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Dr. Jernigan and daughter Marie


Marie Antoinette Cobb

I consider most of the people in this room—and I say "most" because I'm not sure I know all of you—I consider most of the people in this room to be family. In the Federation we are a family, and we greatly treasure and value that. And because we are family, I want to share with you some things that I will always remember about my father that are really special to me. They are things that might not be special to anybody but me, but that's fine too. For example, I'll always remember when we went to restaurants, especially certain ones, he would order one (or more) of every appetizer on the menu and pass them around and discuss them. It was great fun, and the waiters and waitresses were usually in awe. He went in and sort of took over the restaurant—well, you guys know how he was.

Then there was the litter of kittens that he adopted a few years ago. He adopted not only the entire litter but their parents as well. I have to tell you that I was amazed because it hadn't been many weeks before that that he was making fun of me and teasing me mercilessly because he thought that Tony and I had too many kittens. After that he had more than we did. I loved it.

He and I talked a lot of times about dying and funerals. He loved the old southern funerals. He used to tease me and say when I died he was going to have people come by and say how natural I looked, and he was going to have them sing all the old mournful, sad songs. I would say, "No, no, no, Dad, they're going to sing `That's Why the Lady Is a Tramp.'"

And he would say, "No! that is very inappropriate." We must have gone through that scenario about fifty times. Then he'd say he was going to put me in Lucite and stand me up in the corner of the dining room. He always had fun when we talked about those things. They were just precious moments for me.

Then there's my cookbook collection. He and Mrs. Jernigan traveled a lot in the last few years, you know. No matter where they went, they somehow remembered to bring me a cookbook from that place.

Dad loved silly songs. I taught him a few like "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" and "Have you Eever-Iver-Ever Seen a Meece-Mice-Mouse Chase a Keeten-Kiten-Kitten Through the Heece-Hice-House?" That was his favorite.

There was the time that he and I went for a walk over to the Maurers' house back a few years ago when we had our big blizzard here in Baltimore. He got a little more than annoyed with me because I pelted him with a couple of snowballs—he told me to "Cut that out!" But I didn't.

Then there was the day that he taught me how to use his chain saw and his wood saw. Now he didn't just do that to improve my education; he had a big stack of wood he wanted me to cut up for him. And I did it joyfully because, I have to be honest with you, I was not sure I could.

The memory that is the most special and that I will always cherish the most was Christmas Eve of 1984. My children were all upstairs in bed—we were at Dad's house—and he said, "Come on, let's go down to the basement. We went down to the room where he played those poker games and where he had a lot of his Braille books housed. We sat down at the table, and he read me a Christmas story. It was one of the most wonderful Christmas stories—I never forgot that story. It was about a very poor family that had almost nothing monetarily, but they were rich. They loved everyone; they were kind; they were generous. They were the kind of people he wanted and helped each of us to become.

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Marie Cobb looks on as Dr. Jernigan cuts his
seventieth birthday cake, which she and Mrs. Jernigan
baked and Miss DePuew frosted.

A few years later on Christmas Eve I said to him, "Dad, do you know what I want for Christmas? I want you to read me the story about the chocolate mouse."

He said, "What in the name of Heaven are you talking about?"

I said, "You know that story you read me a few years ago."

He said, "I don't remember a story about a chocolate mouse." We went down into the basement, and we looked until we found that book, and he read me that story again. Later he read it to Mrs. Jernigan, and she liked it too. So he put it on tape for us.

Then there was the night when he gave me away in front of the fireplace in his living room twelve years ago, when Tony and I got married. That was a very special night too. But he didn't let it get too heavy. Near the end of the evening, when we were getting ready to go, he said, "Get out of here; I've made an honest woman out of you."

I also remember the things we shared and had in common— things like Bing Crosby's music, Zane Grey's books, literature of all kinds—I inherited his love of books. I am forever grateful for that. Things like hoarding up things we especially loved like certain kinds of food or fifteen pairs of shoes—we both actually did that once.

You can't ever tell about southerners, you know. They have to have certain kinds of food. He and I both especially enjoyed good southern food, especially when it was well prepared. Along with rare steaks and music boxes and roaring fireplaces. The thing that I must never, ever forget is the tireless pursuit of total equality for all people that my father really committed his whole life to. And I must never forget the times he pushed me to be more than I was or to do more than I ever thought I could, and the time he spent working hard to help me and other blind people to have the rights and the opportunities to do things that many of our forefathers never had.

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To that end, Sir, in maybe a different way than it has been said here today, Dr. Maurer, I want to pledge publicly to you my loyalty and my support for you. You are our leader, and you are a good one, and I am proud to call you our President. Dr. Maurer and Dad sometimes flew airplanes at National Conventions. They sailed them off the platform, and it's a good thing that nobody ever got hit, I guess. But, Sir, I have a little book I'd like to present to you today. It's all about paper airplanes. Next summer, when we are in Atlanta, fly one for Dad.