THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 42, No. 1 January/February,
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN
SPEAKING FOR THE BLINDIT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 42, No. 1 January/February, 1999
by Marc Maurer
Kenneth Jernigan: the Monument and the Man
by Marc Maurer
Kenneth Jernigan, 71, Advocate for the Blind
by Richard Severo
The Jernigan Family Remembers
Mary Ellen Jernigan
My Brother, My Friend
by Lloyd Jernigan
Marie Antoinette Cobb
The Early Years:
Federation Leader Appointed Director of Iowa Commission for
by Jacobus tenBroek
Profile of a Trailblazer
by Anthony Mannino
Elected Officials Remember
President William Clinton
Senator Paul Sarbanes
Congressman Robert Ehrlich, Jr
Congressman Elijah Cummings
Public Officials Assess the Man
Frank Kurt Cylke
Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D.
Voices from Around the World
Reflections on the Life of a Valued Friend and Colleague.
by Euclid J. Herie
Dr. Jernigan Will Always Be With Us
by Pedro Zurita
Sir John Wilson
by Pecharat Techavachara
Kua Cheng Hock
Friends in the Business Community Speak
Raymond Kurzweil, Ph.D.
Private Organizations Speak
Jean Dyon Norris
Susan J. Spungin, Ed.D.
Tuck Tinsley, Ed.D.
Lawrence F. Campbell
Gerald M. Kass
Mass Mail Friends Say Thank You
The Students Speak
Words from Colleagues Old and New
A Hero Among Us
by Michael Baillif
by Stephen O. Benson
Donald C. Capps
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan: My Teacher, My Mentor, My Friend
by Nell Cardwell Carney
Of Grammar Lessons and Gold Tie Chains
by Marsha Dye
Paul and Joan Flynn
Mary Ellen Gabias
Larry A. McKeever
Through the Hands of Such as These
by James H. Omvig
Ruth Hazel Staley
Making It Count
by Barbara Walker
The Fifth Generation Remembers
by Nicolas Stockton
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan, November 13, 1926, October 12, 1998]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Hastalis plays the flute before the memorial service.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Federationists seated at the back
of the ballroom listen intently to speakers at the memorial service.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Baack plays "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You" on her harmonica at Dr. Jernigan's grave.]
This entire issue is devoted to remembering and celebrating the life and work of our deeply loved President Emeritus, Kenneth Jernigan. The November, 1998, issue described in words and pictures his funeral which took place on October 15. On December 5 well over 600 people from across North America and around the world gathered for a service of recollection and celebration, which began at 1:00 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Omni Hotel in Baltimore and ended at 5:00 p.m.
As people filed into the room, Steve Hastalis of our Chicago Chapter was playing his flute quietly. Steve plays beautifully, and, following such favorites as "Climb Every Mountain," "To Dream the Impossible Dream," and "Amazing Grace," the final selection was "Glory, Glory, Federation." Then, promptly at one, President Maurer opened the service with the words: "As Dr. Jernigan, who brought us all to this meeting, has frequently said, `Federation meetings start on time.'" He then introduced Father Gregory Paul, the pastor of St. Joseph's Monastery Church and the Jernigans' close friend, to give the invocation. After that a stream of men and women who had known Dr. Jernigan came to the platform to remember this man who changed our lives and altered the face of work with the blind in this nation and, in significant measure, around the world. Many of those tributes and recollections appear in the following pages. Many more letters and reflections are also included in this memorial issue. Taken together they begin to suggest the energy, the creativity, and the humanity of this man who dared to dream and taught us to dream as well and who led us in the march to make those dreams reality.
One of the first people to speak was U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, whose remarks in the Congressional Record appear elsewhere in this issue. Gary Magarrell, Vice President of Strategic Planning, represented the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and Penny Hartin spoke on behalf of the World Blind Union. Near the close of the afternoon Lloyd Rasmussen sang the "Technology Song" that moved Dr. Jernigan at last summer's convention, and Tom Bickford accompanied him on the guitar. One of the day's final speakers was Camelia Sadat, daughter of assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. She drew parallels between her father's and Dr. Jernigan's qualities of greatness and their willingness to sacrifice everything to bring about their vision of a better world.
One of the closing events of the afternoon was the recital of the Jewish Kaddish for the dead led by Dr. Harold Snider as the audience stood in rapt silence. Then Dr. Maurer quietly read several lines from Longfellow's poem "The Day Is Done":
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.
Since the ballroom was required immediately for another function, the audience swiftly emptied the hall and boarded busses either to visit the grave site or to travel directly to the National Center for the Blind. Hundreds filed past the grave, which was illuminated and had been decked with greens, holly, and red roses. One of those who made that pilgrimage was Barbara Baack, President of the Southern Alameda County Chapter of the NFB of California. As Federationists stood quietly at the graveside, Barbara raised her harmonica to her lips and quietly played "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You." Those present agreed that it was a wonderful moment of shared blessing and intention.
Meanwhile at the National Center guests were making their way to the first floor of the Barney Street wing, where a large space had just been refurbished and where enough tables for every one to be seated had been set up. Soft drinks were available, and servers circulated with hors d'oeuvres. Shortly after six a delicious but unpretentious buffet dinner was served to the entire crowd.
After dinner brief tours of the facility were available for those interested in taking them. By shortly after nine everyone was on the way back to the hotel or on to other engagements. The day had been memorable. Together we had celebrated the life of the man who had counseled and led and loved us during his entire adult life. We returned to our homes to take up the challenge he left us: to conduct our lives with confidence and hope and to pass on these gifts to those who come after us.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Maurer delivers the eulogy for Dr. Jernigan at St. Joseph's Monastery Church, October 15, 1998.] [PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer stand with linked hands raised. CAPTION: The passing of the presidency from Kenneth Jernigan to Marc Maurer, July, 1986]
Delivered by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, delivered the eulogy at Dr. Jernigan's October 15 funeral. Here is the text:
Mrs. Jernigan, Dr. Jernigan's closest and best friend;
Senator Sarbanes, who came to the Canadian Embassy a month ago to participate in honoring Dr. Jernigan when he was given the Winston Gordon Award by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; Ellen Sauerbrey, who at Dr. Jernigan's seventieth birthday party was introduced by Dr. Jernigan as the next governor of the state of Maryland; Dr. Fred Schroeder, who was a student of Dr. Jernigan's and who currently serves as the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the United States;
Father Gregory; Federation members; and friends: Dr. Jernigan, who understood the spiritual dimension of human living, decided to join the Catholic Church only a short time ago. He was as thorough in his approach to becoming a part of the Church as he was with everything else. After the 1998 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, the Jernigans invited Father Gregory, the pastor of St. Joseph's Monastery Church, to their home to offer a Mass. A number of the Jernigans' closest friends joined them in the dining room of their house for this celebration, in which Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan pledged their faith in the principles of Catholicism.
There have been many tributes to Dr. Jernigan in the last few days and weeks. We cannot review them all. But there is one that came dated today which says:
To the Family and Friends of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan
I would like to express my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Today is truly a sad day for our nation. Dr. Jernigan contributed so much to improving the quality of life for blind people in America that it would be difficult to recite even a small number of his contributions. He was a pioneer in the field of rehabilitation of the blind, a pioneer in promoting high quality education for blind children and, in particular, rekindling an awareness of the vital role of Braille literacy. Through his efforts as a champion of civil rights and his work with the National Federation of the Blind, he led blind people of our nation through the dawn of equal opportunity to a place that he called "the day after civil rights."
As you know, President Clinton and I are deeply committed to assisting all Americans in acquiring the skills and confidence they need to be fully productive and independent. Dr. Jernigan's life is perhaps the most vivid testament to what people can achieve if given the opportunity. But Dr. Jernigan did not simply claim this gift for himself; he shared it with countless others. As a result blind people today have the opportunity to live integrated, fulfilling lives. His life and work benefited all blind people and, by so doing, benefited our nation as a whole. Those of us who share Dr. Jernigan's vision of equality can honor his life by continuing to build new opportunities for all Americans.
Richard W. Riley
United States Secretary of Education
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who served as President of the National Federation of the Blind for almost two decades and as the spiritual leader of the organized blind movement for much longer, brought into the lives of many tens of thousands of people (both blind and sighted) a measure of understanding and hope which would not have existed without his inspiration and generosity. He was a builder who could take a piece of dilapidated property and transform it. He did the same with programs for the blind, and he worked his magic on the lives of individuals.
Dr. Jernigan was our teacher, our leader, and our friend. He taught us that those who truly learn to live will recognize the vital importance of goodness, generosity, the right spirit, and the willingness to work. He taught us to use the intelligence God gave us and to go where our minds led us. He taught us to think, to speak, and to act for ourselves.
I became Dr. Jernigan's student at the age of eighteen, wondering what the future might hold for me and harboring the frightening suspicion that the answer might be "almost nothing at all." Within a year I had learned to travel effectively with a white cane, to cut down a tree with a two-man cross-cut saw, to overhaul an automobile engine, to barbecue hamburgers over a hot fire, to communicate using Braille, and to engage in debate. Dr. Jernigan gave me the tools for obtaining an educationhe taught me how to think.
Our teacher insisted on excellence. He wanted us to do our utmost, and he would accept nothing less. But the standard he set for himself was at least as demanding as the one established for us. "If it doesn't work," he said, "it isn't right." This is a difficult standard to meet, but it is the only one that matters. Sometimes we would urge him to believe that we had done the right thing, but it just hadn't worked. To which he would respond, "Don't give me that."
Dr. Jernigan believed in individual responsibility. Nobody else can live your life for you, he said; you must live it for yourself. Nobody else can make your decisions for you; you must make them for yourself. Nobody else can win your independence for you, he told us; you must win it for yourself every day. However, in winning your independence, it is necessary to ask for the help of a friend, and Dr. Jernigan was that friend.
The need for friends and colleagues to support one another is the reason for the founding of the National Federation of the Blind, and this is also why Dr. Jernigan spent almost fifty years building, promoting, and strengthening the organization. He became its President in 1968, and within seven years an affiliate of the Federation existed in every state. He saw the need for coordination among programs for the blind, and in 1978 the National Center for the Blind became reality. Today in the field of work with the blind there is greater cooperation and harmony than has existed for half a century. Dr. Jernigan understood that blind people must have a means for learning about technology, and in 1990 the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind was formed. He recognized the urgency to inform members of the general public about the normality of blindness, and the Kernel Book program of the National Federation of the Blind was founded.
He comprehended the vital importance of providing information to the blind, and the National NEWSLINE Network for the Blind®, the program that provides the text of newspapers to blind people over touch-tone telephone lines, was established. He perceived the necessity for the blind to have access to information about employment, and the technological program entitled "America's Jobline®" was initiated. He dreamed of a future for us which has never existed and which cannot exist without research and education, and the plans for the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind were drawn.
Wherever there was a need, Dr. Jernigan did his best to find a way to meet it. But he did more. He showed us the methods to do as he did. He taught us how to learn and how to live. He taught us to believe in a future bright with promise, and he gave us the techniques to meet that future with decision. We came to him without hope, and we left with confidence. We came with doubt, and we left with joy. We came with the belief that for us there was no future, and we left with a fighting spirit. By his example he showed us what it meant to give of ourselves and to love.
There were a few who knew him as "Kenneth." Most thought of him as "Dr. Jernigan." But those who knew him best called him "Sir." In one sense our beloved friend is no longer with us, but in another his spirit can never, will never depart. We have learned too well and grown too much to permit it.
When Dr. Jernigan ceased to be President of the National Federation of the Blind in 1986, he spoke to the National Convention quoting the poem of Lord Byron, which says:
So we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
Dr. Jernigan loved the Federation and the people who make it what it is, and he found great joy in serving as its chief executive. But the measure of the man may be understood in the fact that he ceased being the Federation's President at the height of his strength and power because he knew it would be best for the movement. He gave of himself wholeheartedly, and he never counted the cost. We wish for Dr. Jernigan the rest that he so richly deserves. But we also promise what we know in our hearts to be so: that indomitable fighting spirit will go a-roving still; it will live and thrive within each of us. Dr. Jernigan, Mrs. Jernigan, and the rest of his friends and family would have it no other way.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lloyd and Kenneth Jernigan with their dog Wag in the early 1930's]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan as a young man doing a handstand]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan in a classroom at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1968]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan walks down the sidewalk in front of the Commission for the Blind building in Des Moines, in 1972.] [PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan in 1986]
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: This picture shows the length of the Johnson Street wing in its original condition. The floor is patched cement; the ceiling has exposed pipes; and the support pillars are surrounded by wood planking. CAPTION: The first floor of the Johnson Street wing before it was transformed into the Materials Center]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan outside the Tarzana, California, office of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan sits in a characteristic position as he listens to a speaker in 1996.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan enjoys Thanksgiving dinner in 1997 with Dianna Marie Maurer standing beside him and Mrs. Jernigan behind them.]
Kenneth Jernigan: the Monument and the Man
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: President Marc Maurer delivered the following address at the opening of the memorial service for National Federation of the Blind President Emeritus Kenneth Jernigan December 5, 1998.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who served as President of the National Federation of the Blind for almost twenty years and as a principal leader of the Federation for much longer, changed the prospects for blind people in the United States and the world. His influence is felt by tens of thousands who know of his life and work and by many others who have never heard his name. And although he himself was blind and one of the most outstanding leaders of the blind of the twentieth century, he also taught the sighted. His life is the story and the symbol of the organized blind movement he loved and nurtured and built with every ounce of his strength and being. Without his effort the National Federation of the Blind could not have possessed the scope and depth that we have come to expect and take for granted. To speak of the Federation without the persuasive power of Dr. Jernigan is impossible, and to speak of Dr. Jernigan without the broad range of activities of the Federation is equally inconceivable. He and the Federation are onethe man and the organization he built.
Who was this man that we have come to honor and remember? Some have thought of him as a builder with the capacity to dream of a structure and cause it to be erected of brick and wood and steel and stone. Some have thought of him as a writer with the ability to express a thought on paper with elegance and incisiveness. Some have thought of him as a logician with the force to illuminate complex ideas in debate. Some have thought of him as a teacher who could nurture the quest for knowledge. Some have thought of him as a political leader who could galvanize others to action. Some have thought of him as a caring human being who could touch the heart of a five-year-old girl, a twenty-eight-year-old student, or a seventy-eight-year-old grandmother with equal ease. Some have thought of him as a speaker with a vibrant voice that could stir the spirit. And some have thought of him as an implacable adversary of injustice and a stalwart champion of the underdog. But those who knew him best thought of him as a close and abiding friend. He would certainly give us advice if he thought we needed it, but he would also give us help to make the plans he recommended come true. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was not a one-dimensional man. He was all that we rememberand more than we can write.
Kenneth Jernigan was born on November 13, 1926, in Detroit. Shortly after his birth the Jernigans moved back to their farm in Tennessee, where young Jernigan was raised. Blind from birth, his training on the farm was not calculated to instill confidence or to prepare him to undertake the challenges of administering programs or teaching others.
The Jernigan house consisted of four rooms. There were no electricity, no radio, no telephone, no reading material (except the Bible), and no indoor plumbing. Most boys were expected to help with the farm work, attending to chores in the barn and working in the fields. When they were not assisting with family obligations, they could fish or roam the woods. This was not true for Kenneth Jernigan. He was blind and not permitted off the front porch.
This young blind boy discovered early that blindness demanded modifications of customary procedures. Visiting neighbors on Sunday was a tradition in the Tennessee of those days. Those who were to make a visit would walk or (if the distance was too great) climb into the wagon and drive to the neighboring farm. Young Jernigan learned early that he was not welcome to play with the other girls and boys during these visits. Because he was blind, he was expected to sit with the grown-ups. If he found himself in need of going to the bathroom, he would have to ask one of the older men to show him the way to the outhouse, which was an unwelcome interruption to the grown-up conversation. So he planned ahead. The day before the visit he began to restrict his intake of water. The visits to the outhouse were no longer required, and the interruptions for the grown-ups came to an end. But for Kenneth Jernigan these outings meant enforced isolation and a full bladder.
Despite the restrictions, young Jernigan was expected to help with household chores. One of these was sausage-making. A hand-operated meat grinder was fastened to a plank set upon two chairs. Kenneth Jernigan's job was to hold down one end of the plank by sitting on it. Sometimes he was permitted to turn the crank on the grinder. He was also expected to churn buttera chore he thought exceedingly dull. He tried to persuade his mother to let him add hot water to the cream, which speeds the process, but she refused.
Kenneth Jernigan's parents loved him deeply, but they thought that blindness and helplessness were synonymous, and this young blind boy knew nothing to counterbalance the assessment.
Before he reached the age of seven, Jernigan was sent to the Tennessee School for the Blind, and he found it a liberating experience. There were children from many parts of the state; there were classes to stimulate the mind and challenge the imagination; there were books to read; and there was a world much larger than four rooms and a front porch. Of primary importance to this child with an inquiring mind were the books. Even at this tender age young Jernigan knew that he needed to find some method for breaking out of the isolation and boredom of a four-room farmhouse. He decided to stuff his mind with everything he could learn from books. He hoped to use this learning to help him through college, and he read voraciously.
Still the messages of inferiority did not stop. When Jernigan had reached high-school age, he asked his father to permit him to join the other men in the fields, who were making hay. The refusal was direct and unequivocal. A blind worker (even a strong and husky one) was not wanted in the hay fields. So Jernigan was left to his own devices, and he established a furniture business on the farm, making tables and lamps from materials close at hand. To fashion the legs of these tables, Jernigan collected sewing spools and bolted them together. The result was a table leg that appeared to have been turned on a lathe with extensive and expert handwork. The simplicity and elegance of the design caused his furniture to be in constant demand. And, incidentally, the profits were greater than he could have received for the work in the hay fields.
When it came time for college, Jernigan expressed his wish to become a lawyer. His rehabilitation counselor told him it could not be done and insisted that he study something else. "You can go to college and study law if you want to," said the counselor, "but you'll pay for it yourself. If you study something else, we'll help you with the costs." Jernigan didn't have any money, so he became a scholar in English and education, and the world lost a great lawyer but gained a magnificent teacher.
During the time that he spent at college, Jernigan continued in business. He tutored students, typed papers, and sold candy and other products to students on campus. He also wrote for the school newspaper and created a literary magazine.
When he had finished college, Jernigan (thinking about the future for blind children) concluded that they must have an example to follow if they were to achieve successthey must have role models. In all humility he thought that he could provide encouragement for the students at the school. When he was offered a job as a teacher of blind children, he took it, and with this decision there began a half-century of imaginative work to stimulate, to inspire, to challenge, and to direct blind people toward a brighter future.
In 1949 Dr. Jernigan joined the National Federation of the Blind because he recognized that he could not achieve the ambitious objective to change prospects for the blind without the help of others. To improve education for blind children, to persuade the rehabilitation agency in Tennessee to be more responsive to the blind, and to enhance employment opportunities for blind people within the statethese were the achievements Jernigan was hoping to reach. Even though he was a member of the Tennessee affiliate of the Federation, Dr. Jernigan thought there was no point in belonging to or fooling with a national organization of the blind. However, in 1952, when he came to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Nashville, he met its dynamic President, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, and things changed. Dr. Jernigan had been in the convention hall for only a few minutes when he said to himself, "I have been wrong. The National Convention of the Federation is where the action is, and I intend to be part of it."
Dr. Jernigan's efforts in organizing the 1952 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind are among the most remarkable in our history. Governor Gordon Browning of Tennessee addressed the convention banquet and introduced the Federation's President, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. Governor Browning's address to the banquet and the speech of Dr. tenBroek were carried live on WSM, one of the most powerful radio stations in the United States. In addition, the NBC network broadcast a nationwide address by Dr. tenBroek. All of these events were arranged by Dr. Jernigan. The National Convention was impressed by the skill of this young man, and it elected him to the Board of Directors. But perhaps the most profound change that took place at the 1952 convention was in the heart and the mind of Dr. Jernigan himself. He had observed the potential of self-organization on a national basis, and he had become committed to strengthening this vehicle for collective action.
Within a year after Dr. Jernigan attended his first National Convention, he faced a crisis in Tennessee. He learned that one of the teachers at the School for the Blind had been taking liberties with some of the high school girls, had been drinking on the job, and had been verbally and physically abusive to some of the younger boysthreatening them and hitting them in the mouth with his fist. The students involved had reported the incidents to the principal and had been confined to their rooms for a week. Dr. Jernigan took the matter to the school board and demanded that the abusive teacher be dismissed from employment and that the superintendent, who had known about the actions and condoned them, also be disciplined. When the school year came to a close, the superintendent was fired; the abusive teacher was fired; and Dr. Jernigan was fired for (as the school board put it) failing to be loyal to his employer.
Dr. Jernigan wondered what to do. He needed a job, and he was thinking about buying a gas station or taking up some other occupation. Then, in a conversation with Dr. tenBroek, he learned something else about the Federation. An opening for an instructor existed at the California Orientation Center for the Blind. If Dr. Jernigan wanted the job, Dr. tenBroek thought he might be able to secure the post. So in 1953 Dr. Jernigan moved to California and taught at the California Orientation Center.
During this same period he began to travel extensively for the Federation, building and strengthening state affiliates and local chapters. Every moment of vacation was dedicated to Federation work. In one report to President tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan summarized travels on behalf of the Federation over an eleven-day period into Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. That year, 1956, Dr. Jernigan organized affiliates in nine states.
In those early years Dr. tenBroek was the thinker and dreamer, and Dr. Jernigan was the political leader, the organizer, and the builder. Dr. tenBroek was the founder, and Dr. Jernigan was the committed advocate and assistant.
In late 1957 Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan discussed the needs of the Federation and planned for the future. Either Dr. Jernigan would establish himself in a Congressional district and run for Congress, or he would seek a position as the director of an agency for the blind. The worst program for the blind in America existed in the state of Iowa, and its directorship was available. The Board of the Iowa Commission for the Blind consisted of three people. By doing a little research, Dr. Jernigan discovered that the Chairman of the Commission Board had transcribed a college textbook for him. He called her to say that he was coming through Des Moines, and he wondered if he might be able to talk with her. He was, indeed, coming through Des Moines. He was coming to visit her. Within a few hours of their meeting the Commission Board Chairman disclosed to Dr. Jernigan that an opening existed for the directorship. They discussed the matter, and she agreed to recommend him for the job.
There were two other members on the Commission Board. One of these was the Superintendent of the School for the Blind. Dr. Jernigan learned that he was in a meeting in Jacksonville, Illinois. He caught a plane to Jacksonville. He would have chartered one if he could not have found another way to make the trip. When the superintendent came out of his meeting, Dr. Jernigan met him at the door. Dr. Jernigan learned that the man liked to drink beer. Sometime later in the evening the matter was decided. In the spring of 1958 Dr. Jernigan accepted the directorship of the Iowa Commission for the Blind.
When Dr. Jernigan arrived in the state of Iowa in 1958, the Commission for the Blind was housed in three rooms of a condemned building that had once been an elementary school. The entire annual budget for the Commission was $35,000. There were few programs and only a tiny number of staff members.
Within ten years the Iowa Commission for the Blind was recognized as the most effective program training blind people in the United States. In 1968 Dr. Jernigan received a Presidential citation from Lyndon Johnson. The executive director of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped said of his work at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, "If a person must be blind, it is better to be blind in Iowa than anywhere else in the nation or in the world." At the time of this presentation the Commission for the Blind was housed in a seven-story building. It had an annual budget of several million dollars and well over a hundred employees. Blind people in Iowa were becoming more productive than any other group of blind people ever before in history. Dr. Jernigan's students became electrical engineers, farmers, insurance executives, factory workers, lawyers, and teachers.
The largest library for the blind in the world came into being under the directorship of Dr. Jernigan. At the School for the Blind in Tennessee he had learned the value of reading. The Iowa program provided more books on more subjects to more blind people than any other library. In 1967 the American Library Association honored this achievement by giving to Dr. Jernigan the Francis Joseph Campbell Award.
Dr. Jernigan became President of the National Federation of the Blind in 1968, when Dr. tenBroek died. That year Dr. Jernigan was approached by senior officials of the Democratic party in the state of Iowa and asked to run on the Democratic ticket for the office of State Treasurer. The same spring he was approached by members of the Republican party and asked to run for statewide office on their ticket. The Convention of the Federation took place in Des Moines, and Dr. Jernigan had a decision to make. He could not serve effectively as President of the National Federation of the Blind and engage in a demanding political campaign with a political career as its objective. Dr. tenBroek had died in March, and Dr. Jernigan must either accept the obligations to serve the Federation or seek political office. As we all know, he chose the Federation. However, we have speculated about what would have happened if he had taken the other road.
It is almost certain that he would have won the race for State Treasurer. Two years later he would have run on the Democratic ticket for the office of Governor. In that election there were major divisions in the Republican party, and the Republican candidate won by a very narrow margin. Dr. Jernigan's name recognition in the state was better than almost anybody else's, and we believe he would have won. In 1972, two years after the gubernatorial election, he would probably have run for the United States Senate. In that year the Republican Senatorial candidate was defeated by a weak and unknown opponent. It is quite probable that Dr. Jernigan would have won. If he had become a member of the United States Senate, it is interesting to consider what this might have meant for the blind of America. However, he chose to offer his talent, his commitment, and his energy to the National Federation of the Blind; and the result is evident for all to observe.
Dr. Jernigan continued to be the full-time director of the Commission for the Blind, and he served as the full-time unpaid President of the Federation. His very success in the state of Iowa made him a target for the envious. Blind people in other states said to rehabilitation officials, "If rehabilitation can be successful in Iowa, why is it so bad where we live?" The answers rehabilitation officials gave were never satisfactory, and implicit in the question is continuing conflict between programs for the blind and the individuals they were established to serve. Some of the less effective administrators of programs for the blind resented the success in Iowa and refused to regard the blind as equal partners in the effort to achieve independence.
The Federation deliberately established itself as a watchdog over programs for the blind, and administrators who failed to measure up resented it. These administrators paid blind workers less than the minimum wage, placed them in substandard working conditions, forced them to use broken equipment, and refused to listen to the protests of blind employees. The confrontation was bitter and long-lasting.
