Braille Monitor                                                    November 2009

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Kenneth Jernigan

Longtime Federationists may remember that November 13 was the birthday of Kenneth Jernigan, charismatic NFB leader for forty-six years and president from March 1968 through July 1986. He served with distinction and passion (with only one year off in the late 1970s), giving new life and expression to the work and philosophy of the Federation during the middle years of the NFB’s history to the present. A brief review of the NFB literature catalog confirms that President Jernigan was a true teacher and agent of social change for the national blindness community. His memorable banquet addresses, presidential reports, articles, and other writings comprise a substantial and fertile part of NFB literature. He touched the hearts and minds of thousands of blind people across the nation with his imaginative and thoughtful analysis of blindness and his commitment to bringing about institutional change.

Kenneth Jernigan died of lung cancer on October 12, 1998. His loss remains a poignant sorrow for many, but, as we pass the eleventh anniversary of his death and prepare to celebrate what would have been his eighty-third birthday, it occurs to us that many now in the NFB never knew him personally. Whether or not you knew Kenneth Jernigan during his lifetime, we invite you to take some time this November to review a piece of his writing on blindness. We feel confident that his compelling language and fundamental articulation of our commonsense approach to blindness will resonate as powerfully today as it did when he originally penned his thoughts. We take this opportunity to recognize and salute the life and work of our friend, teacher, mentor, and leader. Happy birthday, Dr. Jernigan. You are deeply missed and fondly remembered.

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