher worked closely with Dr. Kenneth Jernigan to try to bring understanding between consumers and service providers. Mr. Gallagher, who was himself blind, recognized the importance of discussion with the National Federation of the Blind. Strife and bitterness do not change to harmony and cooperation without time and effort, but they do change. By the mid 1980's Dr. Jernigan nominated Bill Gallagher to serve as President of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, and he was elected.
By the end of his tenure as the Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind, Bill Gallagher had come to have respect and affection for a great many leaders of the organized blind movement, and these feelings were returned. Bill Gallagher took the time and made the effort to understand the driving force behind the movement for collective action by the blind of America. He served an essential part in bringing harmony into the field. He could not have done it alone, but without him it could not have been done. He has made extraordinary contributions to the lives and the future of the blind. It is not too much to say of Bill Gallagher that he was a statesman.