The traditional attitude of a few administrators of programs for the blind was that they should be regarded as benevolent caretakers for the blind. They thought of the blind who criticized them as ungrateful upstarts. Who were the members of the National Federation of the Blind to challenge their wisdom and tell them how to operate their own agencies? However, we in the National Federation of the Blind are not prepared to abandon our brothers and sisters. Dr. Jernigan, working through the Federation, organized the workers and taught them to insist upon the right to be treated with fairness in the workplace. It was not the first time the Federation and certain officials of programs for the blind had met as adversaries, but as the success of the Federation and of the Commission for the Blind in Iowa increased, the conflict also reached a crescendo. The Federation was having a greater impact than such officials had believed was possible, and they were afraid.
As a result a small group of disgruntled individuals from service programs for the blind decided to attack the President of the Federation. These people made contact with the United States attorney in Iowa, who wanted to become governor. She opened an investigation. A review of the documents which were uncovered later under Freedom of Information Act requests demonstrates that the charges never had any basis beyond the would-be gubernatorial candidate's effort to smear Dr. Jernigan to further her own election campaign. Those who had felt their positions threatened by Dr. Jernigan's forward-looking ideas and programs were momentarily gleeful. But the members of the Federation, who knew our President and loved him, closed ranks behind him with never a doubt about the outcome.
In the midst of this attack we in the National Federation of the Blind were in the process of achieving a cherished ambition; we acquired a building to serve as the National Center for the Blind. This center began as a partially abandoned light manufacturing building with scaling brick; broken windows; a leaky roof; and infestations of critters such as bats, pigeons, and smaller beasts. Dr. Jernigan looked at the structure and said it was just the place. He showed us through and told us how it would be. "Here is the conference room," he said. "This is my office; here is the kitchen; and this will be for accounting," he told us. At the time there were columns in the building to support the roof, but there were no walls and no furnishings of any kind. Despite our misgivings we believed in the imagination of our President, and we were grateful for our new home and looking forward to the remodeling which would give us the offices, conference rooms, and other facilities we needed.
During the first year that we occupied the Center, we heated it with a steam boiler that demanded 87,000 gallons of oil. By the next winter oil prices had more than doubled, and we began to seek more efficient ways to keep warm. This required another round of remodeling, and we have been remodeling ever since.
At the end of 1997 Dr. Jernigan imagined at the National Center for the Blind a system of outdoor decks which was completed in July of 1998. This is the last piece of remodeling that he himself examined. However, it is not the last he planned. Perhaps the most ambitious building project of Dr. Jernigan's life is the structure we are planning, which will house meeting space, classrooms, parking facilities, and a research library on blindness and human rights. The National Research and Training Institute for the Blind will be the only facility of its kind anywhere in the world. We plan to bring Dr. Jernigan's architectural design into being within the first years of the twenty-first century.
The accelerated growth of the Federation through the 1980's and the 1990's demonstrates Dr. Jernigan's wisdom in designing this new facility. In the mid-1980's, under Dr. Jernigan's leadership, we established training centers for the blind, modeled after the center established in Iowa. These centers in Louisiana, Colorado, and Minnesota have changed expectations for the rehabilitation of blind clients in all parts of the United States.
In the 1990's Dr. Jernigan dreamed of a comprehensive center which would house all of the technological devices for the blind in existence. On the fiftieth birthday of the National Federation of the Blind, the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind came into being. With the new emphasis on technology Dr. Jernigan imagined the NEWSLINE for the Blind® Network, which provides the text of more than twenty newspapers to blind individuals on a daily basis.
However, the most profound effort of this brilliant man during the 1990's was the conception of the Kernel Books, small volumes containing firsthand accounts by blind people of the experiences of their daily lives. These books tell in a simple and unpretentious manner how it is to be blindand, more particularly, how it is not. They describe the reality, the frustration, the dreams, the hopes, and the techniques used by the blind. They have helped to reshape the thinking of the public at large about the reality of blindness, and in doing so, they have given greater opportunity.
At the end of the 1970's, the field of work with the blind was characterized by strife and confrontation. During the 1980's, as the National Center for the Blind expanded and developed, patterns changed. Increasingly, officials of agencies and programs for the blind came to work more harmoniously with the organized blind movement, and there existed an increasing recognition of the community of interest shared between the blind and programs to serve their needs. In the final decade of his life, Dr. Jernigan devoted an increasingly substantial part of his time and energy toward welding the various entities in the blindness field into a cohesive force for the advancement of the interests of blind people. The unity and harmony we have today is, in no small way, a reflection of that work.
Dr. Jernigan predicted the change in emphasis in a speech delivered in 1973 entitled "Blindness: Is History Against Us?" In part he said:
While no man can predict the future, I feel absolute confidence as to what the historians will say. They will tell of a system of governmental and private agencies established to serve the blind, which became so custodial and so repressive that reaction was inevitable. They will tell that the blind ("their time come round at last") began to acquire a new self-image, along with rising expectations, and that they determined to organize and speak for themselves. And they will tell of Jacobus tenBroekof how he, a young college professor (blind and brilliant), stood forth to lead the movement.
They will tell how the agencies first tried to ignore us, then resented us, then feared us, and finally came to hate uswith the emotion and false logic and cruel desperation which dying systems always feel toward the new, about to replace them.
They will tell of the growth of our movement through the '40's and '50's, and of our civil war. They will tell how we emerged from that civil war into the '60's, stronger and more vital than we had ever been; and how more and more of the agencies began to make common cause with us for the betterment of the blind.
They will also record the events of the 1970's when the reactionaries among the agencies became even more so, and the blind of the second generation of the NFB stood forth to meet them. They will talk of how these agencies...tried to control all work with the blind, and our lives. They will tell how...the reactionary agencies gradually lost ground and gave way before us. They will tell of new and better agencies rising to work in partnership with the blind, and of harmony and progress as the century draws to an end. They will relate how the blind passed from second-class citizenship through a period of hostility to equality and first-class status in society. But future historians will only record these events if we make them come true. They can help us be remembered, but they cannot help us dream. That we must do for ourselves. They can give us acclaim, but not guts and courage. They can give us recognition and appreciation, but not determination or compassion or good judgment. We must either find these things for ourselves or not have them at all.
That is what Dr. Jernigan said in 1973, and he reminded us of the predictions he made twenty-three years later at our 1996 convention in Anaheim, California, just four years before the century would come to its close. He reflected upon the prediction of 1973 and speculated about the Federation in the years to come.
As he said in 1996:
In broad terms the prediction has come true. The century draws to a close, and there is unprecedented harmony between agencies and organizations of and for the blind. But what about the future? What will our situation be like when we meet twenty-three years from now in 2019?
By then the members of the first generation of the movement will most certainly be gone, and so will many of those of the second. Even the numbers of the third generation will be thinning, and the fourth generation will be coming into dominance. And the fifth generation will be knocking at the door. The Federation will be seventy-nine years old, approaching the end of its first century.
So what will the movement be like when we meet in 2019? The past five years have taught me that there will be undreamed-of surprises, for no one could possibly have foreseen the two most important events of this decadethe establishment of the NEWSLINE® Network and the coming of the Kernel Books. But if I am not sure of specifics, I am absolutely certain of the general direction our organization will take. Our mutual faith and trust in each other will be unchanged, and all else will follow. I never come into the convention hall without a lift of spirit and a surge of joy, for I know to the depths of my being that our shared bond of love and trust will never change and that because of it we will be unswervable in our determination and unstoppable in our progress.
As I said in 1973, we have come a long way together in this movement. Some of us are veterans, going back to the '40's; others are new recruits, fresh to the ranks. Some are young; some are old. Some are educated, others not. It makes no difference. In everything that matters we are one; we are the movement; we are the blind.
This is what Dr. Jernigan said in 1996, and it is as true today as it was then.
Through all the changes that have made the Federation what it is, one fundamental element has remained. Dr. tenBroek, as the founder of the movement, spoke of the essence of the Federation. Dr. Jernigan, the organizer of blind Americans and the builder of our Federation, reiterated the theme. We of the National Federation of the Blind reflect the dream that these great leaders have brought to us. We comprehend what must be done, and we rejoice in the challenges ahead. We know of the need for joint action, for shared commitment, and for the willingness to work.
A monument is a way to remember. It is a record in writing, in stone, or in some other permanent form of a great event, a great convocation, or a great man. But the traditional definition of a "monument" neglects a method of recording which we in the National Federation of the Blind can describe with intimacy. Dr. Jernigan created a body of literature within the National Federation of the Blind which speaks of a way of thinking, a way of living, and a way of being human. He constructed, from his own imagination, the National Center for the Blind, which has a massiveness, a beauty, a functionality, and a purpose that are unmistakable. But he has not written only with Braille, with ink, and with other recorded characters. He has not written only with mortar, with brick, and with stone. He has also written in the language of the spirit reflected in the human heart; he has written in the lives of us all. His monument may be perceived in the way we think and the way we act.
When he came to the National Federation of the Blind, we were already a going concern. When he drew his last breath, the organization had achieved a level of impact on the lives of the present generation and on the generations to come which was unpredictable and unimaginable. Our organization may change, but our purpose will not. The incidents along the path of our lives may differ, but the direction is established and unwavering. The demands on our time, our resources, and our imagination will be great, but Dr. Jernigan has given us the example to follow, and we will not turn back.
We will take a leaf from the book of the life he lived so well. Not only will we continue to do the work that he cherished, but we will teach others to do the same. The complex spirit of the Federation which combines the characteristics of force and love, of generosity and determination, and of imaginative dreams and demanding self-discipline will pass from this generation to the next and keep the movement alive. This is the legacy of the man. This is the monument which will forever tell his story and reflect his life. It is written in the National Federation of the Blind.
Kenneth Jernigan, 71,
Advocate for the Blind
by Richard Severo
From the Editor: In the days following Dr. Jernigan's death newspapers across the country carried obituaries ranging in length from a few lines to many paragraphs. The Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times were only a few of the distinguished papers that carried news of Dr. Jernigan's death. The following obituary appeared in the New York Times on October 14, 1998; it gives a good idea of what the press said.
Kenneth Jernigan, who was a forceful advocate for the blind in gaining access to jobs and to public places during his longtime leadership of the National Federation of the Blind, died October 12 at his home in Baltimore. He was seventy-one.
The cause was lung cancer, said Barbara Pierce, Director of Public Education for the Federation and editor of its Braille Monitor magazine.
The current president of the Federation, Marc Maurer, said Jernigan "has reshaped thinking about the blind in this country, and his writings have been translated into 100 languages."
Jernigan, who was blind at birth, started volunteering for the Federation, based in Baltimore, in 1951 and was President of the organization from 1968 to 1986. During his unpaid tenure, the Federation, which was founded in 1940 by Jacobus tenBroek, became one of the nation's most influential advocacy organizations.
Jernigan was in the vanguard of a successful effort in the 1980's to persuade the State Department to revise its policy excluding unsighted people from the diplomatic service. He was also instrumental in litigation that sought to stop what the Federation regarded as discriminatory practices among airlines in the accommodation of the blind, one of which was that the airlines did not want them sitting in rows near emergency exits.
Jernigan appeared before a Senate subcommittee in 1989 and showed a video demonstrating that sighted and blind people could make an orderly evacuation of aircraft with equal ease.
"The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight," he said in 1992. "The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance."
Over the years he made it clear that he took exception to various statements he heard about blindness, which included the suggestion that true Christians never lost their sight and that blind people were not equal to sighted people because of their "inability to see atoms." He called such statements "gibbering insanity."
Above all he loathed expressions of pity for the blind, who, he maintained, did not want pity and were quite capable of taking care of themselves and competing with sighted people in the job market.
Among his accomplishments was the creation of the NEWSLINE for the Blind® Network, in which the daily reports of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major American newspapers are scanned and recited by a computer voice over telephone lines available to blind people all over the country.
Jernigan also created the International Braille and Technology Center in Baltimore, which researches and promotes technology to aid the blind and maintains a job information bank for the blind that can be accessed by telephone.
In recognition of his work in creating the Newsline for the Blind® Network, Jernigan received the Winston Gordon Award for Technological Advancement in the Field of Blindness and Visual Impairment this year from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Among his many other awards was a citation from the American Library Association in 1967 that praised him for his efforts in making the contents of libraries available to the blind.
Kenneth Jernigan was born in Detroit on November 13, 1926. When he was quite young, his parents, Jesse and Novella Inez Trail Jernigan, moved near Beech Grove, Tennessee, where they were farmers. Their son was educated at the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville. After high school he ran a furniture store in Beech Grove for a time but then went on to college, earning his bachelor's degree from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, where he majored in social sciences.
He originally wanted to be a lawyer, but his college counselor told him that without sight he should seek a more realistic goal. In that era many blind people were shunted off into such jobs as piano tuning or teaching the blind. He decided to become a teacher and got his master's degree in English from Peabody College in Nashville in 1949.
There he became active in the Tennessee chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. He then went to California and taught at the California Training Center for the Blind in Oakland from 1953 to 1958. In 1958 he became Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, which he reorganized and strengthened. He remained in that post until 1978, running the Federation as a volunteer at the same time. Then he moved on to Baltimore and became the paid Executive Director of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, a sister organization of the National Federation of the Blind. He held that post from 1978 to 1989.
His other activities included work for the National Advisory Committee on Services for the Blind and Visually Handicapped; special consultant to the executive director of the White House Conference on the Handicapped; and consultant to the Smithsonian Institution, advising on museum programs for blind visitors.
In retirement he continued to write essays and booklets, many of them of an inspirational nature, that were widely distributed to sightless people all over the world.
Among Jernigan's survivors are his wife, the former Mary Ellen Osborn, who assisted him in his work for the Federation; a daughter from a previous marriage, Marie Antoinette Jernigan Cobb of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.
The Jernigan Family
Mary Ellen Jernigan
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kenneth and Mary Ellen Jernigan] [PHOTO DESCRIPTION Dr. Jernigan stands at rest, listening intently, with his right hand on the top of his cane and his chin resting on his hand. His left hand holds onto the cane. CAPTION:
Mrs. Jernigan's favorite picture of Dr. Jernigan, 1985]
From the Editor: During the memorial service Dr. Jernigan's wife Mary Ellen, his brother Lloyd, and his daughter Marie each spoke of the man they had known and loved:
Mary Ellen Jernigan
In the months, the weeks, the days before his death, Dr. Jernigan and I talked of many thingsone of which was that this gathering which has brought us together today would soon occur and that this time it would be I not he standing before you at the microphone. So we talked about what to do. I made a suggestion or two, which he vetoed. "Let others do that, or you do it later. What you must try to do on this daywhat people will want you to do; what I want you to do is to talk about me me as you knew me." At the time it seemed a fairly simple directive. It seemed less so as I began to think about carrying it out.
For I was not yet twenty-one when I first met Dr. Jernigan, and the whole of my adult life is his creation. My very first encounter came in the form of a vibrant booming voice on the other end of a telephone line: "I understand you have just been initiated into Phi Beta Kappa. That tells me one of two things you've either got some brains, or you're very good at bluffing people into believing you do. If you've got the time and inclination to find out which, I do." Well I had the time and inclination, and I was hooked. Thirty-three years have passed years in which I had the good fortune to share in a special way the life and work of this unusual man.
I will leave it to others to recite the facts and accomplishment of five decades of inspired service and leadershipto chronicle, to evaluate, to place in historical perspective.
My task is something else, and I would frame it like this:
In the all too brief year that has passed since Dr. Jernigan's illness first became apparent, there has been an enormous outpouring of sentiment. It has come from across this country and from abroad. It has come from blind people, yes. But it has come from an astonishingly large number of sighted people also. And the messagesometimes expressed with supremely literate eloquence; sometimes with elegant simplicity; sometimes with halting difficultyhas been essentially the same and very basic: this man made a real difference in my life; the world is a better place for his having lived in it. So what I have been asking myself is whywhy did this man have such a universally profound effect upon so many?
First I thought, Well, it's obvious. You look at how he lived. Next I thought, No! It's obvious. You look at how he died. And finally I said, Wait! It's the same thing. It was when that thought crystallized that the answers began to come. When a man knows he has but a year to live, how he chooses to spend that year tells you something. And if it happens that he chooses to spend that year as he spent the rest of his years, it tells you even more.
So let us look together at Dr. Jernigan's last year.
When we do, we see a man who spent his birthday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Valentine's Day in the hospital and made them joyous occasions for all; a man who, having been told in the morning to expect to die within the year, spent the afternoon comforting and reassuring those around him; who on that same day brought together the delegates of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union by conference telephone to arrange an orderly transition to a new President; and who later that same evening initiated a vast exploration of all possible alternative therapiesfacing the future with hope and belief and insisting that the rest of us do so also.
Over the next two weeks he assembled the collective leadership of the organized blind movement and began making far-ranging, long-term plans for the years to come. Immediately he began a grueling regimen to fight the diseasefacing with resolute discipline each day's conglomeration of needles, pills, vitamins, supplements, intravenous tubing, breathing machines, detoxification procedures, and of course the ever-present nausea. He did what he had to do and took care to shield others from knowing the physical agony of it all.
With the construction of three levels of magnificent sky decks, he brought to final completion the twenty-year-long transformation of a once dilapidated South Baltimore factory building into the sparkling facility we now know as the National Center for the Blind and then startled us all with a bold new vision to undertake the construction of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blinda 175,000-square-foot, five-story building which will position us to take full advantage of the opportunities which will abound in the coming millennium.
He summoned the strength to cause the first million dollars to be committed to the capital campaign and to oversee preparation of the detailed architectural plan for the new facility. He commissioned construction of the three-dimensional model you will see on display today. He examined the model with his own hands, making final adjustments to the plans as he did so.
He fought his way back from a nearly fatal bacterial infection, donned his tuxedo, selected and served to good friends the finest wines from his cellar, and returned the next day for another round at the North Carolina clinic. He edited two final Kernel Booksvolume number 14, Gray Pancakes and Gold Horses, and volume 15, To Touch the Untouchable Dream.
Not wanting any part of our home ever to become inaccessible to him, he added an elevator, taking great delight in designing it to appear as if it had always been part of the 154-year-old structure. Since he could now reach the roof by the new elevator, he built a deck there. And while he was at it, he revamped the heating and air conditioning system and installed for me a restaurant-capacity stove complete with an indoor gas grill.
He added to his collections: wines, liqueurs, coins, music boxes, old time radio tapes, and most especially his carved onyx glasses. He negotiated and signed contracts at first-class hotels for the year 2000 and 2001 National Conventionskeeping the single room rates still under $60.
He served as National Convention Chairman at his forty-seventh consecutive National Federation of the Blind convention a convention he described as very nearly perfect and during which he spoke to the Parents Seminar, the Scholarship Class, the Engineers Division, the Cultural Exchange and International Program Committee, and the Resolutions Committee; roamed the Exhibit Hall; delivered a major address; gave an award at the Banquet; presented the audit and financial reports; and was moved to tears by Lloyd Rasmussen's singing of the Technology Song.
He re-examined his relationship with God, a process which led us both to the Catholic Church, and more specifically to St. Joseph's Monastery Parish and to Father Gregory Paul.
Then, with the fading of summer into early fall, came also the fading of any reasonable hope for survival. As the weakness and pain increased, he accepted what was to come with dignity and grace and with the utmost care and concern for those around him, for the organization he had spent his life serving, and for the broader field whose unity and advancement he had done so much to promote. He pulled forth reserves of strength to complete the things he wanted to finish:
He saw to the final details of the construction project at our home, organizing a massive top-to-bottom, inside-and-out cleaning project, taking particular delight in learning that the front steps, which had always been thought to be a nondescript, blackish stone, were really gleaming white marble underneath, and insisting that they be shown off to all.
He visited with friends and colleagues who came to say good-bye, and as always he fed peoplein our dining room, in our yard, on our roof, at the National Center, at his favorite restaurants when he could manage the strength to go out and with carry-out from those same restaurants when he became unable to leave home. He took enormous pleasure in serving his most prized wines and feeding his friends.
He hosted a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration for Dr. and Mrs. Maurer though he himself was too weak to attend. He spent a last night at the National Center for the Blind, conducted a seminar for leaders of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, and the next morning took one final walk on the new Skydeck.
When, through a fluke in the medical system, he learned that the cancer had spread throughout his bones before his own physician received the report, he found himself gently breaking the news to the doctor and offering consolation. Upon learning that the sculptor who had been commissioned to create a bronze bust of him had (out of concern for his failing strength) been told he must work entirely from photographs, he insisted on dressing in full regalia and sitting for him in person.
He sent Dr. Maurer and me to Atlanta to make preparations for next summer's convention, giving us detailed instructions as to what to do. He selected and had wrapped the presents he wanted to give this Christmas. He called Ernie Imhoff to thank him for a beautifully perceptive article in the Baltimore Sun.
He inquired daily about the well-being of his kittens and gave instructions for their care. He moved both of our birthdays forward so as not to miss them. He talked and planned with me and Dr. and Mrs. Maurer about what he hoped for David and Dianna in the years to come.
He spent large blocks of time with his brother Lloyd, with whom he shared an ever-stronger bond and for whose character, accomplishments, and integrity he had a deep and abiding respect. He shared a last precious evening with his daughter Marie (Toinette as he always called her) and her husband Tony Cobb.
He had long, unhurried conversations with our President, Marc Maurer, in whom he had total, complete, and absolute trust; and in whose development and emergence as the widely-respected leader of the organized blind movement he took an unremitting joybelieving to the very depth of his being that whatever part he himself had played in that development and emergence was his own most cherished achievement.
He willed himself the strength to travel to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., to receive the Winston Gordon Award. There, in that beautiful setting, surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues, he made what he knew and we all knew would be his last public appearance. Though weak and in visible pain, he strode to the podium, where with a touch of humor, with elegance and simplicity, he spoke to us as he always didof the brightness of the future.
This was Dr. Jernigan's last year. Do we find in it an answer? Why the great impact of this man? This man who had the supreme confidence and grace to die exactly as he had lived?
Yes! I think we do. We find it in hope and belief, energy and intellect, planning and purpose, discipline and drudgery, care and compassion, loyalty and love. But above all we find it in an infectious joy that took each and every moment of life and made of it a treasure to be shared with others.
To the question, "Do you miss him?" the answer is of course, excruciatingly so. Every minute. Every day. But the answer also is, how can I? He taught me to think, and he is present in every thought I have. He taught me to love, and he is present in everything I love. Under God's guidance he formed and shaped and molded the world I live in and those who live in it, and it and they are all around mevibrant and aliveas is he in each of us and in the work he left us to finish.
As for those treasured moments: here is one for us all to share. Near death, in a voice weak, but clear with conviction Dr. Jernigan said these things:
I have lived to see the plans for our new building far enough along to know that it will be done.
I have lived to see unity on our own terms in the blindness field in North America.
I have lived to see Marc Maurer come into the full maturity of leadership.
As I draw to the end, I don't feel I've left any loose ends.
I am content. I am at peace.
But what about us? Can we be at peace about this? Perhaps not all of the time and not just yet. But neither can we fail to carry forward the legacy he left usto live with joy, to make of life's moments treasures to be shared. He would expect us to do no less.
And so I close with the words of this American Indian verseone the two of us read together and found of comfort:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there,
I did not die!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lloyd Jernigan confers with Dr. Jernigan at the head table.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and his brother Lloyd stand in front of a bus at the Bear Creek barbecue in 1993.]
My Brother, My Friend
by Lloyd Jernigan
From the Editor: Lloyd Jernigan was Dr. Jernigan's older brother. This is what he said at the memorial service:
First, I want to read two paragraphs from a letter that I received from Dr. Abraham Nemeth and his wife Edna. I received the letter shortly after returning home from Kenneth's funeral, and I appreciate his kind words about my brother. These two paragraphs will explain a great deal about Kenneth's life and his legacy. I now quote from Dr. Nemeth's letter:
"Now he belongs to the ages." These were the words uttered by Edwin McMasters Stanton, President Lincoln's Secretary of War, at the moment of Mr. Lincoln's death. Dr. Jernigan will forever occupy a prominent place of honor, love, and respect in the history of the blindness movement. No one whose life in any way touched that of Dr. Jernigan could fail to sense that he was in the presence of greatness. We are grateful and privileged to have had that experience.
We know that we cannot, nor are we required to, achieve all the goals that we have set for ourselveshaving achieved one, there is always another in the distancebut neither are we at liberty on that account to refrain from exerting the effort toward that achievement.
When we are momentarily disoriented and are required to assess the alternatives before us, we should pause, turn back, and take careful note of the direction in which Dr. Jernigan is pointing. Then we should face forward again and follow that direction. He has always guided us along a path which has brought us closer to our objectives.
Those three paragraphs bring us a great message from Dr. Nemeth. In Dallas during the past convention an NFB member from New Jersey said, "He taught us how to be a family." The blind definitely have a better chance in life today than at any other time in history. Kenneth Jernigan also fought the battle of prejudice through pity. Without the acceptance of sighted people, it is difficult for the blind to achieve their goals.
As youngsters Kenneth and I were raised on a farm in Tennessee. Several of the Kernel Books have articles about his life on the farm. Our parents and I were afraid to let Kenneth out of our sight for fear that he would be injured. That action is what I now see as loving pity, which hinders the future independence and ultimately a happy and successful life of a blind child. It took me many years to rid myself of that loving pity. I believe that one of the great obstacles facing blind persons during Kenneth's youth, as well as today, was the lack of understanding of blindness by family members. My family truly believed that because of his blindness Kenneth would lead a bleak helpless life, depending on others for survival. Thank God we were wrong.
All blind persons, present and future, will have a better chance to be independent and self-supporting because of our brother. He was not only my brother; he also considered many of you his brothers and sisters.
Kenneth was a very serious person when it involved the NFB or other business activities, but he was also a fun person to be around. I am told by some of his college associates that he was a typical, devilish, happy-go-lucky kid in college. Like the time at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee, when he and some cronies were out one night much later than they were supposed to be. They decided to drive across the Dean's lawn, and the car mired down and became stuck. I understand that the Dean was not very happy about the incident. When Kenneth lived in Iowa, he was appointed to the State Wine Board for the purpose of purchasing wine for all state stores. I was invited to attend a meeting with him to a wine tasting in Des Moines. The location of the event was three or four blocks from Kenneth's apartment. After tasting many different wines, we started walking home. Realizing that I was not feeling well, Kenneth said, "My God, man, I can travel better than you, come on: I'll take you home."
