Pictured are six people prepared to unveil the bronze bust of Dr. jernigan

Six people are grouped around a veiled object on a podium. CAPTION: Left to right Tony Cobb, Marie Cobb, Joyce Scanlan, Marc Maurer, Mary Ellen Jernigan, and Lloyd Jernigan prepare to unveil the bronze bust of Dr. Jernigan.

Pictured with the bust are Tony Cobb, Marie Cobb, Joanne Wilson, Mary Ellen Jernigan,

 Mary Jernigan and Lloyd Jernigan.

Six people are grouped around the unveiled bust. Mrs. Jernigan's hand rests on the shoulder of the bust. Left to right Tony Cobb, Marie Cobb, Joanne Wilson, Mary Ellen Jernigan, Mary Jernigan, and Lloyd Jernigan stand beside the bust of Dr. Jernigan.]

                                                                   

                                                               Kenneth Jernigan:

                                                         The Master, the Mission,

                                                                 The Movement

                                                                 

            Independence day was a fitting time for the Convention of the National Federation of the Blind to remember and pay tribute to our long-time leader and beloved friend, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. President Maurer began the memorial portion of the Sunday morning session agenda by pointing out that the three flags present on the platform (United States, Canada, and NFB) as well as the large flag that flies atop the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore were flying at half mast for the day in recognition of and respect for the life and death of Dr. Jernigan. He then described a forty-two-inch-high walnut podium present that morning at the right side of the stage, the side where Dr. Jernigan always sat. The podium had been lovingly made by staff members at the National Center for the Blind from wood found and preserved by Dr. Jernigan himself--wood that he always intended to use for some special purpose. At the four corners of the rising column of the podium, and supporting the actual flat podium surface were four large wooden spools of the kind on which thread used to be wound. Dr. Jernigan, in the days when he crafted furniture, found ways of using such spools in the construction of his pieces. Finding a function for those rejected spools was perhaps his first successful effort to take something that no one else wanted and make of it a useful and beautiful creation.

 

            A drape covered a large object placed on the podium, and spotlights were trained on that area of the platform. Dr. Maurer; the NFB officers; Don Capps, the senior member of the Board; Mrs. Jernigan; Marie Cobb, Doctor Jernigan's daughter, and her husband Tony; and Lloyd Jernigan, Dr. Jernigan's brother, and his wife Mary all gathered around the podium and together withdrew the drape to reveal a bronze bust of Dr. Jernigan, created by the sculptor Joseph Moss. A white cane rendered in walnut is incorporated into the podium at Dr. Jernigan's right shoulder. The bust is roughly life-size and, displayed on the podium, is almost exactly Dr. Jernigan's height. Though many delegates had already examined the bust in the Jernigan suite, it seemed fitting for it to be officially unveiled at the beginning of the convention memorial service.

 Debbie Brown and Lloyd Rasmussen singing 

Debbie's song celebrating the life of Kenneth Jernigan.  Tom Bickford accompanies them on the guitar.

Debbie Brown (left) and Lloyd Rasmussen (right) sing Debbie's newest song in celebration of the life of Kenneth Jernigan. Tom Bickford (center) accompanies them on the guitar.

 

            Debbie Brown, one of the leaders of the Maryland affiliate, wrote a song in celebration of Dr. Jernigan's life and work. She and Lloyd Rasmussen sang it to Tom Bickford's guitar accompaniment. Here is the text:

                                                                   

                                                        A Song for Kenneth Jernigan

                                                                 Words and music

                                                                by Deborah Brown

                                                        (C)1998 by Deborah Brown

                                                                 

You were born a poor boy

In the hills of Tennessee.

The people there had never met

Someone who couldn't see.

Though your family loved you,

They sometimes got in your way,

But you made some money

While the others just made hay.

You tried to be a lawyer,

But your counselor told you, "no,"

If you want our money,

Find another way to go."

So you became a teacher,

And today you're teaching still.

The counselor didn't know

You had a dream he couldn't kill.

refrain:

Because your dreams were bigger

Than your rehab counselor's mind,

Someday they'd reach beyond you

To enfold all of the blind.

                                                                

But the world was changing

As you taught in Tennessee

Because Jacobus tenBroek

Led the fledgling NFB;

While at your first convention

In 1952,

Did you know his leadership

Would be passed on to you?

You went to California,

Then in Iowa you taught.

You knew we couldn't learn

Unless we changed the way we thought;

You reached a generation

With the stirring words you said,

But they were more than words,

For your philosophy baked bread.

refrain:

Because your dreams were bigger

Than one generation's mind,

Today they reach beyond you

To enfold all of the blind.

                                                               

You followed Dr. tenBroek

At the head of NFB;

You led us in the war

Against repressive agencies;

The blind across the nation

Helped you storm the gates of NAC;

You told them, "We know who we are,

And we're not going back!"

Because of you we witnessed

NAC's dying agonies,

But now the blind are facing

A new set of enemies;

The agencies were flound'ring,

Their exalted place denied;

You made them see the wisdom

Of enlisting on our side.

refrain:

Because your dreams were bigger

Than the blindness experts' minds,

Today they reach beyond you

To enfold all of the blind.

                                                                 

You stood behind the effort

To improve technology,

But you believed solutions

Should transcend mere gadgetry.

Because you knew the problems

That now face the nation's blind

Are not the fault of hardware

But the software in the mind.

The Kernel Books have helped us

With the stories that they tell:

As children, parents, workers too,

We can get along quite well;

The Federation's teachings

Have spread over all the Earth;

Because of you the blind

Of every land now know their worth.

refrain:

Because your dreams were bigger

Than a single country's mind,

Today they reach beyond you

To enfold the whole world's blind.

                                                                    **********

Though we truly love you,

And we're sorry that you're gone,

We know your greatest wish

Is for the movement to go on;

Though future generations

Will extol your memory,

We know our altered lives

Will be your greatest legacy.

refrain:

Because your dreams were bigger

Than your generation's mind,

Today they reach beyond you

To enfold the future blind.

            The first actual speaker in the memorial program was Don Capps, President of the NFB of South Carolina, the senior member of the NFB Board of Directors, and a close friend and colleague of Dr. Jernigan for over forty years. His remarks at the December memorial service and printed in the January/February memorial issue of the Braille Monitor were similar to his recollections at the convention and are therefore not reprinted here. The remaining speakers did not address the memorial service in December, and their remarks are reprinted on the following pages.