I remember my first meeting with Dr. tenBroek, which took place in Detroit. I marveled at the mobility and independence displayed by him. He stood erect and carried himself with dignity. After Dr. tenBroek's death Kenneth carried on the fight for the blind movement. I know that President Maurer and the members of the National Federation of the Blind will continue the battle. My sister-in-law Mary Ellen is to be commended for her loyalty and support to my brother. She stood by him until his last breath.
A great leader's work is never finished. We always say, "If he could have lasted just a little longer." If Kenneth were alive ten years from today, he would have new projects going, and we would say, "If he could have lasted just a little longer." I believe that Kenneth lived a good, full life. He has helped his fellow man; he has made a difference.
Kenneth Jernigan was a giant of a man, not in physical stature, but in achievements. Blind persons around the world, as well as their government leaders, knew his name. Kenneth Jerniganmy brother, your teacher, our mentorHe will be missed.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and daughter Marie.] [PHOTO DESCRIPTION: In this picture Dr. Jernigan is cutting a large sheet cake decorated with live roses and baby's breath. CAPTION: Marie Cobb looks on as Dr. Jernigan cuts his seventieth birthday cake, which she and Mrs. Jernigan baked and Miss DePuew frosted.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan prepares to fly a paper airplane from the convention platform during the lunch recess.]
Marie Antoinette Cobb
I consider most of the people in this roomand I say "most" because I'm not sure I know all of youI 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 restaurantwell, 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 snowballshe 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 bedwe were at Dad's houseand 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 storiesI 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.
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 kindsI 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 shoeswe 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.
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.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. tenBroek (left) and Dr. Jernigan examine blueprints in 1961.]
The Early Years
Federation Leader Appointed Director of Iowa
Commission for the Blind
by Jacobus tenBroek
From the Editor: Instructive as it may be to
recollections and assessments of a man's life at its close, it is
also useful to look back to discover what his mentor and
colleagues thought of his accomplishments and abilities early in
his career. It is salutary and humbling to consider what might
have been said of us or what may be said of us at the age of
thirty-one. The year that Kenneth Jernigan turned thirty-two in
November, Jacobus tenBroek had occasion to write about him in the
pages of the Braille Monitor. His words were eloquent, admiring,
and indicative of the Federation leader Dr. Jernigan would
become. This is what he said
Last month Kenneth Jernigan, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, was appointed director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. This appointment was not only appropriateit was significant.
In his new position Mr. Jernigan has charge of all Iowa programs for the blind with the exception of public assistance and the state school for the blind. Among the services under his direction are vocational rehabilitation, vending stands, home industries, home teaching, the distribution of Talking Books, and registration of blind persons in the state.
There are, of course, many Federationists who hold positions in state and other administrative agencies. Some of these are the directors of their agencies. There are, in addition, numerous agency heads who are favorably disposed toward the organized blind. They did not go from the movement to their administrative positions; they came to, or at least towards, the movement from an intelligent discharge of their administrative responsibilities. The distinctive factor in the Jernigan appointment is that now a National Federation leader and member of its Board of Directors has been selected to serve as the head of a state agency for the blind. Mr. Jernigan's appointment is indeed a tribute to the independent and enlightened judgment of the Iowa Commission.
There is a good deal of loose and self-adulatory talk among certain AAWB leaders about their professional status and an alleged lack of professionalism among the organized blind. This talk may be examined from two sides: how professional are the agency leaders and workers; how unprofessional are the organized blind. Whatever answer may be given to the first question, there are many in the organized blind movement whose knowledge about blindness and the substance of administration of programs for the blind can only be described as professional. So too as to their attitudes; their caliber; their bearing; and, in many cases, their careers and duties. In the present case Kenneth Jernigan has been a professional in all these senses of the term for many years. The honor and the responsibility have especially fittingly gone to Kenneth Jernigan. Few readers of the Braille Monitor and fewer members of the Federation need to be reminded of the character of this man and of the quality of his achievements. Since his entrance into the movement nearly a decade agoand especially since his election to the NFB Board of Directors in 1952--no one of us has labored more unstintingly or battled more courageously for the advancement of our common cause.
To enumerate all of Kenneth's contributions would be to trespass upon space limitations. I might recount a few of the highlights of his career as a Federationist leader. He is, first of all, the only member who has served on all the NFB's survey teamsthose which canvassed the state programs for the blind of Colorado and Arkansas in 1955 and of Nevada in 1956, at the request of their respective governors, and set in motion a chain reaction of liberalization and reform whose effects will be felt for years to come. Kenneth was also the chairman of two of our most thoroughly successful National Conventionsthose of Nashville in 1952 and San Francisco in 1956. He has given selflessly of his time and inexhaustible energy to cross and recross the country in the interests of Federation unity, harmony, and democracyand has performed miracles of diplomacy and arbitration in situations which might best be described as those of peacemaking, problem solving, and troubleshooting. More lastingly important than even this has been his consistent contribution to the over-all leadership, expansion, and sustained course of the movement.
Much of Kenneth's most valuable activity on our behalf, indeed, has been carried on behind the scenes. It is not widely known, for example, that he is the author of those indispensable guidebooks of our movement: "What Is the National Federation of the Blind?" and "Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind?" He is, additionally, the author of many Federation documents that have gone unbylined. He has represented the NFB, informally as well as formally, at numerous outside conventions and gatherings throughout the country. His speeches and reports on the floor of the National Convention, year in and year out, have been both widely anticipated events and uniformly applauded successes.
One of these in particular requires special mention: his address before the 1957 convention on "Programs for Local Chapters of the Federation." Few statements have more correctly portrayed and deeply instilled the conception of the Federation made up as it is of local clubs, state affiliates, conventions, officers, and headquartersas a single unified entity each part of which is the concern, responsibility, and local benefit of every individual member. By popular demand this analysis has been Brailled, taped, mimeographed, and distributed to Federationists throughout the length and breadth of the land. His 1955 study, "Employment of the Blind in the Teaching Profession," carried out for the California affiliate of the Federation, has been eagerly and broadly applied throughout the country in the increasingly successful campaign to break down the barriers to the hiring of blind teachers in the public schools. In fact, there is scarcely any aspect of our national movement over the past half-dozen years which has not benefited from the alert counsel and untiring devotion of time and talent which Ken has so willingly given.
I have said that his appointment to the directorship of the Iowa Commission is a tribute to the members of that enlightened agency. It is no less a tribute to the membership of the Iowa Association of the Blind, under the able leadership of Dr. H. F. Schluntz of Keystone, Iowa.
But in the end, of course, the credit for the appointment must go mainly to Ken Jernigan. His objective qualifications include upwards of a decade of counseling, administering, coordinating, teaching, and public relations, first with the School for the Blind in Nashville, Tennessee, and after 1953 with the Orientation Center for the Adult Blind in Oakland, California. But to these formal qualifications must be added such vital statistics as the following:
Totally blind from birth, raised on a rural farm in Tennessee, and educated in the Nashville School for the Blind, Kenneth went on to take a bachelor's degree in social science from the Tennessee Polytechnic Institutegraduating with the highest grades ever made by any student enrolled at the institution. In addition he somehow found time to become president of the Speech Activities Club, president of the Social Science Club, member of Cabinet Tech Christian Association, member of Pi Kappa Delta fraternity, winner of first prizes in Extemporaneous Speaking and Original Oratory at a Southeastern conference of the fraternity; to get a poem published in a nationwide anthology of college poetry; and to be elected to Who's Who Among Students in Colleges and Universities of America.
Following his graduation from Tennessee Polytechnic, Ken went on to take a master's degree in English from Peabody College in Nashville, plus an additional year of graduate study. Once again he found enough time aside from his studies to head various societies and win a variety of awards, including the Capt. Charles W. Browne Award in 1949.
I shall pass over lightly his brief career as a professional wrestler during the summer of 1945; his operation of a furniture shop the summer before, where he built all the furniture and managed the entire business; and his two-year livelihood as an insurance salesman prior to joining the staff of the Tennessee School for the Blind. But these diverse adventures and apprenticeships of his early career do serve graphically to illustrate Ken Jernigan's extraordinary vitality of personality and equally extraordinary drive and determination.
This appointment poses a critical question and gives the proper answer to it. Will the NFB give orders to Jernigan the administrator; or, alternatively, will Jernigan the administrator change his role in the Federation?
To pose this question at all presupposes some basic fallacies. It presupposes that the organized blind are on one side of the line; he and the agencies are on the other. It presupposes that the function of the agencies is to rule and that of the blind to obey. It presupposes that the agencies are professional and that the blind are unprofessional; that the agencies know what is best for the blind and the blind should accept it without question; that the agencies are custodians and caretakers and the blind are wards and charitable beneficiaries; that the agencies are the interpreters of the blind to the sighted community and the blind are incapable of speaking for themselves; that agencies exist because the blind are not full-fledged citizens with the right to compete for a home, a job, and to discharge the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. These are basic fallacies.
The basic truth is that there is no disharmony, conflict, or incompatibility between the two posts. The basic truth is that the blind are citizens, that they are not wards, that they are capable of speaking for themselves, and that they should and must be integrated into the governmental processes which evolve, structure, and administer programs bearing upon their welfare. The basic truth is that agencies administering these programs, committed to the democratic view of clients as human beings and as citizens, and joining them in the full expression of their capabilities have a vital role to play.
There is thus no matter of choosing between two masters moving in different directions. The common object can best be achieved through a close collaboration between the blind and the agencies serving them. The object cannot be achieved without that collaboration. Separate sources of authority, organizational patterns, and particular responsibilities do not necessarily, and in this case do not properly, entail conflicting commitments. Jernigan the Federation leader and Jernigan the administrator of programs in Iowa are therefore at one.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tony Mannino]
Profile of a Trailblazer
by Anthony Mannino
From the Editor: Tony Mannino, as he was known to his friends, was executive secretary of the American Brotherhood for the Blind in the 1960's. In February of 1963 he wrote a sparkling profile of Kenneth Jernigan in the Blind American, the temporary successor to the Braille Monitor. It provides interesting detail about Dr. Jernigan's early life. Here it is:
Late in 1962, at the Iowa state budget hearings held by the newly-elected governor, one agency head presented the reports and estimates of his department so convincingly that on the following day his presentation was prominently featured by news reporters who had attended the hearings. The official who had so impressed his listeners was Kenneth Jernigan, director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, delivering the annual report and budget proposals of the commission. The achievements and plans to which he had given such forceful expression were the climax of a concentrated effort in accomplishing the formidable task accepted by this blind leader in the field of rehabilitation.
On May 6, 1958, a blind man was asked to assume direction of the programs for the blind of an entire state. After many years of efforts by the organized blind to gain consultation and a voice in programs for the blind, it fell to Ken Jernigan to face the double test of proving his own ability as well as the soundness of the philosophy of the organized blind with respect to rehabilitation and related services.
When Ken stepped into the job, Iowa was dead last in the nation in rehabilitation of the blind. Today it stands in the front ranks of the states in this essential worka leap forward accomplished in just four years under Ken's direction. His philosophy proclaims that the real problem of blindness is not loss of eyesight but rather the misunderstanding and lack of information which accompany it. If a blind person has proper training and an opportunity to make use of it, blindness for him is only a physical nuisance. On the basis of his firm belief in these guiding precepts, Jernigan has rapidly built a state program geared to independence rather than dependency, to rehabilitation rather than resignation, and dedicated to the proposition that blind people are inherently normal, potentially equal, and thoroughly competent to lead their own lives and make their own way in competitive society. And he has proved his case with resounding success.
To understand the success of this bold program and the man responsible for it, we must go back a generation into the hills of Tennessee. The Jernigan family had lived in Tennessee for years, but the time came in the 1920's when economic pressures drove many of the back-country farmers into the cities. Kenneth's father was one of those who sought work in the factories in order to earn enough to return to his farm. He chose the automobile industry of Detroit, and it was there Ken was born in 1926.
The new baby had scarcely been made comfortable in his crib when the family moved back to the farm in Tennessee. Somehow modern conveniences and motorized farm machinery had not found their way to this edge of the Cumberland plateau, which was only fifty miles southeast of Nashville and almost completely inhabited by Anglo-Saxon people. They still clung to their ancient culture and their more or less primitive dwellings. Even today the mule-drawn plow has not entirely left the scene. Corn, hay, and milk were the chief agricultural products which gave this industrious folk their livelihood. Generation followed generation in the same pattern of life and endeavor.
But little Kenneth was different from the other folk. He had been born blind. However, this did not seem to create any great problem or concern in the Jernigan household. The child received a typical upbringing, and as he grew older, he assumed a few of the many chores which had to be done about the farm. Some of the heavier tasks he shared with his older brother, but bringing in wood for the stove and fireplaces and stacking board-lumber, which his father had shaped, were among his earliest prideful accomplishments. Playmates were few, besides his brother, but they all included Kenneth in their games. He recalls that some of the games were modified a little so that he could join the fun.
In January, 1933, at six years of age, Kenneth was taken to Nashville to be enrolled at the Tennessee School for the Blind. It was like going into another world suddenly faced with what seemed gigantic buildings, strange foods, mysterious steam heat, and electricity. Accustomed to getting up early, the youngster wandered away from the sleeping quarters on the very first morning and proceeded to get utterly lost. Unable to find his way back to the dormitory, he finally gave up and stretched out on the floor of one of the rooms he had wandered into to wait until someone found him. It was a miserable beginning for a boy fresh from a comfortable home environment.
But Ken liked school and the world it opened up for his growing mind. Now he could read books, books, and more books, all by himself. In preschool years he had always enjoyed having books read to him, and his first expressed desire at the school was to learn to read and write. He was not aware that it would have to be in Braille, and his first efforts to cope with the strange system were discouraging. In spite of his intense eagerness for reading and writing, Ken failed both of these subjects that first year. After that he never failed either of them again. Today he is one of the fastest Braille readers in the country, and his love for books and reading burns as brightly as ever.
There is one phase of Ken's education at the T. S. B. which he now wishes might have been different or might not have been at all. That was the emphasis placed on the study of music. From his own experience as well as his adult observation, he holds the firm opinion that musical training should not be imposed upon students who show little interest or talent for it. But the tradition at the school in his day, as at most other schools for the blind even today, demanded that every student be drilled in some form of music, whatever his lack of talent or interest.
Tradition must be served, and Ken found himself spending long hours of tedious study with the violin, beginning in the second grade. After three years he graduated into the band with a trombone and yet was stuck with the violin for another two years. In the band he soon forsook the tailgate (trombone) in favor of the alto horn, then (in desperate hope) the cornet, then the baritone horn, and finally a disastrous fling at the drums. He was quickly sent back to the brass section on the assumption, apparently, that he might have little talent but possessed plenty of brass. At long last, recognizing his profound lack of aptitude, Kenneth resigned from the band. As he recalls the event today, it was a great relief not only to him but also to B. P. Gap Rice, the bandleader!
Meanwhile he had dropped the violin lessons and shifted to the piano. Here again the effort turned out to be a waste of time because he was more interested in the mechanics of the piano than in its musical potential. When he resorted to taking the big instrument apart instead of playing it, the teacher was truly convinced that Ken would never be a musician.
The world had lost another hornblower, but it gained a craftsman. In 1944, while still in high school, Ken started to make and sell furniture. Using the money he earned on his father's farm during the summers, he bought tools and hardware. The logs were on the farm and at the sawmill nearby, so this was a practical venture for an ambitious young man. He proceeded to manufacture tables, smoking-stands, and floor lamps of original design. But he dared not attempt to do the staining and varnishing, because he had been led to believe that a blind person could not manage such delicate work. Only later did Ken learn that he could indeed do this work himself and do it well.
This experience furnished further proof to Ken Jernigan that the blind individual must avoid the pitfalls of premature acceptance of realistic advice as to the limitations of his abilities and capabilities. He firmly believes that orientation centers for the blind can render a most important service if they will teach and practice the basic truth that, given the opportunity, the average blind person can hold the average job in the average business or industry.
Young Mr. Jernigan graduated from high school in 1945 and immediately petitioned the state rehabilitation service for the chance to prepare himself for a career in law. He was advised against it. That fall, after a rugged six-week bout with appendicitis, he matriculated at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in Cookeville. He did not find there all the encouragement he needed and hoped for; but the now strong and independent young man who had already taken a whirl at professional wrestling was not to be talked into negative horizons or limited objectives. His hunger for knowledge was altogether too compelling and his love of books too deep. His scholastic ability soon produced high grades, and the pattern of his college life was formed.
But it was not all study and lessons. Throwing himself into campus activities from the outset, Ken was soon elected to office in his class organization and to important positions in other student clubs. The college debating team especially attracted his attention, and he took part in some twenty-five inter-collegiate debates. He became president of the Speech Activities Club and a member of Pi Kappa Delta speech fraternity. In 1948, at the Southeastern Conference of the Pi Kappa Delta competition held at the University of South Carolina, Ken won first prize in extemporaneous speaking and original oratory.
In his junior year he was nominated as one of two candidates for student-body president. He lost in a very close election, but the very next year regained his political prestige by backing his roommate for a campus-wide office and winning. In his senior year at Tennessee Tech, he was named to the honored list of Who's Who in Colleges and Universities.
During his undergraduate days Ken started a vending business by selling candy, cigarettes, and chewing-gum out of his room. Later on he purchased a vending machine and, with permission gained from the college president, installed it in the science building. Before finishing college, he had expanded the business to an impressive string of vending machines placed in other buildings. Upon graduation Ken sold this profitable business to a fellow student, an ambitious sophomore named John Taylor, today the director of rehabilitation with the Iowa Commission for the Blind and a past President of the National Federation of the Blind.
After receiving his B. A. in social science, with a minor in English, from T.P.I., Ken went directly for graduate work to the Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville. There he majored in English and minored in history. This time his campus activities were centered upon the literary magazines. He accomplished a great deal of writing of articles and editorials and became editor of a new literary publication. Meanwhile he received his Master of Arts degree in the winter quarter of 1949 but remained to finish the school year with further studies.
The following fall young Jernigan returned to the Tennessee School for the Blind, this time as a teacher in the high school English department. The renewed personal contact with blind students, their aspirations, and problems stirred his determination to give them counseling to the best of his ability and toward bringing out the best of their abilities. Although he had achieved success with his own education, it was not in the field he really wanted to pursue. He could not forget that before entering college his deep desire to become an attorney had been smashed as not feasible by a traditional-minded rehabilitation officer. Ken discovered latertoo latethat the rehabilitation man had been far from correct in his stand. Blind persons were then studying law, others were already lawyers, and the field of law was not closed but wide open to trained blind individuals.
Ken vows today that he will never make this mistake in giving counsel to blind students. "We in rehabilitation have no right to make the choice for anybody as to what his vocation should be when that person is eager and motivated to try in a field of his choice," he maintains.
After he had mastered the routines of teaching and settled into various school activities, Ken became interested in organizational work with the blind. He joined the Nashville chapter of the then Tennessee Association for the Blind (which later became the Tennessee Federation of the Blind). He was elected to the vice presidency of the state affiliate in 1950 and to the presidency in 1951. Though he was extremely busy, Ken found time for several courses at summer school and later branched out into selling life insurance. This latter endeavor proved to be as profitable as teaching and soon became a rewarding part-time job. Meanwhile, through his participation in organizations of the blind, Ken began to have his first contacts with national figures in the organized blind movement. Outstanding among these was Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, founder and President of the National Federation of the Blind.
While Ken enjoyed teaching at the Tennessee School, he wanted to do more in this expanding field. In 1953 he left the school to accept a position at the Oakland Orientation Center in California. His work, especially in counseling and guidance, became more intensified through the closer contact with persons trying to regain their rightful place in society. His interest in the National Federation was also sharpened by the many projects undertaken for that organization. One of the major projects in which he played an important role while in California was the campaign to gain recognition and the right to credentials for blind teachers in that state. Stemming from this great initial effort, there are now almost fifty blind teachers employed in California through the teachings, guidance, advice, and encouragement received from Kenneth Jernigan. When he left Oakland to accept the leadership of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, the people who knew him were confident that he would fulfill that challenging assignment with outstanding success.
With the zest of a crusader, Ken plunged into the task of building up the Iowa programs for the blind. He found the commission housed in small and poorly equipped quarters, with a budget of only twenty thousand dollars. The entire staff consisted of six people. It was in all respects a dismal picture and a bleak prospect. But it did not remain so for long. Step by step, Ken skillfully planned and expanded the program, services, staff, and budget of the Commission. He argued up and down the state and won growing support for his programs. Today the Commission is housed in a fully equipped six-story building, serving more than four thousand blind Iowans. A budget of $400,000 is financing programs of rehabilitation, orientation, home teaching, home industries, vending stands, Braille library, and many other related services. Each of these programs is characterized by the dynamic director.
In a way, with each year of experience in work for the blind, Ken gained as much as he gave. With each passing year he has become more convinced that blindness need not serve as a hindrance in virtually any vocation. Admitting that sight is an advantage, he hastens to point out that there are numerous alternative techniques which, learned and utilized properly, provide the blind person with the equalizer.
Kenneth Jernigan has worked for what he believes in, and his preachment has been practiced with driving energy. Speaking with firm conviction, he declares: "If I were asked to sum up my philosophy of blindness in one sentence, I would say, `It is respectable to be blind.'" Few people would deny this in the abstract; but when we analyze what they really believe, we find that most of them are at first ashamed of blindness.
This blind leader is convinced that the dominant attitudes of society toward blindness place unwarranted limitations upon the blind person. Since social attitudes, unlike the physical fact of blindness, are open to change, he maintains that one of our principal functions should be to encourage proper attitudes toward blindness and the blind. Adequate knowledge, understanding, and recognition of talents must be brought to supplant traditional preconceptions, prejudices, and generalizations about the blind. From a climate of healthy social attitudes will emerge the opportunities and full rights of citizenship which should be the birthright of the blind. And they, in turn, will then carry their full and proper share of the responsibility of free and independent citizens in our democratic society.
Elected Officials Remember
From the Editor: Dr. Jernigan understood and practiced the nuances of politics better than many who spend full time battling to get or keep elective office. His personal political views he kept private, but in his public life he had one overriding principle which he used to determine the degree of his own and the Federation's support for any public official: was he or she prepared to fight for the rights of blind people? If so, the NFB would make common cause with the official; if not, the NFB had other fish to fry. It was the only sensible position for a broad and inclusive national organization of blind people to take, and using the principle like a finely honed tool, Dr. Jernigan became a master at winning political allies and building consensus. Along the way he made respectful friends and educated public servants about the abilities of blind people. A number of elected officials, including the mayor of Baltimore and the governor of Maryland, paid tribute to Dr. Jernigan in the days following his death. Here are the texts of several of those letters and tributes:
President William Clinton
The White House Washington, D.C.
October 16, 1998
Mrs. Kenneth Jernigan
Dear Mrs. Jernigan:
Hillary and I were deeply saddened to learn of your husband's death, and our hearts go out to you.
Kenneth Jernigan lived a life of great purpose and accomplishment. He was a strong and eloquent voice for blind people and worked throughout his life and distinguished career to break down barriers of ignorance and discrimination. Under his leadership the National Federation of the Blind became one of our nation's most effective advocates for the rights of the blind. Through his creation of the NEWSLINE for the Blind® Network, the International Braille and Technology Center, and so many other innovative programs, he put the power of communications technology at the service of blind people, giving countless Americans access to vital information and services.
Because of your husband's courage, creativity, and tenacious spirit, millions of blind people today live full, independent lives and make their own important contributions to our society. No man could ask for a finer legacy.
Hillary and I are keeping you and your family in our thoughts and prayers.
Wednesday, October 14, 1998
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Senator Paul Sarbanes stands with
Dr. and Mrs.
Jernigan at the Winston Gordon Award ceremony.]
Senator Paul Sarbanes|
Democrat of Maryland
A Tribute to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President
Emeritus of the
National Federation of the Blind [page S-12572, 54 lines]
Mr. Sarbanes: Mr. President, today I rise to pay tribute to a man who has dedicated his life to improving opportunities for others. He is Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who served as President of the National Federation of the Blind from 1968 to 1986 and as the Federation's President Emeritus until his death on October 12, 1998. In these capacities Dr. Jernigan has become widely recognized and highly respected as the principal leader of the organized blind movement in the United States.
On September 14, 1998, Mr. President, I was privileged to attend an especially moving ceremony to recognize Dr. Jernigan for worldwide leadership in the development of technology to assist blind people. The award, consisting of $15,000 Canadian and a two-ounce gold medallion, was given by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the event was held at the Canadian Embassy here in Washington.
This recognition by our neighbors to the north was a tangible expression, Mr. President, of the respect which Dr. Jernigan has earned throughout his lifetime of service on behalf of blind people in the United States and around the world. Through his grit, determination, and skill Dr. Jernigan achieved personal success. But more important than that, as a lifetime teacher and mentor he gave others the chance for success as well.
Born blind in 1926, Kenneth Jernigan grew up on a small Tennessee farm with little hope and little opportunity. But, Mr. President, in the story of Kenneth Jernigan, from his humble beginning in the hills of Tennessee to his stature as a national--and even an internationalleader, the story of what is right with America is told.
Dr. Jernigan may have been blind in the physical sense, Mr. President, but he was a man of vision nonetheless. In his leadership of the National Federation of the Blind, he taught all of us to understand that eyesight and insight are not related to each other in any way. Although he did not have eyesight, his insight on life, learning, and leading has no equal.
Mr. President, for those who knew him and loved him, for the blind of this country and beyond, and for the National Federation of the Blindthe organization that he loved and builtthe world without Kenneth Jernigan will be difficult. But the world he has left in death is a far better world because of his life.
The legacy which Dr. Jernigan has left is shown in the hundreds of thousands of lives that he touched and the lives that will still be touched by his example and the continuing power of his teaching. This will be the case for many generations to come. Mr. President, Kenneth Jernigan will be missed most by his family and friends, but his loss will be shared by all of us because he cared for all of us. He cared enough to give of himself. With the strength of his voice and the power of his intellect, he brought equality and freedom to the blind. As he did so, Mr. President, Kenneth Jernigan taught us all to love one another and live with dignity. That is the real and lasting legacy of Kenneth Jernigan.
Mr. President, on September 24, 1998, an article entitled "Friends Pay Homage to Crusader for the Blind, Jernigan Still Working Despite Lung Cancer" appeared in the Baltimore Sun. Because it presents a fitting tribute to Dr. Jernigan's life and work, I ask to insert the text of this article in the Record at this point.
The article follows:
Friends Pay Homage to Crusader for the
Blind, Jernigan Still Working Despite Lung Cancer
by Ernest F. Imhoff
A steady stream of old friendsmaybe 200 in the past monthshave been visiting Kenneth Jernigan at his home in Irvington. Pals who followed the old fighter for the blind as he tenaciously led fights for jobs, for access, for independent living, for Braille, and for civil rights have come to say thank you and goodbye to a dying blind man they say expanded horizons for thousands of people. James Omvig, a sixty-three-year-old blind lawyer, and his sighted wife Sharon flew from Tucson, Arizona, to visit with the President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), who is in the latter stages of lung cancer. "The wonderful life I've had is all due to Dr. Jernigan," Omvig said. In the 1950's he "was sitting around at home" in Iowa, after learning chair-caning, until he met Jernigan and began studying Braille and other subjects. Omvig then graduated from college, got a law degree, became the first blind person hired by the National Labor Relations Board, and later developed programs for the blind at Social Security in Baltimore, Alaska, and elsewhere.
One topic of conversation among the friends has been Jernigan's latest project, a proposed $12 million National Research and Training Institute for the Blind for NFB headquarters in South Baltimore.
Last week Larry McKeever, of Des Moines, who is sighted and has recorded material for the 50,000-member Federation, came to chat and cook breakfast for the Jernigans. Donald Capps, the blind leader of fifty-eight South Carolina NFB chapters, called to congratulate Jernigan on being honored recently at the Canadian Embassy for his NEWSLINE® invention that enables the blind to hear daily newspapers. Floyd Matson, who is sighted and has worked with Jernigan for fifty years, came from Honolulu to be with "my old poetry and drinking buddy."
A dramatic example of the high regard in which blind people hold Jernigan came during the annual convention of 2,500 NFB members in Dallas in July. A donor contributed $5,000 to start a Kenneth Jernigan Fund to help blind people.
Quickly, state delegations caucused and announced their own donations. The result: pledges of $137,000 in his honor.
Jernigan, seventy-one, who was born blind and grew up on a Tennessee farm with no electricity, learned he had incurable lung cancer in November. In the past ten months Jernigan has been almost as busy as ever. He has continued projects such as editing the latest in his large-type Kernel Book series of inspirational books for the visually impaired. But his focus has been the proposed four-story institute, for which $1 million has been raised. It will house the nerve center of an employment program; research and demonstration projects leading to jobs and independent living; technology training seminars; access technology, such as applications for voting machines, airport kiosks and information systems; and Braille literacy initiatives to reverse a 50 percent illiteracy rate among visually impaired children.
In fighting for the blind, Jernigan has frequently been a controversial figure. Before he moved to Baltimore in 1978, the Iowa Commission for the Blind, which he headed, was the subject of a conflict-of-interest investigation by a gubernatorial committee. In the end Governor Robert Ray felt the committee's report vindicated the commission. The governor and the committee described the commission's program for the blind as "one of the best in the country."
There are good things in everything, even this illness," said his wife, Mary Ellen Jernigan. "You expect to hear from old friends. But in letters and calls, we hear from hundreds of people we don't know."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Congressman Robert Ehrlich and Dr. Jernigan]
Congressional Record, Wednesday, October 21, 1998
Extensions of Remarks Section
Tribute by Hon. Robert Ehrlich, Jr., Republican of Maryland
Honoring the Memory of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan,
of the National Federation of the Blind [page E-2268, 43 lines]
in the House of Representatives
Tuesday, October 20, 1998
MR. EHRLICH: Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay my respects to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who passed away on Monday, October 12, 1998, after a courageous fight with cancer. I offer my warmest sympathies to his family, friends, and the National Federation of the Blind, the organization for which he served as one of its principal leaders for more than forty-five years.
I have greatly admired and respected Kenneth Jernigan and the National Federation of the Blind since my days in the Maryland State Legislature as a state delegate. With chapters in every state and almost every community, the Federation is the nation's oldest and largest organization of blind persons. Its influence today serves as a reminder of the culmination of Kenneth Jernigan's lifetime work and commitment to improving the quality of life for the blind throughout this nation and the world.
Occasionally, an issue is brought to my attention where I can seek a meaningful legislative remedy for a substantial number of people. Four years ago, with the assistance of Dr. Jernigan and the Federation, I began to work with my colleagues in the House to reestablish the Social Security earnings-test link between senior citizens and the blind. Dr. Jernigan emphasized to me how the de-linkage of this historic tie would have a negative impact to the self-esteem of blind workers, preventing them from pursuing better employment opportunities. In his memory, I pledge to continue pushing for bipartisan legislation to restore this important incentive.
Dr. Jernigan will be greatly missed. His selfless accomplishments on behalf of the blind and the sighted are immeasurable. Because of his example, many of us will do the right thing by furthering his good work. It has been a great honor to have worked with such an influential and highly respected leader.
In conclusion, I would respectfully enter into the Record one of Dr. Jernigan's favorite sonnets, "Remember" by Christina Rossetti. [There followed the text of the poem, which appears elsewhere in this issue.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan shakes hands with Congressman Elijah Cummings.]
Member of Congress
From the Editor: Congressman Cummings delivered the following remarks at the memorial service:
I welcome this opportunity to join Mary Ellen Jernigan and all of you as we remember and honor the life of a remarkable man. To Mrs. Jernigan, to Kenneth Jernigan's daughter Marie, to his brother Lloyd, I have stopped by here to let you know that I miss Dr. Jernigan more than I can ever express. But I just cannot be sad today. We come here today, not because he died, but because he lived. When I consider the six thousand days of Dr. Jernigan's life which God allowed me to share, the memory that transcends all others is the continuing power of his friendship. That is why most of us are here todayto celebrate his life. Coming together like this brings us closer to the man who became an important part of our lives, the man who adopted each of us into his extended family of optimism, self-determination, and mutual respect. Kenneth Jernigan gave us the three most valuable gifts any person can give to another: he gave us his friendship. He called upon us to pursue the best that is within us, to apply our abilities to a vision of inclusion. And President Jernigan put us to work to help everyone see our shared humanity.
I cannot be sad today. I am convinced that Dr. Jernigan, my friend, is here with us in spirit. Dr. Jernigan, don't worry; we're still working hard to do what is right. So I came here today to thank Dr. Jernigan and his wonderful wife Mary Ellen for everything they are giving to my life. Let me repeat what I just said: "Thank you for what you are giving to my life." With his graduate degree in English, Dr. Jernigan, master teacher of the English language, will appreciate my use of the present progressive tense. As long as we live, as long as the people we are able to help and touch live, Kenneth Jernigan will be there with us. That is why I used the present progressive tense, the tense of becoming, to describe to you how I feel about Dr. Jernigan. Dr. Jernigan continues to be my friend.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan showed me in so many ways that he cared about me and about the person he knew I could become. Fifteen years before the people of Baltimore sent me to the United States Congress, Dr. Jernigan predicted that I would become a member of Congress. That's amazing. I will never forget when he told me that; I said: "He's out of his mind." Dr. Jernigan believed in me; he predicted a future that I myself had not seen. He believed before I believed.
When I think about my friend, I recall some words from a song by a Minnesota woman named Patricia McKernen. She said these simple words that are so profound: "Like a river we must learn to be moved by the currents we cannot see." Dr. Jernigan had a sixth sense about things like that, the ability to see human potential where the vision of others was blurred by stereotypes from the past. Dr. Jernigan was also a friend who thought about life in a clear and precise way but always spoke from his heart. In all the years we worked together, he always spoke freely and honestly, sharing his vision of what we were supposed to be doing, of the people we were meant to become.
Let me say this to all those who might have a sad heart today: a friend who is unafraid to touch our hearts may go away but will never depart. That is why I know that Dr. Jernigan is here with us today. So I will repeat to Dr. Jernigan what I said earlier: my friend and brother, don't worry; we're still working hard to do what is right. Thank you for the friendship and the help you gave us and the help you are giving us right now.
Dr. Jernigan also called upon us to achieve the very best that is within us. He taught us that we would gain society's respect only by stressing our abilities and not our limitations. He taught us that we have to transform our vision of a better world into action. NFB President Marc Maurer was talking to a staff member of mine about how fourteen years ago Dr. Jernigan called upon us all to come down to a fitness center in Laurel, Marylandnot too far from herewhich had refused to allow blind people to participate. They had slammed the door in his face, but he kept coming back with more and more peopleyou know that was his waynever to be discouraged, holding a protest right there in front of the center. We were polite and determined, and before long the center and Dr. Jernigan had reached what I would call a meeting of the minds.
President Maurer's story about integrating the fitness center reveals part of Dr. Jernigan's method of taking action, but only part. Dr. Jernigan's vision is that we open doors to opportunity by opening people's minds. He understood what Gandhi understood: to accomplish any difficult task, we must speak to people's hearts as well as their minds. Revealing who we are, our strengths as well as our limitations, our joys as well as our suffering, is what opens the minds of others to a deeper understanding of our shared humanity. That is the second gift we owe to Dr. Jernigan. He helped people believe that each of us has value, that our abilities are more important than our limitations, that we really can change people's hearts and minds.
Dr. Jernigan not only stressed the abilities we all can develop if given the opportunity; he taught us that we have both the right and the obligation to apply our beliefs to a vision of humanity greater than ourselves. The mission of the National Federation of the Blind is not only to advance the abilities and rights of people whose sight is impaired, but Dr. Jernigan taught us that the NFB's mission is to advance the abilities and rights of all people. Dr. Jernigan was not simply an advocate for the blind; Kenneth Jernigan was a human rights advocate. He understood and he helped millions of other Americans to understand how much better all our lives will be when we become a country of opportunity for all, not just a few. Dr. Jernigan would not accept the idea that there should be one America for others and a second America for the blind.
That is why I think that Dr. Jernigan's third gift to us and to the world is our shared calling, the gift of sight. He helped us to see better that we must be one America. He helped us to see better that we must be a nation that gives opportunity to all of our people. He helped us to see better that we all have abilities. He helped us to see that everyone wants and needs to contribute to our shared community. We must never forget that the important work being done by the National Center for the Blind, a few blocks from here in South Baltimore, is the historic work of America. The NFB's efforts are not limited to helping sight-impaired people cope with their limitation. Those efforts are important, but the larger mission of the National Center for the Blind is to help all America see. The NFB is about the business of showing the world that every person has value.
In conclusion, I stopped by simply to thank Dr. Jernigan for all that he has given to us. For he has not gone; he has merely left for a few moments. He lives in the hearts of every single one of us and in people we do not even know. Let me leave you with the words of a song that my mother loves and sings all the time:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When storm clouds like sea billows roll,
Whatever my plight, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
I am sure that Dr. Jernigan is looking down on us, saying those words over and over and over again. "It is well, it is well with my soul." May God bless you, and may God bless America.
Public Officials Assess
From the Editor: Suzanne Mitchell is a long-time Federationist and the director of the state agency serving blind people in Louisiana. This month she begins serving a term as President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB), the professional organization of state agency directors in the blindness field.
In April of 1998 the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind presented its first Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Upon receiving notification of this honor, Dr. Jernigan wrote to Jamie Hilton, then President of NCSAB, and said: "The state agencies are front-line soldiers in the battle to bring first-class citizenship to the blind, and recognition from their national organization is heartwarming. Present-day reality is that agencies doing work with the blind and the organized blind movement have mutual interests and that there cannot be an adversarial relationship. Any of us who fail to recognize this truth hurt both the agencies and the blind they were established to serve. Whatever the situation may have been in bygone days, these are now the facts of life; and past grudges, long-time hatreds, and traditional squabbles must be put behind us. No, they must not be put behind us but totally forgotten in the interest of harmony and joint effort. That is my thinking; that is the thinking of the National Federation of the Blind; and that is also the thinking of all sensible people in the blindness field."
The honor bestowed upon Dr. Jernigan by NCSAB touched him profoundly. He expressed that many times in the last weeks of his life. To him, to all Federationists, and to the body of state directors in NCSAB, this recognition symbolized an historic moment and the arrival of a new day of cooperative partnership and thinking among the organized blind and the agencies. The remarks Dr. Jernigan made upon accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award speak simply and eloquently of the truths which guide our movement and our purpose in the blindness field. He said, "There is great strength in collective action. Great opportunity comes by working together toward common goals, but most of all great satisfaction comes from knowing that together we have done our individual and collective best to move blind people closer to the day when they will have the encouragement, training, and self-respect to live normal lives as normal people."
As I begin my term this January as president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, Dr. Jernigan's words will offer me and my colleagues the same wisdom and guidance that so many of his teachings and words of counsel have done over the years. Two simple truths offered by Dr. Jernigan have proven valid time and time again. The first is "The test of a thing is if it works." The second is "If it can, it will." The National Federation of the Blind has been testedand it works. And the development of harmony among public rehabilitation agencies and the blind has moved from "can" happen to "will" happen.
The poet William Blake once wrote, "If a thing loves, it is infinite." We all felt the love, compassion, and devotion of Dr. Jernigan and indeed, through his love, he will remain infinite in our hearts and in our movement. Through his continuing spirit, which abides in all of us, he will bring hope, a sense of destiny, and daily renewal as we continue to carry on his important work. Together we are changing what it means to be blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Frank Kurt Cylke]
Frank Kurt Cylke
From the Editor: Frank Kurt Cylke is the Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. These are the remarks he delivered at the memorial service:
God saw you were getting tired,
And a cure was not to be,
So he put his arms around you
And whispered, "Come to me."
With tearful eyes we watched you,
And saw you pass away.
Although we loved you dearly,
We could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating,
Hard-working hands at rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us,
He only takes the best.
Only once in a generation, perhaps only once in a lifetime, does an individual enter into our sphere with power and drive to change humankind for the best. We are all fortunate that Kenneth Jernigan was with us for the time that he had here on earth. An intellectual, an educator; a leader; a guider; an administrator; and, yes, a book man. While Kenneth Jernigan held no library degree and indeed never served as a librarian, he may be considered the librarian of all timesfor blind and physically handicapped individuals. Under his direction, the State of Iowa built a magnificent library with a superb collection and outstanding service pattern. As President of Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America, Kenneth Jernigan advised and consulted with the National Library Service and other library and information services in the United States as well as in other countries.
Kenneth Jernigan loved books, Kenneth Jernigan wrote books, Kenneth Jernigan edited books, Kenneth Jernigan published books, Kenneth Jernigan recommended books, and Kenneth Jernigan distributed books. Not once, to my knowledge, did he ever suggest removing or not adding an item from any collection. He believed only in building the store of materials available to the blind and physically handicapped community.
Kenneth Jernigan believed that knowledge would set the blind free. It has and will continue to do so.
God saw you were getting tired,
And a cure was not to be,
So he put his arms around you
And whispered, "Come to me."
With tearful eyes we watched you,
And saw you pass away.
Although we loved you dearly,
We could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating,
Hard-working hands at rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us,
He only takes the best.
In closing, I can only sayKenneth Jernigan, we will meet again...some sunny day....
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Dr. Jernigan is about to turn steaks on a large outdoor grill. Fred Schroeder is standing on the other side of the flaming grill. CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan tends the grill outside the Jernigan home while Fred Schroeder looks on.]
Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D.
From the Editor: Dr. Schroeder serves as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education. He delivered the following remarks at the memorial service.
In 1920 the Smith-Fess Act created the Vocational Rehabilitation program in the United States. It began with a small budget and was initially limited to providing counseling, training, prostheses, and placement services to people with physical disabilities. From the years 1920 to 1943 the rehabilitation program provided little in the way of employment services for the blind. During that period federal policy categorized blind people as having "no rehabilitation potential"; therefore, state rehabilitation agencies were not obliged to assist blind people at all.
In the early days of the rehabilitation program only a small number of blind people benefited from rehabilitation services. In the years 1935 to 1943 only 1,779 blind people (or fewer than 4.5 blind people per state per year) were assisted in finding work by state rehabilitation agencies. The prevalent belief was that the blind could work in only a limited number of occupations, such as broom or basket making, rug weaving, or chair caning. Occasionally a blind person was selected for piano tuning and, in rare instances, assisted in pursuing a professional career in music.
During that period Congress passed two pieces of legislation to assist blind people in securing at least some work. In 1936 the Randolph-Sheppard Act was adopted. It allowed blind people to operate vending stands on federal property. This provided blind people the opportunity to sell items such as cigarettes, packaged foods, and newspapers and periodicals in government buildings. In 1938 the Wagner-O'Day Act made it mandatory for the federal government to purchase specified products made in sheltered workshops for the blind. These two programs constituted most of what was available in the way of employment opportunities for blind people at that time.
That was the condition for blind people when Kenneth Jernigan was growing uplittle hope for much of an education; little hope for employment beyond the sheltered workshop; and virtually no hope for a life of dignity and self-respect. He grew up in a world and at a time when little, if anything, was expected of blind people and when it was assumed that blind people would require the care of their families for all of their lives.
Today opportunities for blind people are much different. Yet can it be said that Dr. Jernigan has been responsible for this change? Indeed the answer is yes. His life and work changed the face of vocational rehabilitation in America. He forever expanded opportunities and hope for an entire class of people, in large part because of his unwillingness to live as others expected.
In 1949 he went to work teaching English at the Tennessee School for the Blind. Whatever the quality that allowed him to challenge society's assumptions about blindness, including the assumptions of the professional rehabilitation system, he shared his belief in blind people with others. He worked to instill in his students a belief in themselves and a belief in their potential. He taught by stimulating their intellect and by demanding excellence. He taught by example and through his incomparable powers of persuasion.
That same year he found the National Federation of the Blind, or perhaps it could be said that the Federation found him. His innate belief in the fundamental equality of blind people was the ideal complement to the philosophy of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and the relatively young organization he had founded.
In 1953 Dr. Jernigan moved to California to work with the newly established Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center. It might be said that this was his first step into the field of rehabilitation, but it was by no means his first step into the work of helping blind people acquire the skills they needed to break free from poverty and isolation. It shortly became clear to Dr. Jernigan and Dr. tenBroek that, if they were to be successful in changing opportunities for blind people and, in particular, employment opportunities, they needed to inject Federation philosophy into the work of an entire state rehabilitation agency. In 1958, at the age of thirty-one, Dr. Jernigan left California to assume the position of director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind.
In his professional life Dr. Jernigan forever changed the face of vocational rehabilitation in America. He developed a program of rehabilitation for blind people that endures today as the model for effective adjustment training. Yet to view Dr. Jernigan's accomplishments as purely professional is to underestimate the man and his life.
Dr. Jernigan believed in blind people. Of course others have and do, but Dr. Jernigan believed in blind people in a way that was truly unique. He meant it when he said that he believed that blind people are simply normal people with the same range of talents and abilities as others. He meant it when he spoke about the right of blind people to live normal lives as normal people, and he meant it when he spoke of the right of blind people to have opportunities free from discrimination.
He believed in us, and he showed us how we could begin the journey toward first-class status. He taught us the importance of collective action. He taught us that each time we work to open new opportunities, each time we stand together to battle discrimination, we expand opportunities for all blind people while strengthening our own belief in our individual ability to live as normal people. Said another way, he taught us that blind people need to band together in support of a common belief predicated on the right of blind people to live full and productive lives with dignity and self-respect.
I am one of the countless blind people whose lives have been changed by Dr. Jernigan. Sometimes I say that my life has been changed by the National Federation of the Blind, and of course that is true. But the Federation is, in some respects, an abstraction, a philosophy, a set of beliefs; Dr. Jernigan was the manifestation of Federationism. To say the Federation changed my life is to say Dr. Jernigan changed my life, and to say Dr. Jernigan changed my life is to say the Federation changed my life. They are truly the same. Sometimes that change was made more gently than at other times. I remember speaking to him about an idea I had about a change in career direction. After listening patiently, he finally said that it was the most chuckle-headed idea he had ever heard.
While Dr. Jernigan knew that belief in ourselves was the foundation, he also knew that confidence alone could not bring us full equality. He recognized that we, as blind people, must have the skills necessary to function competitively in a competitive and demanding world. To work competitively alongside the sighted, we needed to be able to travel independently, read and write Braille, and care for our daily needs. These skills became the core of the Iowa Orientation Programskills coupled with his unfailing belief in blind people.
Many of you knew Dr. Jernigan during his time in Iowa. There are many things that might be said about the Iowa program and what made it work. But the things that made the Iowa program work are the same things Dr. Jernigan did with each of us. He told us that we were important when we did not feel important. He told us that he needed our help and that other blind people needed our help. At the Iowa Commission he would hold luncheons and receptions for legislators and others, and he would have the students in the orientation program prepare and serve the meal. He made them a part of the success of the program, and, by so doing, he took people who had never before been needed and convinced them that the very future of programs for the blind in Iowa and the nation depended on them.
I can remember visiting Dr. Jernigan in his home, where he would always have something for me to help do. As a blind child growing up, I do not remember being needed much at all, but Dr. Jernigan always seemed to need me, and for that I will always be grateful. But this was not just some kind of psychological trick; it goes to the very heart of Federation philosophy, the understanding that our efforts, when organized around common goals, elevate us individually as well as collectively.
Dr. Jernigan's entire life was one of building. He developed model training programs for the blind. He founded the National Center for the Blind, the finest facility of its type in the world. He established the International Braille and Technology Center, bringing together all known Braille and speech technology from throughout the world. He created NEWSLINE® and later Jobline®. And he built unprecedented harmony and cooperation in the blindness field.
He led the struggle for civil rightsfrom the-right-to-organize legislation to union organizing of sheltered-workshop workers. He led the battle for educationfrom Braille bills in the individual states to a federal presumption of Braille for blind children. He battled discriminationfrom the court room to the statehouse. He built many things, but his legacy is not simply one of past accomplishments. He left us the foundation and the tools we need to continue the work.
His life was one of building, but not just for the present. His life was one of building according to today's need and with tomorrow's needs clearly in mind, and that long-term perspective he instilled in us is his true legacy. He left us with pride for what we have accomplished, and he left us with the resolve to accomplish still more. He left in place a system of democracya system of self-government rooted in self-determination. And he left us a system for supporting and strengthening today's leaders and a system for finding and developing the next generation of leaders and generations beyond them.
And, above all, he left us with a leader, a man like himself and not like himself, a leader who can and will continue the work Dr. Jernigan began, yet a man who has his own combination of strengths and priorities, perspectives and abilities, a leader, unique unto himself; and yet a man who, like Dr. Jernigan, is committed to and driven by the belief that one day we will fully emerge from isolation and exclusion and stand with the sighted as equals.
As I look at all that we have built and at all that remains to be done, I can think of no one more capable, no one more committed, no one more worthy of our trust and confidence than Marc Maurer. Dr. Maurer has earned our trust as he earned Dr. Jernigan's trust. He is a man of great ability, of great energy, and a man of great integrity and commitment. Perhaps most important, he is a man of great compassion, a man who cares deeply for all blind people and who is willing to give all that he has to continue the work. I am proud to know Dr. Maurer and to call him a friend. I am proud, as I know you are, to look to him as the leader who will take us well into the next century, and I know that Dr. Jernigan is proud of him too.
Voices from Around the World
From the Editor: Word of Dr. Jernigan's death went out within hours, and almost immediately tributes from many countries began to appear on NFB listservs, by fax, and in the mail. Here is a sampling of the sentiments:
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Dr. Euclid Herie]
Reflections on the Life of
A Valued Friend and Colleague
by Euclid J. Herie
From the Editor: Dr. Herie is President of the World Blind Union and President and CEO of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
How does one measure the impact and influence of the life of Kenneth Jernigan? A twentieth-century Renaissance man for blind people across the United States and throughout the world, Dr. Jernigan was a man of letters and superior intellect. From the barricades to the board room he fought for inclusion of blind people in education, employment, culture, and society. He established the belief that with a proper attitude and appropriate training the condition of blindness can be reduced to that of a mere nuisance.
Blind since birth, Dr. Jernigan grew up in the hills of Tennessee. He graduated from university at a time when few blind persons were encouraged to pursue higher education.
Kenneth Jernigan, a writer, philosopher and teacher, was unequalled as an internationally renowned speaker. In true form he delivered the keynote address at the fourth General Assembly of the World Blind Union in August of 1996 on the theme, "Changing What It Means to be Blind." At the same Assembly he was elected an honorary life member of the World Blind Union, having served as Regional President of the North America/Caribbean Region for more than a decade.
In my role as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, I was privileged to be part of the delegation to honor Dr. Jernigan as the 1998 recipient of the CNIB Winston Gordon Award for Technological Advancement in the Field of Blindness and Visual Impairment. This prestigious international award, presented on September 14 at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, was given for the development of NEWSLINE for the Blind®. In his acceptance speech for the award, he found the strength to articulate for one last time his life work in advocacy on the theme of "The Day After Civil Rights."
Like Louis Braille, Kenneth Jernigan will be remembered as one of the most influential figures in the blindness movement in our time. The decorations and honors awarded him in his lifetime would require a large gallery for public display. President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, his biography and voluminous writings will preserve his memory and teachings for generations to come in private collections and libraries worldwide.
It is with a deep sense of loss that I say farewell to a close friend whom I held in the highest regard. He had a great influence on my professional career in the field of blindness and personally helped me to understand that it is respectable to be blind. I will miss him.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pedro Zurita shows Dr. Jernigan a model of the Louis Braille museum.]
Dr. Jernigan Will Always
Be With Us
by Pedro Zurita
From the Editor: Pedro Zurita is Secretary General of the World Blind Union.
Although in a sense Dr. Jernigan left us last October 12, from that day on his memory will be perennially cherished by many blind people all over the world.
Personally I had a very special relationship with him since 1986, when he and I became particularly involved in the leadership of the World Blind Union. After the very first officers' meeting that he attended in the fall of 1987, he wrote a letter evaluating my performance very highly. In February, 1988, I visited the NFB's national headquarters in Baltimore, where I had the honor of having dinner with him in his home and enjoying some of the dishes he himself prepared.
Sometime later he wrote an article on the Spanish National Organization of the Blind (ONCE) in the Braille Monitor, in which he used some of the most flattering adjectives that have ever been associated with my name. That article proved to be a challenge to my knowledge of the English language, since I had to ask what some of those expressions meant!
In the years he presided over the WBU's North America/Caribbean Region, he interacted with U.S., Canadian, and Caribbean delegates. He himself said that such a setup served to foster cooperation among the region's organizations that would never have existed otherwise. I believe that Dr. Jernigan's experience as a WBU leader expanded his view of the world. There are some problems that you have in the United States that are universal, but others are different in both degree and nature in comparison with other areas.
In any case, Dr. Jernigan will leave an indelible mark on many of us. Through his writings he conveyed the idea that being blind is more a characteristic than a handicap. He helped many people gain self-confidence in no trivial manner. That meant they tried to do things in life that without his encouragement they would have ruled out altogether.
People in Africa who read the Braille Monitor would often ask me if I knew Dr. Jernigan. I interpreted those queries to mean that, not only had they read his articles, but the ideas had done them a great service. From my modest position as editor of the World Blind, I am proud to say that I was able to publish two of Dr. Jernigan's outstanding articles, one on "The Nature of Independence" and the other titled "Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic?" I personally saw to the Spanish version and know for a fact that the ideas contained in the paper aroused a great deal of interest all over the world.
In the last few days I have received any number of letters in which people from here and there refer to the enormous impact that Dr. Jernigan's philosophy had on their lives. We are deeply afflicted by his parting but consoled by the thought that the world is a better place for his having lived in it.
A Tribute From New Zealand
by Jonathan Mosen
October 13, 1998
Most of us probably find ourselves thinking once in a while about our legacy. It would be nice to conclude our life's work knowing that in some way the world is a better place for our having lived in it. But few of us will ever have the kind of legacy that is Dr. Kenneth Jernigan's. I want to try and explain why I wept openly when I heard that Dr. Jernigan had died, why I in New Zealand, many thousands of miles away from the United States Congress, NAC, and a history of paternalistic American State agencies, feel such a profound sense of loss. I undertake this explanation as a therapy exercise for myself. When I'm at an emotional extreme, I like to write. But I also do it to say "thank you" to the National Federation of the Blind and Dr. Jernigan's family for sharing Dr. Jernigan with the world.
When I was in my late teens and at university, I was confident of my own abilities and scared of the future. I had decided that as a blind person I was limited, not so much by my abilities, as by other people's perceptions of my so-called disability. For various reasons I was in the media spotlight every so often and used to describe blindness as a characteristic. But I was despondent about the seemingly unbeatable odds I was battling. I thought that society wouldn't let me have a future and that I might as well do the world a favor and surrender the battle. I was at the lowest ebb to which any human being can descend.
I have always been an adopter of technology, and at about this time found myself on the Disabilities Forum of CompuServe. A man named David Andrews posted a message announcing the latest issue of a magazine called the Braille Monitor. I downloaded it, read it, and found hope. I have read almost every Braille Monitor since then.
So what is this hope I found? Obviously as someone who has been interested in blindness advocacy in some form or another since I crossed swords with the school for the blind at the age of six, the work of the Federation interested me. But, as a political science and history graduate, American politics interests me too. What made my reading of Federation material different and what gave me hope was that the Federation not only mirrored my own views about blindness being a characteristic, and about the real problem of blindness being attitudinal, but they had proved it through their actions and programs.
With the advent of the Internet I gained access to much more. I read Walking Alone and Marching Together, and it was at this point that I really came to admire Dr. Jernigan. Dr. Jernigan was many things to the blind of the world. First, he was a philosopher. One of his most famous pieces, "Blindness:
Handicap or Characteristic," is in my view the most important and empowering philosophical work on blindness of this century, and there were many other such writings. He had a remarkable ability to process and enunciate thoughts clearly and logically. That takes someone who is a good listener as well as a clear thinker and talker.
Second, he was a man who chose the right tactics for the right time. He knew when the time was right to ask people to join him on the barricades, but he also knew when the time was right to embark on the highly successful public education program that is the Kernel Books. "We will do what we have to do," he said on many occasions, and that's exactly the strategy he adopted. He was about outcomes, not about making a noise for its own sake.
Third, he was the most outstanding orator I have ever heard. Reading a Jernigan speech is inspiring. Listening to one delivered live was thrilling and captivating. I attended two NFB Conventions and was privileged to be present for the banquet address delivered by Dr. Jernigan last year as well as other addresses he gave to the two Conventions I have attended. I have also heard many recordings of his speeches. He never had to shout or rave to electrify an audience. His delivery was calm and quite moderately paced. What made listening to him special was the conviction with which his speeches were delivered, the flawless structure of his speeches, and the message of hope they all conveyed.
But most important of all, his speeches touched us all deeply. I remember sitting with my sighted wife listening to a recording of a speech in which Dr. Jernigan read a letter from a sighted woman going out with a man named Jim. The letter he read expressed the frustration this woman felt about the way her blind boyfriend was treated. It was a sincere letter, and I have no doubt it was familiar to many couples in which one person is blind and the other is sighted. My wife and I found ourselves hugging each other and crying. We knew the speech could have been talking about our own experiences.
Fourth, he was an educator. He helped a great many people to realize that blindness wasn't the insuperable barrier they had thought it was. He did this through his work in the teaching and rehabilitation professions, through the Federation, and just through being Dr. Jernigan, the role model and mentor. He educated the blind about blindness and the sighted too. I know through reading the forewords to the Kernel Books that he was particularly proud of the difference this work was making in changing attitudes on the part of the sighted.
I could go on for many pages yet, but let me draw this to a close. Dr. Jernigan, the world is so much better a place because you lived in it.
Your writings taught me not only that I had a future, but that as someone with skills in advocacy and writing I had a duty to hang in there and do my bit to ensure that the future got brighter for all of us. You taught us that there were times to be angry and times when we shouldn't "throw the nickel," times to march and times to negotiate. You taught us to believe in ourselves and to believe that through organization and unity of purpose comes first-class citizenship. Thank you for your philosophy, your sense of strategy, your sense of proportion, your oratory, and your education and wisdom.
I would of course have sent a message of condolence on behalf of the blind of New Zealand, but in this case it was important for me personally to say much more. We will mourn, but Dr. Jernigan's family I'm sure know that he was one of the great Americans of the twentieth century. I extend my sympathy to Mrs. Jernigan and family, and to President Maurer as he leads the Federation through what will be a time of deep sorrow, yet a time to celebrate the achievements of a truly remarkable human being.
Jonathan Mosen, President
Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Norbert Mueller]
October 13, 1998
I was deeply saddened by the news Curtis sent to us. I have known Dr. Jernigan personally and last met him at this year's Convention in Dallas. Though his bad cough worried me a great deal, I was hoping he might have a few more years left. I sent a fax to the NFB today in which I expressed my feelings of sadness and how much Dr. Jernigan has meant to me personally. Instead of copying that fax here [on the NFB's listserv, NFBtalk], let me give you its contents in more detail.
I first came to the States in 1983 as a participant in an international program for people in the social service field. I worked at the Illinois Visually Handicapped Institute for three months and after that at the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind for nine months. Being active in our State Federation of the Blind in Germany, I was, of course, curious about similar organizations in the USA. Especially at the Lighthouse I was told about this crazy organization called the NFB, who said that blindness was not a handicap. And the craziest of the whole bunch, so I was told, was their President, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who ruled the organization like a dictator.
One day I discovered a program on Chicagoland Radio Information Service (CRIS Radio) calledI thinkPathways; it was the program of the National Federation of the Blind. When they announced that they would broadcast a speech by Dr. Jernigan, I was curious. I think it was "Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic." I definitely did not want to miss this, thinking I would have a good time laughing about the ridiculous things I would hear.
I had a wonderful time, but there was nothing to mock at. On the contrary, there was not one thought mentioned which I would have contradicted. As I wrote in my message to the NFB today:
"This man was thinking in the same direction I was thinking, but he did not stop at points where I had begun to take things for granted."
What really got to me in that speech was when he told how he at one time had to put the varnish on furniture. He said he thought this was impossible for a blind person. But then he noticed that there were ways he could do it. This really struck a chord in me. How often have we sold ourselves short, too short? Ilike so many other blind peoplehad often said things like "As blind people, we must accept our limitations!" But I had assumed my limits to be much more narrow than would have been necessary. I decided at that moment that the better way to find limits is to keep pushing them.
Two years later I experienced a very clear example of this. As a ham radio operator I found occasions when it would have been valuable if I could have soldered; however, I had always believed that this was not possible for blind people, at least not with a regular soldering iron. Then I heard about the Smith Kettlewell Institute in San Francisco, where blind people could learn how to solder. So I went there, and they showed me how to do it. When I came back to Germany, I told another blind ham radio operator what I had learnt. He replied: "That is not possible!" He was so convinced of our narrow limits that he would rather not believe me than change what he had accepted for himself.
I first met Dr. Jernigan at the NFB convention in Denver in 1989, the first one I ever attended. After that I made it a point to visit him at every convention I attended. And after Larry Campbell told me Dr. Jernigan collects spirits, I tried to find brands for him which he might not yet have.
In 1995 I had the great opportunity to visit his home in Baltimore. I was curious about how I as a blind person could barbecue meat on a real charcoal grill. He showed me and also introduced me to barbecuing corn on the cob. What a great evening I had.
I feel fortunate for having known Dr. Jernigan personally. He certainly is one of the greatest leaders the blindness movement has ever had. Think about how he was despised only two decades ago, and then listen to what some of those same people say about him today.
I have stayed active in the self-help movement of the blind. One of my best sources for information has been the Braille Monitor. I remember the General Assembly of the World Blind Union in 1988 in Madrid. I did not go there, but I was eager to learn more about it. In other magazines I read what a great event it was and things like that. It was Dr. Jernigan's article in the Monitor, which presented a more critical view and which really carried information about the issues being discussed.
One of the strongest points about the Monitor is that one does not only read summary reports, but often documents of importance are enclosed in the articles as well. I have learned a lot through that. This helps me when I have to write letters or prepare statements concerning blindness affairs. Dr. Jernigan has shown us the direction in which we as a minority must travel, no matter where we live; and he has shown us a lot of tactics and strategies we can use and build on.
But he was not only the fighter for our affairs. I would never want to miss the wonderful articles in the Monitor and in the Kernel Books in which we saw the private Kenneth Jernigan. I loved to read about his childhood on the farm in Tennessee; about his love of reading; about his making furniture; and, last but not least, only a few months ago about writing sonnets. I do not know whether Dr. Jernigan had the time to write his memoirs; but if he did, I want to be among the first to read them.
I have just started reading Walking Alone and Marching Together. It was sad to read about the activities of the young Kenneth Jernigan, knowing there was a very high risk that we would not have him for long. It will be even harder to read on, now that he has had to leave us. So what we can do is learn from his life as much as we can. He can be our teacher, even if we cannot meet him in person any more.
Norbert Mueller, Secretary General
European Blind Union
A Personal View
by Allan Dodds
October 14, 1998
This is indeed a great loss to all of us, especially blind and visually impaired people, of whom Dr. Jernigan was champion. Jernigan was one of the few giants in the field I ever had the privilege to speak with, although somehow we never got around to meeting as we had intended.
When I was going through a phase of despair and was about to throw in the towel in this field of human endeavor, Kenneth gave me hope. He made me realize that my efforts might not have the effect I had anticipated, that others would try to silence me, and that often history has to catch up. "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."
I grew concerned about his health when I read his last contribution to the Braille Monitor (a publication which Dr. Jernigan saw to it that I receive for life). In that edition Dr. Jernigan wrote rapturously about his love of poetry, one which I share, and he cited some very beautiful lines, which he himself had crafted using centuriesold rhyme forms and metersa severe discipline, but one which he used without evident effort. (The art of course lies in concealing the art, and the sonnet is the most difficult form to master.)
With Dr. Jernigan's encouragement, and through his example, I was able to transcend the petty egotisms which often infect those working in this field. His loss to us all is immeasurable, but what he leaves behind is of even greater magnitude. Dr. Jernigan did no evil in his life, and he leaves us with the awesome responsibility of trying to do the same.
Dr. Allan Dodds
Sir John Wilson
October 14, 1998
Mrs. Kenneth Jernigan
Dear Mrs. Jernigan (or may I say Mary Ellen),
May I join with your friends and admirers throughout the world in sympathy at this time.
For so many years Kenneth has been at the active center of all that is best and enduring in the world of the blind. His brilliant advocacy, his philosophy, and his academic rigor have changed that world and global attitudes to blindness.
While we share the loss of a great pioneer and colleague, these are permanent achievements which endure and give courage to those of us who have had the privilege of working with Kenneth and you.
Yours sincerely, John Wilson, C.B.E.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pecharat Techavachara]
by Pecharat Techavachara
October 18, 1998
We have received the news of Dr. Jernigan passing away with great sorrow. Certainly the blind all around the world have lost a great man who has done so much to change the meaning of blindness. Although Dr. Jernigan has already passed away, his works and his words, which encourage us, will remain in our hearts and memories always.
Pecharat Techavachara, President
Foundation for the Employment Promotion of the Blind
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Enrique Elissalde]
From the Editor: Enrique Elissalde is president of the Latin American region of the World Blind Union.
October 13, 1998
Dear Mr. Maurer,
I have just learnt the sad news about Dr. Jernigan, and with no delay I want to express my deepest sorrow for the great loss every one of us has suffered. I have had the pleasure and honor of sharing with him many years of hard work in the international arena, and even when our points of view might have differed, I have always felt an enormous respect for him as a leader and advocate of the blind.
Maybe it is not just a mere coincidence that his funeral will be on October 15, White Cane Day all over the world. All our activities on that special day will be a way of remembering him and offering him the homage of our continuous struggle to go further along the way he has always showed us.
I would very much appreciate if you would transmit the contents of this message to his wife and family.
With my kindest regards,
Enrique Elissalde, President
Union Latinamericana de Ciegos
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Hans Cohn]
I first met Kenneth Jernigan in 1984 on his becoming an International Officer [of the World Blind Union], but his reputation had gone before him. Through my reading I knew about his struggles in the early years of the NFB-USAagainst airlines denying disabled people equal rights with other patrons, against blind welfare organizations denying the blind a fair share in the making of decisions affecting their lives, in debates over the Americans with Disabilities Act, among others. His logical mind and ability to go straight to the heart of a problem combined with a healthy impatience with those ranged against him if they tried to keep blind people from assuming their rightful place in society enabled him to come out on top in the important battles he fought. It must be largely due to his organizational skill that the Federation grew to be the force it is today while he was its President.
In international affairs he was an unsung visionary. It was he who laid down the principle that political considerations should play no part in admitting new members to the World Blind Union; this enabled Israel eventually to join against the wishes of countries seeking her destruction. Unlike most of his colleagues on the WBU Executive, he set his face against the idea of a projected International Federation of the Disabled from the beginning and was proved to be right.
Readers of these pages are witness to Dr. Jernigan's ability to put his ideas into words which both charmed and convinced, as seen in his many contributions to the Braille Monitor and the Kernel Books. I shall always treasure the memory of a summer afternoon in our garden in London during his European tour to celebrate his wedding anniversary in 1996. One of the things he told me was that he thought the London Underground was the best public transport system in the worlda tribute I was able to reward by presenting him with a history of the London Underground.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kua Cheng Hock]
Kua Cheng Hock
From the Editor: Mr. Kua is President of the Independent Society for the Blind of Singapore and President of the Asia Blind Union. He spoke briefly at the memorial service; this is what he said:
Mrs. Jernigan, President Maurer, comrades in the march:
indeed it is my great honor and pleasure to be given this opportunity to express our fond memories of Dr. Jernigan, to express to you the influence he has had in the work of the self-help movement among the blind in Asia. I regret that the duration of my relationship with Dr. Jernigan was rather shortsince 1992, but the past six years have been tremendous in the way he has guided us, and the influence he has had on the work of the organizations of the blind in Singapore and Asia will live way beyond this transitory life he has just left. What he has taught and what he has done will continue to guide the work of the blind in Asia. He gave a speech, "The Day after Civil Rights," but he knew that in Asia we have a long way to go. He kindly extended his hand to us when I called him in 1992. Without knowing me, he extended his willingness to cooperate and assist in the work of the blind. Since the World Blind Union meeting in 1992 he always opened the door of the NFB in the spirit of teaching, leadership building, and cooperation. This spirit will continue to guide us.
When my colleagues learned of Dr. Jernigan's death, they asked me if we should be represented. Dr. Jernigan was very kind in accepting me on my visit just twelve days before he passed away. That in itself speaks of the kind of heart he had for the work in Asia. I decided just two days ago to come to this memorial service to express our love and fond memories of Dr. Jernigan. My family is on vacation in Orlando, but my heart was very burdened because I wanted to be here to share with you the appreciation we have of Dr. Jernigan. I would like to thank those of you who have given me the time to express the influence he had. We in Singapore and Asia feel very much a part of the family of the Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Colin Low speaks at the memorial service.]
From the Editor: Colin Low is Vice Chairman of the Executive Council of the Royal National Institute for the Blind and a leader of the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom. Here are his remarks from the memorial service:
By what right does somebody come from three thousand miles away to speak of someone whom you have accurately described as such a multi-dimensional figure? If I could take a minute to begin with a brief personal reminiscenceI only met Dr. Jernigan four or five times, but the magnetism and the dynamism of his personality were such that he impressed himself upon you immediately as a figure of greatness. And the openness and generosity of his spirit were such that I think you got to know a lot about him as a person and a human being quite quickly.
The last time I had the pleasure and privilege of his company was very recently, at the end of August. I had come to Baltimore to record an interview with him, but to my eternal regret, we weren't able to have that conversation because, as everyone would understand, at that time he just didn't feel strong enough for it. Notwithstanding that, he insisted on entertaining me to dinner that evening although he had to leave for an urgent doctor's appointment in the middle of it. And, although his voice was a little weaker than I was used to, his conversation sparkled nonetheless. That was another thing that he did in his last yearin his last months of life, and I was deeply moved and touched by the courtesy he did me on that evening.
I have been to only one of your conventions, but one of them is formative enough to be quite an experience in itself. In addition to that, I got to know quite a lot about your Federation quickly and on a continuing basis through Dr. Jernigan's many writings. Certainly we in the National Federation of the Blind in Britain felt through them a great affinity with your Federation and that indeed we were really part of it. We rejoiced with you through the eighties as you took increasingly confident and powerful strides to bring you to the point where you are now, a fully mature organization and a major power in the land.
So thank you for letting me come and be with you in solidarity this afternoon, with Mrs. Jernigan; with you, President Maurer; and with all of you. I come from the European Blind Union and from the National Federation of the Blind and the Royal National Institute for the Blind in England to salute the memory of a great man renowned the world over as a giant among leaders of the blind, a man of ideas, a profound thinker about blindness, and a brilliant communicator of those ideas.
The first two of my affiliations, I am sure, he would recognize as kindred spirits of his own National Federation of the Blind. The last, not being formally an organization of the blind, he might have regarded a little more warily. But through contact with us in recent years he may have come to believe that we had absorbed enough of the ethos of Federationism to be admitted to the same table. It is indeed reassuring to me to hear you talk, Mr. President, of the development of interest between blind people and those who work for them. Certainly our Director General, Ian Bruce, was most gratified by the warm welcome he received at your convention this summer.
Wherein lay Kenneth Jernigan's greatness as a leader? Of course it cannot be divorced altogether from his message and his skill in communicating it. I can't help thinking that it also had something to do with his roots. I'm not talking here of his roots in the Depression, which obviously had a formative influence on his character, but his roots in the movement of blind people, the National Federation of the Blind, which was obviously a seminal influence too. He molded the Federation, but he was very much of the Federation mold. In his introductions to the Kernel Books Dr. Jernigan was fond of saying, "We who are blind are pretty much like you. We have our share of both geniuses and jerks, but most of us are somewhere between, ordinary people living ordinary lives." There's a lot of truth in that, of course, as every blind person knows. But I can't help feeling that it errs just a little on the modest side.
My great friend Martin Milligan, who himself contributed a great deal to the sustaining ideology of blindness in Britain, was wont to observe that blind people as a group displayed estimable qualities of robustness and solidarity and determination to get the most out of life and to make the least of their difficulties that could well serve as an example to others I can't help thinking that he had a point.
If this is true elsewhere, it must be all the more true of the USA, which has the strongest organized blind movement in the world. At all events it says much for American culture and American society as well as for the Federation and its leaders that the NFB should have been able to throw up such a succession of leaders as tenBroek, Jernigan, Maurer, and others forged in the same mold. And with what leadership qualities did that mold invest them? In Jernigan's case the answer is clear: charisma there's no other word for it (I've seen him hold that convention in the palm of his hand); the ability to motivate and inspire at the level of the rehabilitation center as well as of the convention hall; vision; clarity of purpose; boundless energy and drive; an unquenchable thirst for hard work; an invincible will; the list goes onand others will add to it.
His gifts of communication were awe-inspiring. The convention banquet addresses were the stuff of legend. What was their secret? I can identify some of the ingredients: a piece of homespun wisdom"It has been wisely observed that philosophy bakes no bread, but without philosophy no bread is baked"razor-sharp analysis, a dash of humor, some merciless knock-about at the expense of the professionals, a wealth of learning, and some Olympian oratory, all rounded off with a stirring call to arms. But the precise recipe on each occasion required the magician to be personally present to weave his spell. At bottom, I think it was his ability to articulate for blind people and for the sighted the reality of what it's like to be blind and how blind people feel, as opposed to the misconceptions which abound in this area of human understanding. And for blind people he articulated their potential in a way that enabled them to realize that potential for themselves.
Nowhere did he do this better than in the Kernel Books, where he spoke directly to the common experience of ordinary people. The Kernel Books have a constant theme and a common purpose. He would say: "It is to let you know something about the details of everyday life as blind persons live it. Mostly we are not world-famous celebrities but ordinary people just like you people who laugh and cry, work and play, hope and dream, just like you." With an image herethe hook on the doctor's door, perhapsor an incident or anecdote there, like tapping the charcoal, he vividly brought to life the circumstances of blindness in a way which, once heard, could never be forgotten. This was where he was at his superlative best. No wonder they've sold in their millions.
Let me conclude with this. As always it was Jernigan who posed the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question: "And what do you think that future historians will say of us, of you and me? How will they deal with our movement, with the National Federation of the Blind? Will they record that we fell back into the faceless anonymity of the ages, or that we met the challenges and survived as a free people?" Jernigan's answer was clear. "History is not against us. It goes forward to the next generation as a heritage and a challenge. The past proclaims it; the present confirms it; and the future demands it."
No one can doubt the answer history will return on the life and work of Kenneth Jernigan. It stands as a heritage worthy of his predecessors, a challenge to spur his successors, and an example to inspire us all. But there is one more thing which should be said, and again his words should say it, for he seldom left us without a warning and a summons to action, but a summons that reminded us that duty is not always travail and grief and that today is not just a time of sadness and tribulation, but of celebration and rejoicing too, for a lifetime full of industry and achievement and fully lived in the service of his people, which will be remembered as long as the National Federation of the Blind is spoken of. "We stand at a critical time in the history of the blind," he would say. "If we falter or turn back, the tragedy of blindness will be great indeed. But of course we will not falter, and we will not turn back. Instead we will go forward with joy in our hearts and a song of gladness on our lips. The future is ours, and the novelists and the poets will record it. Come"and there can hardly be a person in this hall who cannot hear him saying this to us now"Come, join me on the barricades, and we will make it come true."
Friends in the Business Community Speak
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Dr. Jernigan is seated at a table with the Kurzweil Reading Machine in front of him. A very young Raymond Kurzweil stands beside him. CAPTION: Dr. Kurzweil (left) and Dr. Jernigan unveil the Kurzweil Reading Machine at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in January, 1977.]
Raymond Kurzweil, Ph.D.
From the Editor: Dr. Kurzweil is a true friend of blind people. He has frequently used his impressive intelligence to further the dreams and aspirations of people who cannot read regular print. In the course of an active and creative career he became good friends with Dr. Jernigan. This is what he said at the memorial service:
I deeply appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today. I would like to say that it was wonderful to hear Mrs. Jernigan's remarks; they moved me to tears. Dr. Maurer's remarks were equally moving. It was fascinating to hear details of Dr. Jernigan's life that I had not heard before.
This is a sad occasion for me. It is also a joyous one, and I would like to talk about both of these feelings.
Let me first share some recollections. I grew up in Queens, New York, and had a unique religious upbringing. Although my parents were Jewish immigrants who had fled Hitler, I had a religious education at a Unitarian Church, where the philosophy was "many paths to the truth." So we would spend six months studying Judaism, then six months Buddhism, and so on. The unifying theme was tolerance and the idea that everyone can contribute. There was an emphasis on social consciousness and being part of the greater struggle for equality and justice in society. So we played an active role in the Civil Rights movement at that time and took part in Civil Rights marches.
I remember thinking how fortunate I was to live in the time of Martin Luther King. Even from afar I felt inspired and grateful to be able to play a small role in that historic drama. I felt at the time, and continue to feel, that Dr. King was one of the great leaders in American history.
Well, that's how I feel about Dr. Jernigan, and I believe that Dr. Jernigan's impact and legacy are at least as significant and profound. And like Dr. King the benefits of Dr. Jernigan's work go far beyond the immediate issues that each of these two remarkable leaders fought for.
I first met Dr. Jernigan in 1975. We had developed a prototype of the Kurzweil Reading Machine but needed support to perfect it and launch this technology as a product. We went around and showed our work to many of the organizations in this field. Everyone was friendly and supportive, but words of encouragement don't exactly pay the rent.
But then our luck changed. I met with Jim Gashel, who said he would have to speak with his boss, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. And literally within hours came the reply that Dr. Jernigan was most excited about what we had demonstrated and wanted to work with us immediately to raise funds, to perfect the machine technically, and to get the word out.
Now that's what I call responsiveness. That was just one small example of Dr. Jernigan's leadership: bold, decisive, knowledgeable, confident, insightful, and effective. That particular collaboration resulted in significant funds being raised and a group of blind scientists and engineers from the NFB working closely with us to perfect the reading machine. I do recall at the time thinking it unusual that so many of them came from the state of Iowa.
And that was the beginning of a friendship that lasted the next quarter of a century. As fortunate as I felt as a child growing up in Queens, New York, to participate from afar in a movement led by a great American such as Dr. King, imagine how blessed I have felt to have had the opportunity over the past quarter century to work closely with Dr. Jernigan and to get to know him as a friend and colleague.
Dr. Jernigan was as exceptional a person as he was a leader. I cannot think of anyone in my life more gracious. To be welcomed into the home of Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan was always a special pleasure. He had a terrific sense of humor and was a great story teller, a wonderful host, and a remarkably attentive friend. Despite his many responsibilities he always had time thoughtfully to relate to everyone he met as a unique and distinctive human being.
As a leader he had a simple and profound vision of how things could be, of how things should be, and a rare ability to translate that vision into effective action in the complex world we live in. He was, of course, a great orator. I will always remember his NFB convention banquet addresses, the grand cadence of his words, and the soulful rhythm of his delivery.
So the joy I feel, as I wrote recently to Dr. Maurer and Mrs. Jernigan, comes from the privilege of having known Dr. Jernigan during his lifetime and the gratification of knowing that he was able to taste the fruits of his labor. Unlike Moses he got to walk on the promised land.
I also wrote to Dr. Maurer and Mrs. Jernigan that, while there is much yet to be done, Dr. Jernigan has left behind a great movement and many talented people who will continue to be inspired by his legacy. We can take pleasure in the satisfaction he expressed near the end of his life in what had been accomplished and in his confidence in the leadership he left in place.
Dr. Jernigan is with us today. He is looking down at this gathering with serenity and approval. He wants us to be joyful and optimistic about the world that lies ahead. It is a world made richer by Dr. Jernigan's having been part of our lives.
From the Editor: David Pillischer is the President of Sighted Electronics, a vendor marketing adaptive technology for the blind. He and Dr. Jernigan came to be close friends, and late last year he wrote Dr. Jernigan the following letter:
Northvale, New Jersey
November 30, 1997
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
When I opened your letter and read it, my eyes became tearful. I have read the letter you sent to me on November 25 a number of times now. I was under the impression that your cancer although serious was operable. This has given me quite a shock.
Before I met you and learned what the National Federation of the Blind stood for, many people had given me erroneous information about the organization. I did not know and even misunderstood the great works that the NFB achieved. That first evening, when I had dinner with you, Mohymen, and Mrs. Jernigan at your home, you showed me the lamps and furniture made by you as a young man. I listened as you told me why you made the furniture, of the desire you had to work as a field hand with the other boys, the rejection you felt when the farm owners would not allow it. I remembered when you told me you would do everything in your power to see to it that no other blind child would have to grow up as you had to. I knew then that you were on a noble crusade. I, being sighted, did not fully understand the prejudices you faced, but I feel your conviction in the way you speak of the battles that must be fought. I have also learned much from you, Dr. Jernigan. I have learned that people who are honest, with high moral standards, can succeed through faith in their abilities and hard work.
As long as someone will pick up your flag and march on with the same strong belief in equality for the blind as you, my support will be with them. However, my prayers are with you. I am proud to say that I know you. I will miss you.
David Pillischer Sighted Electronics, Inc.
Private Organizations Speak
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jean Dyon Norris and Dr. Jernigan at the Tarzana, California, office of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults]
Jean Dyon Norris
Director of Operations
American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
In 1960 Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, President of the American Brotherhood for the Blind, sent Dr. Jernigan to Los Angeles to look into the possibility of taking on my Twin Vision® books as a project. While I was telling him the story of a blind mother, Audrey Hebner, inspiring me to Braille books so she could read to her sighted son, Dr. Jernigan exclaimed: "We went to the Tennessee School For the Blind together!"
A short time ago a blind mother called us wanting to read to her sighted granddaughter. While I was taking the information needed to send her a library application, she gave her name as Audrey Hebner. You can imagine the surprise for both of us.
Because Dr. Jernigan agreed to take on Twin Vision® books, we have grown into a major publishing organization. Thirty thousand popular, small Braille calendars are sent out annually upon request to almost everyone who is blind; a weekly Braille newspaper, Hot Line to Deaf-Blind, is published for the deaf-blind in the United States and in over forty foreign countries.
With the permission of the Board and Dr. Jernigan and with great pride, I named our national library for blind children the Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children. This special library is the largest source of reading material for blind children K-1 through high school reading level, for blind parents with sighted children, and for almost all schools with blind students. The Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children will remain a living memorial to a very great man for generations to come.
My last letter to Dr. Jernigan ended as follows:
"I will never forget hearing you recite one of your long-time favorite poems on an NFB tape. It had been displayed for years in the Kenneth Jernigan Library because it had been my favorite poem since childhood. It is truly the story of your life: "They said it couldn't be done, but you did it."
It Couldn't Be Done
By Edgar A. Guest
Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied,
That "maybe it couldn't"; but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.
Somebody scoffed: "Oh you'll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit?,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done," and you'll do it.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Dr. Susan Spungin]
Tribute to Dr. Kenneth
by Susan J. Spungin, Ed.D.
From the Editor: Dr. Spungin is Vice President of the National Programs Group of the American Foundation for the Blind.
Here are the remarks she delivered at the memorial service:
I would like to begin with a tribute to Dr. Jernigan from Carl Augusto, President of the American Foundation for the Blind, who unfortunately cannot be with us today:
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was a leader's leader and had an unwavering belief in the capabilities of blind people. He was someone I have always respected and grew to admire as I got to know him better over the years. His presentations sometimes made me laugh, made me cry, made me think, made me happy, made me sad, but always stimulated my thinking and rekindled my passion for work on behalf of people who are blind or visually impaired.
This past summer, at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind, it was my pleasure and privilege to present Dr. Jernigan with the American Foundation for the Blind's first International Leadership Award. This award was given in recognition of his lifelong commitment to enabling blind people to be all they can be. His leadership in this country and throughout the world is unparalleled. He has inspired blind and visually impaired people to reach for the stars and not allow their blindness to be an obstacle in the way of success.
He was, as I am and know Dr. Maurer is, committed to working to bring the field of blindness together so we all can redouble our efforts in improving the lives of blind and visually impaired people everywhere.
Dr. Jernigan's leadership will be sorely missed, but his legacy will live on.
Now my remarks to my good friend Mary Ellen Jernigan and her family and to President Maurer:
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, a giant in the field of blindness, has left us. There are others in the field that may fit that description, but, whether you agreed with Dr. Jernigan or not, his impact on changing the meaning of blindness for the public; the professionals and providers of service; and, most significantly, blind people themselves has made a major impact on the twentieth century.
I was privileged to know Dr. Jernigan for approximately twenty years, first at the professional level and later as a friend. In both relationships I received more than I gave, and I will always consider him a great teacher. A teacher of strategy, of debate, of literature, and of lettersan orator, an advocate, a philosopher, a connoisseur, and a humorist.
This great teacher has always been an enigma for many of us, which perhaps explains the vast differences of opinion on the actions of this man. I dare you to find someone who has known Dr. Jernigan and has no opinion about his words and deeds.
Perhaps the first verse of this sonnet, written by Kenneth Jernigan, best explains this man many of us were privileged to know and love.
Perhaps my final breath will gently go
In restful sleep or age or other way,
As uneventful as the close of day
When only soft and quiet breezes blow
To mark the undramatic ebb and flow
Of all that lives and turns again to clay.
But just as like, my life may end in fray.
We dream and speculate but cannot know.
When I first met Dr. Jernigan, it was during a period of time when the demand of consumer involvement and empowerment were becoming more of a reality rather than rhetoric. It was during a period of time when Bill Gallagher, then Executive Director and President of AFB, had the foresight to see the political potential and demand for provider/consumer partnerships in order to save categorical programs for the blind, seen by many in the 1980's, as now, as redundant and too costly for too few of the larger and increasingly more vocal disabled community. Of course, having been in the field as a teacher of blind children since 1965 and with AFB since 1972, I certainly knew of Dr. Jernigan and the NFB movement but, unfortunately, only in the context of the conflict between AFB and NFB on standards and the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind, which in retrospect speaks volumes about the beginning of the consumer empowerment movement for blind people in our country.
However, trying to move past that, Bill Gallagher and Kenneth Jernigan agreed to select a small number of their respective staffs to meet together in order first to agree to disagree on issues but second, and more important, to define those issues AFB and NFB agreed on, and to work together toward their resolution. Due to these two men many meetings were held and later expanded, after a hiatus, with the help of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, to a committee known as JOEthe Joint Organizational Effort.
Well, I was privileged to be part of those many meetings, which afforded me the opportunity of getting to know Dr. Jernigan in action, so to speak. When I think back to my feelings about working and getting to know Dr. Jernigan, I come up with a laundry list of emotions. The top of the list was fear and terror, followed by curiosity, guilt, anger, frustration, hope, determination, and commitmenta commitment to the participatory rights of all disabled individuals and, I underscore, for respect for the providers of services which the blind must depend on, improve on, and honor.
I have been privileged to be invited to address three of NFB's National Conventions in 1989, 1994, and 1997. The first two on the topic of Braille, and the third on perhaps Dr. Jernigan's greatest challenge for me, numbers and statisticsgo figure! And, during those years from 1989 to 1997, I have enjoyed getting to know many of the NFB friends gathered here today. Together we have collected the infamous convention mugs, clicked glasses for the same celebrations, sung the songs, and clapped the rhythms that have hopefully helped toward changing the meaning of blindness for blind people themselves, the professionals who work with them, and the general public.
If we see further than our predecessors, it's because we stand on the shoulders of giants, and what a giant Dr. Jernigan was and always will be. Happily, he has left this world a better place and has left us his writing, which serves as some of the best information about him as a person and about blindness.
The speech which will always stay with me and allow me to remember the importance of the past spent together with Dr. Jernigan, Kenneth or Ken, is his last address delivered at the Annual Banquet in New Orleans on July 4, 1997, and I quote:
"If a minority lives too long in an armed camp atmosphere, that minority becomes poisoned and corroded. We must move beyond minority mentality and victim thinking. This will be difficult especially in today's society, where hate and suspicion are a rising tide and where members of minorities are encouraged and expected to feel bitterness and alienation and members of the majority are encouraged and expected to feel guilt and preoccupation with the past. Yes, it will be hard to do what I am suggesting, but we must do it. We must be willing to give to others as much as we want others to give to us, and we must do it with good will and civility. We must make the hard choices and take the long view.
"Let me be specific. If a blind person tries to exploit blindness to get an advantage, or tries to use blindness as an excuse for failure or bad behavior, we must stand with the sighted person that the blind person is trying to victimize. This will not be easy; it will not always be politically correct; and it will frequently bring criticism, not only from those blind persons who claim to want equality but are not willing to earn it, but also from some of the sighted as well. But we must do it anyway. If we want equal treatment and true integration, we must act like equals and not hide behind minority status. Yes, blind people are our brothers and sisters, but so are the sighted. Unless we are willing to have it that way, we neither deserve nor truly want what we have always claimed as a birthright.
"That birthright, equal responsibility as well as equal rights, is the very essence of the NFB's philosophy. It is what we set out to get in 1940; it is what we have fought for every step of the way; it is what we are now close to achieving; and it is what we are absolutely determined to have. Equal rightsequal responsibility.
"We are capable of working with the sighted, playing with the sighted, and living with the sighted; and we are capable of doing it on terms of complete equality. Likewise the sighted are capable of doing the same with usand for the most part I think they want to. What we need is not confrontation but understanding, an understanding that runs both ways. This means an ongoing process of communication and public education."
I believe Dr. Jernigan's words and thoughts should stand as a vision or strategic goal for all of us as we enter the twenty-first century.
Finally, what is it about this man that will always stay with me? Perhaps it was his love of play, with paper airplanes flying and wet-lipped wine glasses singing on absolutely, or so I thought, the most formal occasions. Perhaps it was the absolute joy he had creating wordplays that danced across his tongue to the delight of all onlookers. Perhaps it was his need to account meticulously for and understand every aspect of life from the best wines to construction of elevators and roof gardens. Perhaps it was his love of Braille as the gateway to equality for all blind people. Perhaps it was his lack of concern for person-first language. His complete involvement with life and the effective use of every minute of it, is an accomplishment I continually envy. I will never forget you, Dr. Jernigan, but I have to admit I miss you already.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Dr. Tuck Tinsley]
Tuck Tinsley, Ed.D.
From the Editor: Dr. Tinsley is President of the American Printing House for the Blind. He spoke briefly at the memorial service; this is what he said:
People in Kentucky and Tennessee are generally plain-spoken, straight-talking, simple people who love the earth. As you know, Dr. Jernigan was raised on a farm in that special part of our country. We have a saying: you should leave the wood pile a little higher than you found it. This simple yet profound statement captures the essence of Dr. Jernigan's life. What he found years ago was a meager and dwindling wood pile, people being treated as second-class citizens because they were blind. From early on he focused his energy and many talents on assuring that all blind individuals are treated with dignity and respect. Dr. Jernigan's life was dedicated to replenishing that wood pile, one log at a time. His shining example shows us what a person can accomplish with focus, determination, and the guts to face obstacles head on. There has never been a more vocal or more effective advocate for the blind than Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. The American Printing House for the Blind, the state of Kentucky, the vision field, and I personally will sorely miss him.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Larry Campbell speaks at the memorial service.]
Lawrence F. Campbell
From the Editor: Larry Campbell is Vice President of the International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI). He works from the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The following were his remarks at the memorial service:
It is an honor to have the opportunity to say a few words today on behalf of the thousands of educators of blind children throughout the world who are members of ICEVI. As word of Dr. Jernigan's death spread throughout the world, my telephone rang off the hook, and my e-mail basket was fullall asking the same question: what can we do to express our feelings about this great leader who so influenced thinking, not only here in the U.S. but in some of the remotest regions of the world, where equality for blind people is, in many cases, still a dream?
As I began to think about what I might say this afternoon, many fond memories of my nearly twenty years of association with Dr. Jernigan and the NFB ran through my mind. Let me share with you one of my fondest memories. In 1997 ICEVI convened its tenth World Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As Chairperson of the Program Committee one of my most important tasks was to identify a keynote speaker who would deliver a thought-provoking address that would set the tone for this meeting, whose theme concerned establishing partnerships among parents, consumers, and educators. Dr. Jernigan immediately came to mind, and he graciously accepted my invitation.
Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan arrived in Sao Paulo a couple of days before the conference was to open, and after settling them into their hotel and giving them a very quick orientation to points of interest in the area, which included a local crafts market, I returned to the many last-minute details associated with organizing such a World Conference.
The conference was to open with Dr. Jernigan's keynote address at the State Palace on Sunday evening. Late that afternoon I stopped by the hotel to find that indeed Dr. Jernigan had fully explored the local crafts market and had purchased some onyx cordial glasses of which he was very fond. Some of you here may have used those glasses, and I want to assure you that any and all of us who returned to Brazil after that meeting were under standing orders to scour that craft market to find more of them. After all, the NFB is a large organization, and a dozen onyx cordial glasses don't go far at an NFB function.
That afternoon Dr. Jernigan inquired as to how we would get to the State Palace. Earlier that same day Victor Siaulys, the parent of a blind child and the chairperson of the Host Committee, had suggested to me that we use his helicopter to travel to the State Palace. Without even checking with Dr. Jernigan, I graciously declined, knowing how he felt about being airborne.
When I told Dr. Jernigan that a car would pick us up and that I had declined the use of Victor's helicopter, he paused for a moment and said: "Well, Larry, you know I have never been in a helicopter before, and I really do like to try everything at least once." As you can imagine, this took me by surprise, but then again Dr. Jernigan was always full of surprises. A quick call to the pilot Sergio, and a few minutes later Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan and I were at the local heliport, boarding a 6-passenger Bell helicopter and on our way to the State Palace. While Mrs. Jernigan provided a running commentary, Dr. Jernigan, with his unquenchable curiosity, fired one question after another at the pilot Sergio, who later confided in me that he was quite certain that with a few more flights Dr. Jernigan would be asking to take the controls. I think it must have been the first time in his life that he had been airborne and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In fact, after landing he still wanted to learn as much as he couldhow helicopters were constructed and how they operated. For a while I thought the conference might open without our keynote speaker.
Upon arrival in the auditorium of the State Palace, Dr. Jernigan asked me to orient him to the room and then to walk him through the route from his seat in the front row to the podium. Two passes through these paces and he was ready to do it alone.
It will not surprise anyone here to learn that his keynote address was magnificent and extremely well received by the 1,500 delegates and local dignitaries on hand that evening. However, beyond the powerful words of his keynote address there was something else at work in the auditorium of the State Palace that evening. It is reflected in the following editorial which appeared several months later in the Asia Appraiser, the regional magazine of ICEVI/Asia. I think it sums up what Dr. Jernigan has represented to so many educators throughout the world. Let me close my remarks with the words of that editorial.
"When Dr. Kenneth Jernigan of the National Federation of the Blind of the United States of America walked independently to the dais of the State Palace in Sao Paulo to deliver the keynote address of the tenth World Conference of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment, there was thunderous applause. He was independent, elegant, and reassured the conference that visually impaired persons can come out of the social conditioning that they are inferior.
"A delegate in the back row shouted with joy, `That is beautiful, Dr. Jernigan; why don't others emulate you?' Orientation and mobility are vital aspects of the independent living of any visually impaired person. The independent movement of Dr. Jernigan made thousands of people assembled at the Palace proud.
"The striking statement `Leading by Example' made by Dr. Jernigan during his keynote address was relevant to what he had demonstrated. His powerful address set the trend for an excellent conference. After delivering the address, no one was needed to bring him back to his seat. He did it by himself. He, through his action, had demonstrated that he leads others by example. He also indicated how parents, teachers, administrators, and other professionals in the field should lead by example in whatever work they do.
"We can make our visually impaired children outstanding if they are led by example. Let us make them excellent in education, mobility, rehabilitation, and integration. In doing so, let us emulate Dr. Jernigan and his powerful statement, `Leading by Example'"!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Gerald Kass]
Gerald M. Kass
From the Editor: Gerald Kass is the Executive Vice President of the Jewish Braille Institute of America. The October, 1998, issues of The Jewish Braille Review and the JBI Voice, the organization's flagship publications, were both dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jernigan. The "JBI Corner," written by Gerald Kass (as he told Dr. Maurer) "in tribute to Dr. Jernigan's gifts of mind and spirit," is reprinted here.
Earlier this week a great and historic leader in the emancipation of blind persons passed on. There are those who adored Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and those who found controversy with him, but none would deny that he gave character and direction to the blind civil rights movement in America and beyond. He believed with a firm faith that blindness was not a way of life but rather a human characteristic which for reasons of public attitude and access deprived many of their present rights and future hope.
Kenneth Jernigan was a golden-tongued orator. His banquet speeches at the annual conventions of the National Federation of the Blind were eloquent blueprints of his vision of the future one in which blindness would no longer define educational possibilities, employment possibilities, and citizen participation. I well remember many years ago when Dr. Jernigan invited me to Baltimore to the city which at that time was the new home of the National Federation of the Blind. I was not only impressed with what I saw but also with the details of how every square inch of its enormous building would be used to advance the well-being of blind people. Later that evening, over dinner at his home, when the conversation became more personal, I marveled at his strength of purpose, graciousness, and enormous sense of humor in the midst of so many pressures. Ken Jernigan enjoyed being the host, and his guests enjoyed him.
The Jewish Braille Institute joins all those who deeply care about the future of blind people in paying tribute to his life and now his enduring memory.
Gerald M. Kass
Executive Vice President
The Jewish Braille Institute of America
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: On these two pages is an array of nine pictures of Dr. Jernigan reading Braille. The caption for each picture is the year in which it was taken. In some pictures he stands, and in some he sits. In some he is serious, and in some he laughs. His hair style changes, but in all he is wearing a suit and tie. The dates of the pictures are as follows: 1968, 1970, 1975 (2 pictures), 1979, 1981, 1991, 1993, and 1996. CAPTION: For Dr. Jernigan, Braille was an integral part of every day. Through the years he used it to do research, to teach, and to entertain.]
Mass Mail Friends Say Thank You
From the Editor: Most charitable organizations raise at least part of their operating funds by conducting mass mail campaigns. The NFB is no different. Dr. Jernigan shaped our mail program and wrote and signed the letters.
Shortly before his death he wrote one last letter to the thousands of people who had come to know him through those letters and through the Kernel Books they had received. In this letter he told our supporters that he did not have much longer to live and that Dr. Maurer would be taking over in keeping them informed about the work and dreams of the Federation. The response to that letter has been surprising even to those who knew something of the affection in which Dr. Jernigan was held by the people who help make our work possible. Here is a small sample of the letters we have received:
November 3, 1998
You mention that Marc Maurer will do your work with love and ability. That is exactly what you have done. It has been a real pleasure to receive your letters and requests for help. I found myself looking forward to them and saving funds so that we could help.
We mailed you a check yesterday, but I wanted to write you a note too, to let you know how we felt about you and your work.
You have helped me, a ninety-year-old man. Thank you, Kenneth.
Salt Lake City, Utah
To the Friends and Relatives of Kenneth:
Please accept with deepest sympathy the heartfelt thought that there is hope in each new tomorrow. I did not know him personally, but I read all his books and the sweet stories of the blind. I know God will love him. I miss him terribly.
Black Diamond, Washington
Dear Mrs. Jernigan,
Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the loss of your husband. I was deeply saddened to read of his passing in our local newspaper.
I wrote to Kenneth a few years back after seeing him on a commercial for the National Federation of the Blind. I am sighted, but I wanted to help. We wrote back and forth for the past few years, and I truly felt that he was a dear friend of mine.
I have all of the Kernel Books that he had a hand in publishing, and I enjoyed reading his personal stories in the beginning of the books. My son, who is two, likes to look at them as well, and when he gets older, I look forward to telling him what a wonderful man Kenneth was.
I would enjoy hearing from youplease know I am thinking of you.
St. Louis, Missouri
I just returned from the hospital (I was walking and a car hit me!) and I found your letter! I have your photograph for all to see on my Steinway, and I encourage all to support the blind Federation. I choose very carefully who I either give or show the cards you send.
Now I am deeply concerned about you. After all the hard work, determination, and love you show to others and the incredible work you have done for the blind, it's very sad to hear of your illness. God bless you, and always remember that you are loved always. Your choice of a successor will be excellent, but he will have a lot to do after all of your hard work.
Again, we all love you and hope you are feeling well.
Copper Center, Alaska
November 25, 1998
Dear Mr. Jernigan,
Even though I am a recent friend of the NFB, I was moved by your positive testimony in the letter introducing us to your successor, Dr. Maurer. Your little books have been a blessing to me and my friends. Now your attitude of thanksgiving to God for your productive and good life, knowing that your departure to the next life is near, is a great encouragement and inspiration. I am sixty-six, have enjoyed a full and satisfying life, and expect to find the next life glorious beyond compare. There all our senses will be heightened to perceive the beauty of the sounds, sights, and fragrances of a place where there will be no sorrow nor suffering, and where love and wonderful fellowship will abound...
May God keep and bless you to the very end, which will be your new beginning.
The Students Speak
From the Editor: In the final weeks of Dr. Jernigan's life a number of students wrote to him, and in the days following his death there was an outpouring of recollection and calls to rally in time of sorrow on the student division's listserv that was touching and that must have made Dr. Jernigan's heart glad. Here is a sample of the letters and messages:
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim Portillo]
Greetings to Everyone,
I definitely feel the loss of Dr. Jernigan. He meant a lot to me as a teacher, mentor, and friend. I first heard of Dr. Jernigan in early 1990 and wasn't sure what to think of him and the movement known as the NFB. I then wrote him in the summer of 1990 to ask him some questions and see if he would really write back. I was curious what he would tell me and how he would answer my questions. To my surprise I received a prompt answer to my letter, and that began a wonderful correspondence, which would lead to a great friendship and teacher/student relationship. I continued writing, and so did he. I would always inform him of anything new that happened in my life as a high school student, and he would always give me some of that great advice he is known for giving. He also would criticize my letters for their grammar, spelling, and Braille errors. I never took this criticism harshly, though. In fact, every time I would write him, I would want to make sure I would come as close to an error-free letter as I could. If it wasn't errors, Dr. Jernigan would comment on my writing, style, etc. He later told me that he did this because he wanted my writing to be the best it could be.
After about five years of questions and letters, Dr. Jernigan finally convinced me to attend the 1995 NFB convention in Chicago. As leery as I was, he helped make the trip as smooth as possible. That's where I met him in person and where I began learning more about myself as a blind person. He took time out to talk to me and made sure I was OK. Every time he and Mrs. Jernigan saw me around the convention area, they'd stop me to see how things were going. Dr. Jernigan then told me that he and I would have a chance to work together some time in the near future, and that happened ten months later, in May of 1996.
I got to spend an entire week with Dr. Jernigan. He grilled me on English and grammar, talked to me about everything and anything he could think of, introduced me to the Braille Lite, and gave me an in-depth tour of the NFB and what he did. He had me barbecue on a grill for the first time and introduced me to fine wines and wonderful food I had not heard of or eaten. Most of all, he planted the seed which would later sprout and make me desire to better myself as a blind person by obtaining training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
I got to see Dr. Jernigan for the last time in July, and I'm glad I did. I somehow was at peace with his death because I had my chance to say goodbye to him, even though neither of us called it that.
He will always hold a special place in my heart. He's given me more than I could ever imagine, and I will greatly miss him. I will do what he said and help keep the movement alive and keep it moving forward alongside everyone else involved with the cause. My condolences to Mrs. Jernigan, the Maurers, and all of us Federationists who knew and were affected by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Jay Wolf]
October 22, 1998
A Few Good Men
As we all know by now, we as Federationists lost one of the best early last week. We are all saddened by this, but I would like to share a few thoughts about Dr. Jernigan and all he has meant to me and every blind person in the world.
Last week was a tough one for me. The 14th of October was the one-year anniversary, if you will, of losing my father to cancer, and then the news of Dr. Jernigan's death. During this time I did a lot of thinking and priority-setting.
Other than my father, Dr. Jernigan is probably the man that I respected more than anyone else. He worked his entire life to make life better for blind people in this country and around the world. Many people have asked me, "What can we do to honor Dr. Jernigan's life and dedication?" Well, here is my answer to them and us all.
We can rededicate our lives to the cause. Many times as students we get hung up strictly on student issues and lose sight of the big picture. Let's all make a recommitment to the NFB and work daily on furthering our cause.
Let's go to those local chapter meetings, those state conventions, and of course the National Convention, but over and above that, let's do more. Let's support each other as Federationists, and let's support any blind person that we might come across. Dr. Jernigan didn't care if a person was a member of the NFB. If the blind person was being treated unfairly, he would do what he could to remedy the situation.
I believe that the best thing that we can do to honor a great man is to carry on what he did so much to get started and continue through the years. We will all miss him, so let's do Dr. Jernigan proud.
Take care all,
Jay Wolf, President
Texas Association of Blind Students
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mariyam Cementwala]
From the Editor: Ms. Cementwala wrote this letter to Dr.
Jernigan a few weeks before his death.
Dear Dr. Jernigan,
My name is Mariyam Cementwala. You may or may not recall, but I was fortunate enough to meet you at the 1997 Convention in New Orleans as a member of the 1997 Scholarship Class. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have met you and to have heard your message to us in "The Day After Civil Rights" in person, but I believe, like many younger members of the Federation, I regret not having the opportunity to know you better and to learn from you in person. You leave us a legacy in your speeches and written words which will transcend the history of the blind civil rights movement.
I told a friend and fellow scholarship winner that I should and would write you this letter, and the person, also eager to write to you, said to me, "But what do you say to a dying man?" Many of us (young and old) don't know what to say, Sir. I know that the five o'clock scholarship meeting at the National Convention will never be the same. Saying that we are sorry just doesn't cut itand I believe it is a phrase you probably don't want to hear. We are baffled at your strength and inspired by your achievements. But I consider your greatest achievement not to be getting a particular law passed so that we as blind people can be assured that the goal of first-class citizenship is within reach. Your exemplary devotion to fighting for your and our right to be considered the equal of our sighted counterparts is not what I consider your greatest achievement. Your work in founding an organizationthe largest organization in this country of blind people fighting for themselveswhich carries in it a positive philosophy of blindness is not what I consider your greatest achievement. Your greatest achievement isn't even, in my opinion, the fact that you have touched and changed so many lives of both blind and sighted people for the better.
You, Sir, have achieved what many of us crave to achieve at the time of deaththe comfort to die in peace. Today you can go forth into a new realmwhatever the mystery of death may be, knowing that because of your life, because of your work, the world is a better place and the Federation is in great hands. You can, as we all hope to die at our time, "rest in peace," and I don't know of any greater achievement than peace in death. You've worked for the cause of blindness and the betterment of the lives of blind people all your lifethat goal has been your passion and your devotion, and todaybefore you dieyou see and reap the fruits of your labor. Some people work all of their lives and never see any results. Many writers and artists and poets created masterful works and never knew the value of what they had done, and they died miserably and unhappily. You, Sir, helped create an organization, a philosophy, and a family; and today you see what it is and what it has the potential to be; and you know that you have created a masterpiece. I hope that knowledge brings you peace. Although I realize that your final days among us may be painful, I pray they are happy ones. Our prayers (and I say "our" because many of us who may not have written or spoken to you because of not knowing what to say still do keep you in our thoughts) are always with you. Your legacy transcends your lifetime, and your work will not go unfinished.
My great-grandfather loved Longfellow, and right now, the words he used to recite to me ring true in my mind. Longfellow wrote in "A Psalm of Life":
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
I don't know of anyone else that I've ever met in my life who has inscribed by his or her deeds and achievements his or her footprints on the sands of time the way you have, and for that we are all indebted to you. I am sorry that the blind civil rights movement is losing a pioneer; but, God willing, new pioneers will and must now rise to the occasionand rest assured, Sir, we will.
Mariyam A. Cementwala
Words from Colleagues Old and New
From the Editor: Dr. Jernigan obviously made friends wherever his drive and vision took him, but those who loved him best were the blind people whose lives he and his work had transformed and the sighted people with whom he worked most closely. Here, then, is a sample of the outpouring of tributes that have come from Federation friends:
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Peggy Elliott and Dr. Jernigan]
From the Editor: Peggy Elliott was a student at the adult rehabilitation program in Iowa while Dr. Jernigan was the director of the Commission for the Blind. She is now an attorney and Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the Iowa affiliate. This is what she writes:
A few weeks ago in Iowa we had a whole day during which the wind blew at thirty-five to forty-five miles per hour with gusts up to sixty. It was a very unusual weather day. Have you ever noticed how such days affect people? Sure, they fuss a little. But they are energized, more alert, more focused, more interested in talking to one another and in helping one another. Conversing with Dr. Jernigan was like that. You never knew what to expect, but it was always thought-provoking and stimulating, and the effects stayed with you long after the conversation concluded.
For years I struggled to explain and describe Dr. Jernigan to friends who had not met him. Then I happened to read the words that capture for me the essence of the man. I found them in what is known as "Plato's Seventh Letter," one of the few personal letters we have from the great Greek philosopher who lived over 2,000 years ago. Plato was one of humanity's greatest teachers. He talks of the few young men seeking wisdom who have the mere, tiny spark of philosophy within them and who, after long discussion and interaction with wiser men, find that their spark has been fanned into the bright flame of wisdom. For Plato teaching involves transfer of knowledge over time and in conversation. Said another way, teaching is always a community activity, done by and among people who know each other and live together.
When I first read this description of teaching and learning, I knew I had found the perfect description of Dr. Jernigan. Unlike Plato Dr. Jernigan believed that all of us have the tiny spark of philosophy within us. He believed that it was his personal responsibility to fan each spark, to discuss and demonstrate and offer explanations until the spark grew and brightened into a flame. He did this, day in and day out, person after person, friend and stranger alike, every minute of every day of his lifewhen he was tired, when he didn't feel well. He did it using great subjects and small. He did it as naturally and determinedly as he breathed. And most of the time he did it with individual blind people, one at a time, urging, cajoling, challenging, joking, always in an effort to fan the spark. He taught because he profoundly believed that this was the way to change the world and to strengthen the Federation in its mission of change.
From the whorls of his fingerprints to the roots of his hair to the tips of his toes, Dr. Jernigan was a teacher. He understood what Plato discovered: that true teaching is a state of mind that sets good examples and fosters discussion among a group of people who develop and regularly strengthen the flame of knowledge among them. True teaching is an ongoing human activity in which the spark of one is fanned by the brightness of another's flame, while two brightly burning flames intensify and encourage each other. Federationists and friends who learned from Dr. Jernigan learned the two most important lessons of life: if you stop learning, life is dull, and words without people to enliven them are boring. Dr. Jernigan was never dull, nor was he ever boring.
People sometimes wonder why the Federation does not have wrenching, divisive debates and voteswhy we seem to agree with one another and to work for the same goals. It's from Dr. Jernigan's constant instruction and his teaching us to teach and to learn and to do both, always with each other. We work hard to think things through together, to work with an idea until we work out its meaning, its implications, its consequences and then to teach others about it. To us the Federation is like the multiplication table; you don't see kids in school debating the answers to 12 times 8 and 9 times 6. You see them straining and stretching to learn them. To Dr. Jernigan and to us, the Federation is the same; using his methods, we work things out together. Why would we then want to debate what we've all just learned and internalized?
Teaching was his core, and lighting fires in others was his daily task. His most noticeable qualitieslike his constant quest for knowledge, his thirst for clarity, and his leadership were all in service of his real life mission: to teach. Dr. Jernigan deeply loved his fellow human beings and urgently wanted each of us to know, to grow, to become better and happier people. His intense yearning to convince each of us that we did have the spark and to fan that spark into the bright, high flame of knowledgeable, useful human beings drove all his other work. His need to teach changed all blind people.
Dr. Jernigan taught in many ways. He set the example; he created and fostered discussion; he strengthened and deepened the community he led. Remembering the ways he did this can help us to continue his work.
Dr. Jernigan often taught by learning. He was on a lifetime quest for knowledge. Of course he was a devoted lifetime reader. His literacy led to his vast vocabulary, his commitment to Braille, his ability to reach for and find the right quotation for any situation. His erudition extended far beyond the written word into the living, breathing human mind and heart. When he conversed with people, he listened, stretching to hear what others were thinking and feeling. I never found a subject in which he was not interested except possibly music, a subject more of taste than most others. But even with music he would surprise you. I once heard him give a speech, quoting and analyzing the protest music of the sixties, something I would have thought he had never heard. And many of us have experienced his astonishing collection of tunes used as a wake-up device at the National Center for the Blind.
He was always the first to find new foods, both in restaurants and prepared by him in his home. And he dearly loved trying new wines. One of my fondest memories is of a large dinner at his house during which we covered the labels of seven kinds of wine and taste-tested them throughout dinner. One that was pretty raw to begin with breathed its way into a pleasant, nutty-flavored table wine picked by him, Mrs. Jernigan, and me. When the labels were uncovered, our choice was an inexpensive Argentine wine that rivaled the pricier ones for taste and blend with good food. He was overjoyed to make such a find.
Dr. Jernigan didn't stop with mere data acquisition. From his reading and his conversations he remembered and joined facts into structures through which the world could be better understood. Something he learned in 1956, for example, would fit with something he observed in 1978, and the link produced actions in 1997. He taught this habit of mindreading, listening, analyzingto those around him as well. I don't remember a National Board meeting which didn't conclude with his asking me sometime in a hallway or at the side of a room: "What did you learn this weekend?" The answer no doubt told him something about me; it also provided him with information about what others thought was important or interesting or new. He constantly sought to learn so that he could better understand the world around him and act effectively in it. He believed that knowledge resides in both books and humans; he avidly read and studied both.
I'll tell just a couple of the many stories I remember. Dr. Jernigan told me about receiving a call from a well-known Protestant bishop in Des Moines requesting an appointment without revealing why. The bishop proposed a project on which the two worked fruitfully and through which they became friendly. One day they were chatting, and the bishop mentioned that he had been afraid of Dr. Jernigan's reputation when he first made contact to propose collaboration. Dr. Jernigan was astonished since he believed that he had been the one nervous about the bishop's reputation. They had a good laugh over their unfounded mutual trepidation. Dr. Jernigan told me always to remember that the other guy is probably much more scared of you than you are of him or her. It works wonders for your effectiveness and is probably often true as well. Part of his greatness was his ability to notice both facts and feelings in himself and in others and to remember, learn from, and openly discuss them. He was never afraid to feel or to examine and talk about those feelings.
Another example is much more recent, after Dr. Jernigan had largely settled his feud with computers. He initially hated them. I privately thought this emotion flowed from his intense love of humanity, leading him to find computers boring. After a time he incorporated them into his world view as machines useful in the grinding and repetitive tasks that are hard for humans to do accurately. I was taken off guard one day when he told me that he was having a dispute with a high-level computer programmer. The programmer was perfectly happy to program machines to recognize the ones and zeros that constitute computer code, but he refused to admit the logical extension of the ones and zeros to humankind. Dr. Jernigan asserted that any question can be reduced to a yes-or-no inquiry. The programmer had rejected this concept, arguing that human events are comprised of shades of gray. Dr. Jernigan replied that gray is still made up of black and white and that, if a question could not be answered by yes or no, the question simply had not been broken down into enough sub-questions and the human needed to go back and think more carefully about the pieces of the question. I remember laughing and saying to him that I agreed and to myself that, as usual, he had pierced through to both the basic truth and the human truth more quickly and more usefully than the expert had.
His quest for knowledge and for the truth, which is the proper linking of knowledge was contagious. A few people resented or were threatened by it; most of us were inspired and enriched by it.
Another quality that made Dr. Jernigan like an unusual weather day was his thirst for clarity. Not only did he yearn to know and to understand; he thirsted to communicate what he knew to others. His perfect grammar is legendary; I remember the head of the Jewish Braille Institute once commenting that Dr. Jernigan's speeches were the easiest works he ever translated into Hebrew because they were so pristine grammatically. Dr. Jernigan sought to teach others grammar as a good discipline but, more important, as the necessary vehicle for spoken and written clarity of communication.
Any blind person who wishes to understand himself or herself and the world in which we blind people live must read Dr. Jernigan's two speeches "Handicap or Characteristic" and "Concepts and Misconceptions." I don't bother to say read and understand because I don't think it's possible for a blind person to read these two speeches without understanding them. Dr. Jernigan takes basic concepts with which we all live and explains them in a way that changes the way each blind person looks at himself or herself and at the world. He didn't merely use his skill to tell others his own private thoughts. He used words to change people for the better.
Dr. Jernigan's thirst for clarity taught us the truth about ourselves and about blindness. The teaching was by no means static. He sought to give each of us the skill to understand words and to use them to help ourselves and others. And he demanded of each of us that we stop thinking only of ourselves, only of what we find easiest. He challenged us to remember all blind people and to think of them as capable and competent. Accepting an idea about blindness because it is easy or because we think some blind people are incompetent is to place a lower value on blind people, all blind people, than he was prepared to. He insisted that we recognize the strength of working out our views together rather than each of us believing individually that we have all knowledge and are always right. How many times have you heard him say that the convention is always right? He didn't just mean that it is the final authority of the Federation; he meant as well that we are all stronger when we work things out together, fan each other's flames, respect the brightness of others' insights as much as we do our own.
Dr. Jernigan often pointed out that essentially everyone in the blindness field uses the same language: independence, self-esteem, doing things for ourselves. To understand what another person or a proposal actually means regarding blind persons, he taught us to think beyond the words, to assess the context, to test what would be best for all blind people. And he taught us to put our conclusions into words that would analyze, persuade, criticize, soothe, as the situation demands.
For example, I recently read a reference to two-for-one air fares, that old proposal I had thought was dead under which a blind passenger could take another person along at no extra cost. Dr. Jernigan taught us to think beyond the greedy notion of getting something free to the consequences of adopting such a proposal: all sighted travelers would assume that we could not travel independently, a notion that would undoubtedly come to mind if they received an application for employment from a blind person. Moreover, we would come to believe the same of ourselves. Employment in the entire travel industry would be closed to us since who would want to hire a person who cannot get around? His style of thoughtknowing what words mean, understanding what was being said, and then thinking about the unspoken consequences of the speechis one he taught us to practice and apply to blindness issues today such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and services to blind college students through disabled students offices.
But talking about Dr. Jernigan's thirst for clarity is not complete without mentioning his voice. It was not just a voice; it was a musical instrument he used to enhance the blazing clarity of his carefully chosen words so that, when he spoke them, they plunged deep into the heart as well as the mind. Dr. Jernigan's thirst for clarity was a fierce determination to harness techniques to assure clear and effective communication. He deeply loved the truth and wanted to share it as widely as he could.
Yet another quality that comes to mind is Dr. Jernigan's insistence on personal responsibility. Many people mistakenly call this his lifetime of leadership, but it was truly and only his sense of duty to himself and to others. He never asked others to do what he himself would not do. Many times I joined him with a cleaning rag in the Federation's office in Iowa or the Center in Baltimore. When other methods of persuasion failed, he was the first to walk the picket line, seeking public recognition for an issue in which he believed the blind were being harmed by acts hidden from the public through obscurity or the protestations of those who would rather take care of us than help us learn to take care of ourselves. NAC comes readily to mind.
His insistence on taking personal responsibility was sometimes misunderstood as ego or the wish to be a dictator by those whom his talent threatened. Such characterizations are as far from the truth as Mars is from Pluto. Dr. Jernigan's leadership came from inside, from his profound sense of responsibility. If he was the first to identify a problemand he often wasif he was the first to think of solutionsand he usually wasthen he should be the first to act upon his knowledge and the first to seek others to work with him to bring about change.
We've all heard the story about the chapter near his home in California. He was told that it consisted of old blind people and a few helpless ones and that he didn't need to bother attending. His work at the state and national levels was sufficient. He began attending anyway and found good people who didn't know what to do to cause change and who were delighted to follow his lead. He developed programs, raised funds, attracted lively new people, and built the chapter to over a hundred people and the happening place for the blind of the Bay Area. He did it because he thought he should.
He went on to apply himself to work with the blind in earnest and, quite simply, transformed it. What he personally saw as flaws he eliminated, and what he perceived as opportunities he developed. In California he began the re-thinking of orientation and adjustment training, which he completed in Iowa. Though he was administering a multi-million-dollar agency there with numerous programs, he visited each class of the orientation center whenever he was in the building. We students hoped he would come and approve when we were doing well; we dreaded his coming if we were having an off day.
The key to his success was his personal involvement as a role model and spur. Living in the building where the center was located gave him the chance to do early morning work-outs with reluctant, sleepy students or to invite us for dinner. I remember refusing the first dinner invitation he offered, and he immediately asked me to come the next night. I refused. He asked about the night after that one and pointed out that he was going to keep asking until I accepted. I quickly came to treasure each invitation and to connive for more. He insisted on personal contact and on pushing himself and us to try new things like cutting firewood or barbecuing burgers or jogging on downtown Des Moines's dawn sidewalks. Doing so day in and day out, he changed our lives and also changed work with the blind.
Before his arrival Iowa had no library for the blind. Dr. Jernigan founded one, and it rapidly became the best in the world because he always wanted more and more books and more and more Braille. His personal devotion to reading yielded an internationally famous library that set the standard for consumer responsiveness and creation of books. He changed rehab. Blind people seeking work were asked what they wanted to do, never told what few options were available. At first this was revolutionary and unheard-of. Now it is federal law. Believing deeply in blind people himself, he applied his thoughts to programs for the blind and made his personal beliefs into the professional standards of good practice today.
Dr. Jernigan reserved his scorn for the whiner and the critic. He could not understand how someone could know that personal change is possible and choose to complain about his or her lot instead of investing time and effort to change and grow. Neither could he understand how anyone could criticize and stop there. Whether the critic was aiming at the Federation or at agencies for the blind or something else, his constant query was:
What have you done to change what you don't like? Words without action were incomprehensible to him. The responsibility to act was as sacred to him as the duty to think before acting.
Yet Dr. Jernigan also believed that he had a responsibility to treat all others with politeness and courtesy even if they were not doing so to him. He reserved his scorn for the generic, as you can read in the conclusion to his towering 1971 convention banquet speech. I remember many discussions with him in which I said that someone had "made me mad." He would chide me, saying leaders do not have the luxury of anger. The leader's job is to lead everybody, even people who make one mad.
I remember once at a National Convention an ill-tempered member chose to heckle Dr. Jernigan from the floor while he was presiding. She was entirely out of order, but Dr. Jernigan asked her to go to a mike. She replied nastily that he could perfectly well hear her and that it was inconvenient for her to go to a mike. She then re-commenced the heckling. Dr. Jernigan several times tried to engage her in discussion. She was having none of it. The rest of us could not hear her and, from his amplified comments, didn't want to. We wanted her to shut up. Dr. Jernigan finally snapped and told the woman in no uncertain terms to be seated and be quiet. We all applauded. This happened shortly before the lunch break.
Dr. Jernigan opened the afternoon session in his quietest, most earnest tone by saying that something had happened before lunch that had never happened before and for which he was very sorry. He humbly apologized to the woman and to the rest of us for losing his temper and showing anger while presiding. He went into great detail about his error and his regret. I remember at first thinking, as I had that morning, that I was just glad the woman had been silenced. As I listened, I understood his deeper meaninghe himself had failed his own standard and was compelled to explain and apologize.
Since that day I have used his standard as my own in chairing, believing that I should treat people as they ought to be treated and not as they sometimes deserve. Neither he nor I agreed with the woman's point nor her method for making it nor her long record of doing nothing but criticizing others. But he taught me that I could disagree with a person while treating her at all times with courtesy. My duty was to maintain that rule even if others broke it.
Dr. Jernigan's habit of leadership sprang from his deep sense of personal responsibility. He blamed himself if things went wrong, planned ahead to avoid problems, and worked to convince others to join him in both identifying the problem and agreeing on the solution. We know why he was our leader: he blamed himself more, planned better, and worked harder than anyone else.
I have been taught by and worked beside Dr. Jernigan since I was a scared, newly-blinded teenager. I now have a blind teenage friend in Iowa who was born after Dr. Jernigan left Iowa and after he no longer served as our elected president. Of course she has met Dr. Jernigan, but she is now moving into the tough years of learning and growing, and she will have to do it without having him beside her as I did. Did he teach us well enough? Have we learned enough? I hope so for Kallie's sake.
It is now our job to do for others what he did for us and with us for so long, sometimes over our objections. It is now our turn to find in Kallie and others like her that spark of potential Dr. Jernigan believed is in all of us and to fan that spark into the flame of knowledge and personal responsibility. Dr. Jernigan's legacy to us is work and belief and the intense conviction that every blind person has that spark. I know Kallie does, and we're fanning it as fast as we can.
In the hearts and minds of all of us who loved him Dr. Jernigan fanned our sparks into a collection of flames that has lit the future of blind people with new possibilities. To keep those flames burning and to ignite others, each of us can study his gifts and his methods and incorporate them into our lives and works. He taught us to know who we are. He taught us to say that we will never go back. He also taught us to teach others and to learn from others and to continue solving problems together because, if we do not, the flames will dim and the light fade away. In another of his great banquet speeches, the one in 1983, Dr. Jernigan described the function of inertia as it applies to organizations. Read his words for both comfort and challenge.
They tell us what to do:
"Consider the word inertia. . . . When most of us think of inertia, we think of something not moving, something inertand it is not just the physical but also the social. The dictionary tells us that inertia means "lack of skill, idleness, laziness." But this is only half of the meaning. There is the other half of the meaning. The full definition is this: things at rest tend to remain at rest, and things in motion tend to remain in motion, at a uniform rate and in a straight line. The only way to change the inertia of an object is by pressure. It is as hard to stop something which is moving as it is to start something which is not.
"When the blind came to organize in 1940, the situation was about as bad as it could possibly be. It was almost static. It was worse than static, for there was enough motion to tantalize but not enough to encourage or stimulate hope. At the pace of 1940 it would have taken generations (perhaps centuries) for the blind to achieve meaningful lives and real opportunityand a promise which is measured by centuries is no promise at all. It is only a shadow and a mockery.
"Then everything changed. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and a handful of others organized the National Federation of the Blind. Suddenly it was not centuries but decadesand, yes, something for the blind of that generation, something for the blind then alive. In the beginning the force of inertia worked against us (things at rest tend to remain at rest); but pressure was applied, and the acceleration was noticeable and immediate. Of course, at first, the progress was slow (it always is). The situation was aggravated by the mass involved, for with a given pressure the build-up is always in direct proportion to the mass which has to be moved. And the mass which we had to move was tremendous. It was all of societyall of it (including ourselves): societywith its accumulated stereotypes, misconceptions, and prejudices; societywith its mistaken ideas and freaky notions about blindness going back to the dawn of history, ideas and notions imbedded in literature, locked in folk lore, and sanctified by tradition.
"We should keep in mind the basic principle: `The only way to change the inertia of an object is by pressure. It is as hard to stop something which is moving as it is to start something which is not.' That is the rule, and it is as immutable for organizations as for objects. By the terms of inertia no pressure is ever lost. For forty-three years we have worked and struggled to accelerate our movement and send it in a straight line toward freedom and independence. The efforts of tens of thousands of blind men and women have been spent for almost two generations to reach the current momentum. I can tell you from firsthand experience that during this time we have moved an awful lot of mass. It would take as much pressure and effort to stop our progress and push us back to 1940 as it has taken us to get where we are. . . . There is no force on earth that can do it. We can summon the strength to resist any conceivable pressure which would slow our acceleration and push us back. . . . Equality will not (perhaps cannot) be given to us. If we want it, we must take it. . . . We are simply no longer willing to be second-class citizens. We want no strife or confrontation, but we will do what we have to do. To the extent required, we will meet pressure with pressure and force with force. We know who we are, and we will never go back."
Every time we remember him, we must re-take that vow and with it re-commit ourselves to teaching and learning and solving. The very best way we can remember him is to say: "We know who we are, and we will never go back. We will seek the truth and we will speak the truth and we will take the responsibility to ourselves for linking words and actions. And above all we will teach and learn. We will keep it up until the job is done. We promise."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Michael Baillif]
A Hero Among Us
by Michael Baillif
From the Editor: Michael Baillif was an NFB scholarship winner in 1984. He had just graduated from high school. Having embraced the Federation's philosophy and acquired its training, he went on to graduate from a prestigious college, travel in Europe on a Watson Fellowship, and graduate from Yale Law School. Today he is a tax attorney at Davis, Polk, and Wardwell, a New York law firm with an international reputation. Here are his remarks from the memorial service:
Perhaps the greatest gift that Doctor Jernigan gave to us, both as individuals and as a movement, was his heroism. For make no mistake, Dr. Jernigan was and is a hero who, although very much human, was also larger than life. He set the standard; he showed us who we could be and what we could do.
Dr. Jernigan built furniture and sold insurance and created a training center for blind peopleso we knew we could do those things. He barbecued steaks and held wine tastings and made numerous people feel comfortable in his beautiful homeso we knew we could do those things. He was a statesman and a thinker of great thoughts and a builder of people and places like the National Center for the Blind. Because he did these things, we now know that we can do them too, not necessarily as individuals, but together, as a collective movement.
Dr. Jernigan, like his mentor Dr. tenBroek, was first and foremost a teacher who built this organization one member at a time. Dr. Jernigan had an incalculable formative impact on many of the people we now call friends and colleagues, in some cases even heroes in their own right. In particular I think of Dr. Maurer, who was Dr. Jernigan's hand-picked successor and whose strong leadership in these potentially difficult times has once again borne witness to Dr. Jernigan's wisdom and farsightedness. This time, which could have been so hard, instead will be remembered as a time of unity and celebration within our family. What greater tribute could there be to Dr. Maurer and to Dr.
Jernigan, who set the stage, even in his final days?
For no man better understood the power of the symbol than Dr. Jernigan. For decades he has been, and will continue to be, our symbol: a symbol of strength and achievement and authority tough sometimes, loving always.
Being a symbol carries with it a high price, and Dr. Jernigan sacrificed more for this organization, more for us, than he ever let on. Nevertheless, he accepted the mantle of hero, of symbol, with apparent ease and performed with zest and grace and honor that the role came to fit him as well as one of his tailor-made suits.
So now we are left with all that Dr. Jernigan symbolizes to guide us as we go forward, and go forward we shall. When Dr. Jernigan wanted someone to get moving in order to get something done, he was fond of saying, "Go man, go!" Well, I am sure that somewhere Dr. Jernigan is saying that to us right now.
So we will continue to march, and he shall be in the forefront. For heroes, such as Dr. Jernigan, never pass away. They remain in our hearts and lead us into the future.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Steve Benson]
by Stephen O. Benson
As I sit at my desk on this Sunday, October 11, reviewing all the details of the agenda and other arrangements for the 1998 convention of the NFB of Illinois, I reflect on Dr. Jernigan's masterly management of convention arrangements for our increasingly complex national assemblies, our gathering of the clans. Dr. Jernigan has referred to the Federation as a family. But he was quick to remind us that we are the most effective political force in the field of blindness and that we should never be deterred from using that force to improve the quality of life for blind people.
The Federation's conventions are exercises in democracy, the ultimate collective voice of the organized blind at work, the site of vigorous debate that shapes and establishes policy. People come to conventions to get their batteries recharged, to renew or nurture long-term friendships, to find mates, to engage in serious discussion, to learn and to teach, to relax, and to put ideas into action. Federation conventions change people's lives. National Federation of the Blind conventions are the most energetic, result-oriented, rewarding meetings I have ever attended.
I began learning about organizing and managing meetings as a Boy Scout. As a teenager I organized neighborhood clubs for kids my age, and I organized and scheduled chess tournaments for two or three summers. As a member of student councils and service organizations in high school and as a college fraternity president and delegate to the Interfraternity Council, I honed my meeting management skills. But it wasn't until I joined the Federation and began to study Dr. Jernigan's mastery of meeting planning, strategies, and management; his civility under pressure; his ability to hold adversaries' feet to the fire; and his patience that I really began to understand how a meeting should be conducted. Once I began to understand his method, I watched ever more intently, knowing that here was an opportunity to learn at the feet of one of the best at the craft. Then I attempted to emulate him.
As an important part of this learning process, I have closely studied Dr. Jernigan's speeches and his delivery of them. A serious student of public speaking could watch Dr. Jernigan and learn about precise cadence, timing, inflection, tone, appropriate use of humor, pathos, incredulity, declamation, and the imperative. Dr. Jernigan's speeches are informative, inspiring, and irresistible calls to action. It is difficult to imagine that anybody could walk away unmoved from a Jernigan speech, live or recorded.
At our 1995 National Convention the Illinois affiliate arranged to have a bagpipe band pipe in the convention. As I said in my welcoming remarks, "No gathering of the Scottish clans would be complete without these sounds." Whenever I plan conventions, whenever I think of Dr. Jernigan, I will always feel and hear the sound of pipes and drums as we heard them in that jubilant entry into our convention hall on Tuesday morning, July 4, 1995. Those of us who have been privileged to know Kenneth Jernigan will long remember that day and will always remember him in the echoes of the moving strains of "Amazing Grace."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tom Bickford accompanies Lloyd Rasmussen on guitar as Lloyd sings the "Technology Song" during the memorial service.]
From the Editor: The following recollection was submitted to the Braille Monitor.
I first met Kenneth Jernigan in 1955. I was a blind college student in California, and rehab referred me to the orientation center in Oakland. We were young then, both in our twenties. He looked young too, though he didn't like to be told so. As the years went by, he grew to feel the weight of responsibility and the power of authority, and he learned to carry those burdens with dignity and wisdom.
In our first interview we talked about independent travel. I finally asked, "Do you mean that you would take your cane and fly to Japan?"
He answered simply, "Yes." I didn't believe him, and I am sure he knew it without my saying so. But he made a believer out of me. Since then I have traveled alone by every means of modern transportation from Oakland to Russia and back and through plenty of places in between. And I, who graduated from college hating to write, through the Federation have become a published author on the subject of cane travel.
Kenneth Jernigan was not the administrator of the center, but just by his personality he was the spiritual and philosophical leader. He taught several classes, but the most important one was called "Business Methods and Procedures." We discussed ideas about blindness, ours and society's. Each day he would pick on a particular subject and often on a particular student, and he would grill us on our attitudes and beliefs. We learned and changed and put these beliefs to work in our own lives. We worked hard, we thought hard, and at the right times we played hard. Kenneth Jernigan was there with us, leading by example.
When the orientation students were inspired to plan an overnight camping trip, he joined us, leading a hike over the hills and barefoot through a running stream. That was the trip when one of the students, a former logger, brought his climbing rig and went up a big tree, the incident we heard celebrated in the "even I" story [in the Kernel Book To Touch the Untouchable Dream.]
Among his many characteristics Kenneth Jernigan was eager, energetic, enthusiastic, idealistic, and practical. At least one time his idealism got ahead of his practicality. He brought me to Iowa and tried to make a rehab counselor out of me. I wasn't a good one, and we both knew it. We parted company as employer and employee on good terms.
He taught me that to improve my own lot in life I had to work through the National Federation of the Blind to improve the lives of other blind people. He taught me how to live a good life, and I have.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Don and Betty Capps stand with Dr. Jernigan aboard the Queen Elizabeth II.]
Donald C. Capps
From the Editor: Don Capps has served longer on the NFB Board of Directors than anyone else. Dr. Jernigan was a close friend and formative influence in his life for more than forty years. Don wrote about his recollections of Dr. Jernigan in the Winter, 1998, issue of the Palmetto Blind, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. Here are excerpts from what he said:
Over the years Dr. Jernigan made many trips to South Carolina and always seemed to enjoy his visits in the Palmetto State. In the 1960's Dr. Jernigan and his parents spent several Thanksgivings with Betty and me.
He was very observant. Before his Thanksgiving visits Betty would give the house a good cleaning, dusting everything, since she knew Dr. Jernigan would check out things while visiting us. He not only relied upon his great intellect but also his hands to learn, and learn he did. Using his long white cane, Dr. Jernigan, who enjoyed the out-of-doors, identified every tree in our yard.
He also loved children. During his Thanksgiving visits with us in the 1960's our two children, Beth and Craig, were small, but they still remember the good times they had with Dr. Jernigan, who would always accompany them to the nearby city park. He would ride on the swings and the see-saw with them.
Betty and I always enjoyed Dr. Jernigan's visits. We knew he enjoyed good food, and he especially liked Betty's fried chicken. We would always have two elderly sisters, Aunt Lelia and Aunt Mattie, who babysat for Beth and Craig, bake a nine-layer chocolate cake for Dr. Jernigan and his parents.
Growing up in rural Tennessee, Dr. Jernigan understood and appreciated Southern culture and down-home cooking. In the 1970's Columbians were introduced to Lizard's Thicket, considered by most to be the premiere restaurant in the area for down-home cooking. Each time Dr. Jernigan visited with us, we made sure to dine at Lizard's Thicket. Though the entree included three vegetables, Dr. Jernigan always ordered at least six and ate them all. We cherish these memories.
Dr. Jernigan had a tremendous impact upon state programs for the blind in South Carolina. At our 1964 state convention in Charleston, we adopted a resolution calling for the creation of a Commission for the Blind. When this legislation was introduced in 1965, it set off a storm of opposition from the sheltered workshop and the Division for the Blind of the South Carolina Department of Public Welfare. In 1965 our state organization was small and not very strong. We had our work cut out for us. However, we knew that Dr. Jernigan was an expert on commissions for the blind since he had been appointed Executive Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1958. In 1965 the Legislature could not agree upon the merits of creating a Commission.
However, it did establish a nine-member legislative study committee to consider the advisability and feasibility of establishing a commission for the blind. Our long-time friend, Earle E. Morris, Jr., was then a member of the South Carolina Senate and was elected chairman of the study committee. Senator Morris held several hearings across the state concerning the commission bill. Ultimately the committee invited Dr. Jernigan to testify. In November of 1965 he traveled to Columbia and made an outstanding presentation to the legislative study committee, after which the nine members voted unanimously to recommend the creation of the Commission for the Blind. Several of the members told me directly that Dr. Jernigan had absolutely convinced them. Incidentally, two committee members were invited to visit the Iowa Commission for the Blind and did so. This was also highly influential in the committee's recommendation to establish a Commission.
Dr. Jernigan was NFB president in 1969 when the National Convention was held in Columbia. He demonstrated his care for South Carolina and its leaders. One nationally known speaker on the convention agenda informed Dr. Jernigan that he planned to attack Senator Strom Thurmond, primarily because the two had different political views. Dr. Jernigan quickly and clearly advised the speaker that in that case he would not be permitted to address the convention.
During that same convention a reception was given at the governor's mansion with a receiving line headed by Governor Robert E. McNair. It was the first time that any Governor had given a reception at the official residence for an NFB convention, and Dr. Jernigan was very proud of that occurrence. Shortly after the 1969 convention we traveled with Dr. Jernigan to Washington to seek Senator Thurmond's assistance. In the 1960's the NFB's primary fund-raising involved unordered merchandise such as greeting cards and neckties. Several officials of the IRS wanted to tax this project, a ruling that we believed was inappropriate and illegal.
We discussed this situation with Senator Thurmond, who requested that Dr. Jernigan write an appropriate letter. He would then place it on his official letterhead and send it to the Commissioner of the IRS. Senator Thurmond was as good as his word, and he did not change a single word of the letter Dr. Jernigan drafted for him. The IRS Commissioner, who was from Greenville, South Carolina, never gave the NFB any further trouble.
Betty and I were fortunate enough to travel abroad with Dr. Jernigan on several occasions. In 1988 and 1992 we traveled with Dr. Jernigan to World Blind Union conferences held in Madrid and Cairo. In 1989 Betty and I joined Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan for a voyage on the Queen Elizabeth II to England in celebration of our fortieth wedding anniversary. During this trip we traveled with Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan to Suffolk, England, where we visited Dr. Jernigan's ancestral home at Somerleyton Hall, which is actually a castle. A member of the British House of Lords now resides there. He gave a delightful luncheon in Dr. Jernigan's honor at Somerleyton Hall. We also visited the church where several of Dr. Jernigan's ancestors are entombed.
Our last trip with Dr. Jernigan occurred in October of 1997 as we once again boarded the QE2 in New York City for a voyage back to England. Unfortunately, during that trip Dr. Jernigan became seriously ill and was hospitalized for several days in Paris.
The first of November, 1997, Dr. Jernigan, Mrs. Jernigan, Betty, and I boarded the Concorde in London and flew back to New York City in slightly more than three hours.
Dr. Jernigan was both thoughtful and caring about others. He was especially fond of Betty. When we visited him in Baltimore, at National Conventions, or other places, he always had a music box for Betty's collection. He would say to her, "I have a pretty for you." Betty proudly displays many of these music boxes in our home. When we visited with Dr. Jernigan in Banner Elk, North Carolina, while he was receiving alternative treatment, he once again said to Betty, "I have a pretty for you." When he had heard that we were coming, he had his secretary send him a music box for Betty. The last music box he gave her was at the 1998 Dallas convention. He was also generous to me. He often remembered me with a gift when he traveled abroad. One treasured gift is beautiful cuff links, which I wear on special occasions.
Sometimes when we visited Dr. Jernigan, especially in his National Center Office, he would say to us, "I have squirreled away some goodies." He would then serve us chocolates or macadamia nuts.
Dr. Jernigan was sensitive to the special needs of people. When Hurricane Hugo caused tremendous damage in 1989, several blind families were victims. Upon learning of this Dr. Jernigan sent a check for $10,000 to assist the blind people who had suffered from the hurricane.
Even in moments of distress Dr. Jernigan could be humorous. While attending the 1988 Thanksgiving meeting of the NFB Board of Directors in Baltimore, our new 1988 Cadillac was stolen from in front of the National Center. Learning of this, Dr. Jernigan quipped, "Well Don, whoever stole it had good taste." Shortly after telling him that we could replace the car but not the several cases of cassette tapes of music we had recorded, we received copies of most of his favorite cassette tapes featuring Bing Crosby, our favorite, and others. Dr. Jernigan also knew when to respond without being asked. In May of 1997, when Betty had a serious fall while visiting our son Craig in New York City, Dr. Jernigan sent Craig Gildner, who reads the Braille Monitor, to New York City to drive us back to Columbia as soon as Betty was able to travel. You don't forget that kind of kindness.
Dr. Jernigan had many rare qualities including tremendous charisma and a magnetic personality. Never have I seen anyone with better and more ideas than he demonstrated throughout his life. He was very creative and was an intellectual giant. The book of life will require many chapters to cover the innumerable accomplishments of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. His life made our lives much better.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Nell Carney]
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan: My
Teacher, My Mentor, My Friend
by Nell Cardwell Carney
From the Editor: Dr. Nell Carney is one of the lucky people who can remember what it was like to have Dr. Jernigan as an English teacher at the Tennessee School for the Blind. She and he were friends for many years. Following are first a letter she wrote to him last year and then the remarks she prepared for presentation during the memorial service. Here they are:
Wilmington, North Carolina
February 19, 1998
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
When I was a young student at the Tennessee School for the Blind, it was my good fortune to be placed in your English class. Before your arrival at the school, no one had challenged the students to perform at our maximum potential. All of that changed when you arrived. We needed a teacher, and you were there.
It wasn't very long before we realized that you were teaching us much more than English. You taught us that it was respectable to be blind. You taught us that with self-esteem and hard work we could attain any goals we set for ourselves. We needed a role model, and you were there.
As we grew older, many of us joined the organized blind movement in the 1960's. We joined you on the barricades although we were often frightened and felt inadequate to face the challenges. We looked to you, and you moved boldly forward, leading us onward. We needed a leader, and you were there.
There are no words to describe the influence that you personally have had on the lives of tens of thousands of blind people, young and old, rich and poor. Because of your belief in blind people, your personal encouragement, your leadership, and your relentless pursuit of opportunities and equality for blind people, many of us have achieved goals far beyond our grandest imagination. We needed a friend, and you were there.
I love you because of what you have meant to my life personally. I respect you for the great courage you have shown and continue to show in the face of tremendous challenge. I admire you for the leadership you have shown to the nation and world.
I pray every day for your recovery, your comfort, and your peace.
Nell C. Carney
Carney & Associates Consultants
I met Dr. Kenneth Jernigan when I was a young child at the Tennessee School for the Blind. He was the first successful blind person I had ever met. He was young and handsome and self-confident. It did not take the students long to learn that there was much more to Dr. Jernigan than dashing good looks and poise.
In his classroom we learned much more than English and communications skillswe learned the true meaning of responsibility. He taught us to be responsible for our own behavior and responsible for our own future. He taught us that it was respectable to be blind and that using alternative techniques so that we could be competitive with our sighted peers was the right thing to do.
Dr. Jernigan always insisted that we bring our slates and styluses to class. Periodically he would go from desk to desk and ask to see either one. If we didn't have one or both, we knew we were in trouble. He would punish us--not mean punishment. He would write a very long and complicated sentence and have us figure out the punctuation and then write it twenty-five times with the slate and stylus. Further, to make our minds work while we were physically writing, the sentence would always be a philosophical statement or a commentary on political or social events.
In Dr. Jernigan's classes we made speeches, had spelling contests, and memorized and recited Shakespeare and many English and American poets. One year he divided the student body into two groupsthe cats and the dogs. The dogs had cards that said "dog" and the cats had cards that said "cat." If a member of one group caught a member of the other group making a grammatical error, the offender had to give the person who caught the error a card. The group that ended up with the most cards from the opposing team won the game, and Dr. Jernigan had a cook-out for the group. We learned a lot of grammar that year.
When I was in the seventh grade, Dr. Jernigan called me in and told me that he had to decide who would get the award for English that year. He went on to say that I was probably his top English student, but he was not going to give the award to me because I would have many more chances since I was only in the seventh grade. I was so angry I left his classroom in a huff, slamming the door shut with all my might. He came behind me down the hallway and asked that I return to his room. Once inside the classroom he said to me, "You may leave now. Please close the door like the lady I know you are."
When Tennessee was organized in 1969 as an affiliate of the NFB, Dr. Jernigan suggested to me that I run for President. I did, and I won. He became my mentor and worked tirelessly with me to develop the leadership skills I needed to head the affiliate. It was during the organizing in Tennessee that the affiliate name "NFB of ______" was created.
In those days the Federation was not the mighty power it is today. Many of us were young and inexperienced, but Dr. Jernigan was our strength and our courage. No matter how harsh the battle nor how short the time, he was always there for me and many others whenever we needed him. He would say: "Meet me on the barricades, and we can make it all come true!" And we would rally around him although I can remember feeling afraid and unsure of myself. But he was there for us.
When Dr. Jernigan was in Iowa and I was in Tennessee, he used to come home for Christmas, and we would meet him at his family farm for dinner. He was as proud of that old farmhouse as if it had been a castle. He would show off little thingstables he had made, a toy he played with when he was a child. Once we were having dinner, and his aunt told how much Dr. Jernigan had liked boiled cabbage and boiled potatoes when he was a young child. His response was that he still liked them; he just couldn't ever get them.
Over the years I followed the Federation at various pacessometimes far, far behind. The times when I was distanced from the Federation, Dr. Jernigan would say to me every time we talked: "If I can help you in any way, all you have to do is call me." And I did many times, and he always responded with love and support. He was the best friend I have ever had.
When I was Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Dr. Jernigan and I talked often, but he never tried to tell me what to do. When I asked for his advice, he gave it thoughtfully. Together he and I decided that there should be a national policy about scholarships for blind students; so there is one today because of the support he gave to me in getting the policy into the federal policy manual.
During the four turbulent years I spent in Mississippi as Executive Director of the rehabilitation program, Dr. Jernigan was my strength and my support. I found it necessary to draw on his friendship many times, and he always responded with wisdom and caring.
When I was offered my present position, Superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped, I telephoned Dr. Jernigan to tell him. He was very, very ill by then. But instead of talking about himself, he told me that I had made him very happy and very proud.
Dr. Jernigan taught me that it was respectable to be blind. He taught me to take responsibility for myself and for others. He taught me courage. He taught me the meaning of friendship. In the words of Peggy Pinder Elliott, "he taught me how to be."
The values that Dr. Jernigan taught me when I was a child at the Tennessee School for the Blind have been my guideposts throughout my lifetime. All that is good and acceptable about me I learned from him.
I look at the students on the campus here in Alamogordo; and I think, if I can give to one or two of them what Dr. Jernigan gave to me, my time here will have been well spent. As long as I live, his teaching will be here. His spirit is with each of us and among all of us.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marsha Dyer and Dr. Jernigan sitting on the platform at National Convention]
Of Grammar Lessons and
Gold Tie Chains
by Marsha Dyer
From the Editor: When I became Associate Editor of the Braille Monitor, I began spending significant stretches of time in Dr. Jernigan's office, watching him conduct business and particularly observing him write: letters, memos, and especially articles. He dictated them, and though he often reread and polished the text using a Braille copy of his original dictation, he turned out amazingly superb copy sitting at his desk or pacing around his office. His secretary would frantically take dictation and read back the text on demand. He would make changes or cross out a sentence and begin again. I couldn't imagine how anyone ever kept it all straight and transcribed it.
The women who worked through the years as Dr. Jernigan's secretaries came to know him and his preferences in a way that very few other people had the opportunity to. Mrs. Dyercalm, efficient, warm, and conscientiouswas Dr. Jernigan's secretary for the last two years of his life. In the following article she remembers what it was like to work hour in and hour out with one of the most remarkable men of his day.
I first walked through the doors of 1800 Johnson Street in late September, 1990. I had an employment interview with Mr. Anthony Cobb. The initial meeting went fairly well, and about a week later Mr. Cobb asked me to return for a second interview. This time, he said, I was to meet with Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. I had no idea how to interact with a blind person, so I was more than a little nervous about this second interview.
I remember sitting in the lobby on the day of my appointment. A very distinguished looking older man came around the corner to enter the lobby area. I thought to myself, if this isn't Dr. Jernigan, it should be. And, of course, it was. He was wearing a tailored suit, white long-collared starched shirt with cuff-linked sleeves, four-point starched handkerchief in his breast pocket, silk tie, gold tie chain, and an NFB pin in his lapel. (Dr. Jernigan later referred to this as his uniform.) He stopped as he came around the corner and simply said "Mrs. Dyer?" I said that I was Mrs. Dyer, and I went over to shake his out-stretched hand. He then asked me to follow him to his office, and off we went.
Dr. Jernigan's office, I discovered, was a lot like himvery structured and masculine. His office had a dark maroon leather sofa against one wall with two matching chairs against the facing wall. And there was this wonderful smell of fine after-shave in the air. He sat behind his desk and offered me the chair which sits directly in front of his desk. He explained to me about the NFB and what the organization was aboutand then he asked me a few questions: "What, do you think, is the circumference of the earth?" "When did the Civil War start and where?" "What is the longest river in the United States?" "Who wrote Gone With The Wind?" "How do you spell supersede?" It went on for what seemed like hours but must have been only a few minutes.
Dr. Jernigan then did something I never saw him do again. He stood up, got his cane (which he always kept in the corner behind his desk)--and dropped it on the floor. He hesitated for a few seconds and then picked it up. Looking back, I think he dropped his cane on purpose to see what I would do about it. I did nothing. And I got the position.
I moved from the Records Center and became Dr. Jernigan's personal secretary in October, 1996. I suppose I have witnessed most of his distinguishing qualities at one time or another. I knew him to be gentle, firm, forceful, persuasive, kind, and giving; and he could be downright shrewd when it came to bargaining for convention room rates. But I never saw him truly angry about something or anybody. Maybe that is one of the reasons why he never had a single headache in his entire life. He was a firm believer in doing what you were able to do, and if it didn't work, then try something else. He loved to set a game plan in motion and to see if it turned out the way he thought it should. It usually did. Two of his many truly remarkable gifts were timing and intellect, and he exercised these with delight and gusto on many occasions.
Dr. Jernigan was a noted English and history scholar. One day, when I had been working at the Federation for about three years, I said something like this: "Now there's only you and me." I was asked what I thought was incorrect with the sentence I had just said. I replied that I didn't realize anything had been wrong with it. That little 6-word sentence led to a year's tutelage with Dr. Jernigan in grammar lessons. He enjoyed every minute of our weekly late Tuesday-afternoon sessions because he was a born instructor. I can't say I enjoyed them completely, but I was amazed that he would take his time to teach me, and I was very grateful for that. Dr. Jernigan's philosophy with grammar was that if a person can express himself or herself properly, it followed that the person's thought patterns would also be more distinct.
Dr. Jernigan enjoyed fine wine (I think he was partial to red wines, especially Cabernets), and he collected old radio programs, such as "Vic and Sade." He and Mrs. Jernigan delighted in planning elaborate dinner parties or having people over for cookouts, where Dr. Jernigan would charge up the grill and cook the most delicious, mouth-watering steaks you would ever hope to eat. One of his great passions was giving blind children the opportunity and right to learn Braille if they wanted or needed it. Another was developing the plans and drawings for our new building. He also liked to browse through catalogs and purchase unusual objects and gifts. He enjoyed lemon only in his iced tea and a little cream in his Starbuck's Sumatra coffee. He had a wonderful way of making you feel as if what you were saying to him was the most important thing on his mind. And it was. If he discovered something that he liked, such as hair cream, he would buy a life-time supply of it. And he was forever offering me the candy he kept on his desk. "Mrs. Dyer," he would say with a twinkle in his eye, "if you don't eat this candy, I'm going to have to throw it away." It's a wonder I didn't gain fifty pounds. Oh, how I miss him.
It is a well-known fact that Dr. Jernigan did not enjoy traveling in an airplane, to put it mildly. But travel he did. In recent years various Federation and World Blind Union meetings kept him and Mrs. Jernigan away a great deal of the time. In 1997, before he became ill, they were out of the office a total of 109 days on business trips. And this total did not include all of the day trips he made. But even when Dr. Jernigan took a day trip, he didn't stop working. Somebody else would drive, and I would accompany him; we would work on mail or he would dictate a speech or article to me on the way to wherever he was going.
When Dr. Jernigan's health worsened to the point that he could no longer come into the office, he would call me and ask me to come to his house and work. Mrs. Jernigan had set up an office in their bedroom, and we would work, sometimes for five hours, sometimes only for a half hour, depending on how well he felt. He dictated his last letter to Mrs. Jernigan less than a week before he died.
One of Dr. Jernigan's favorite sonnets is titled "Remember" by Christina Rossetti:
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, Better by far you should forget and smile Than that you should remember and be sad.
I read somewhere that the measure of a man is not gauged by how many people he loved, but by how many people loved him. I will remember Dr. Jernigan with love and gratitude, as thousands of other people all over the worldblind and sighted alikewill also remember him. And "be that as it may," we will all try very hard not to be sad.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: A man sits in a rocking chair reading a Braille book to children seated on the floor. CAPTION: Paul Flynn reads to a group of children.]
Paul and Joan Flynn
From the Editor: Paul Flynn is a rank-and-file member of the Baltimore Chapter. He and his wife Joan recently wrote Mrs. Jernigan the following letter:
December 18, 1998
Dear Mrs. Jernigan,
Joan and I wish to express our sympathy to you in your great loss. We are in Dr. Jernigan's debt forever. He was an inspiring and admirable man and leader of the blind.
I would not have secured my teaching job in the Baltimore Public School System without Dr. Jernigan's swift, timely, and decisive intervention on my behalf. In late October of 1983 officials in the hiring division of the Baltimore School System were vacillating and had been stalling for several weeks, failing to give me the teaching assignment they had promised. At that point I phoned Dr. Jernigan and told him about my problem. He immediately called Mayor Schaefer's office. Later that day he called me and told me to expect a phone call from one of Mayor Schaefer's aides the following day. I did receive that call, and within a week I received my teaching appointment at Mergenthaler High School. I taught English at that high school for the next fourteen years.
I know that I am only one of the many hundreds, perhaps thousands, who owe their success at least in part to Dr. Jernigan's assistance. He was one of those rare human beings who actually fulfill their remarkable powers. All of us will greatly miss him, but his influence is too deeply involved in the Federation, as in the lives of blind people everywhere, for it ever to die.
Your husband was, I think, a very good and great man, for whom my wife and I will always be grateful.
Paul and Joan Flynn
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Ellen Gabias]
Mary Ellen Gabias
From the Editor: I first met Mary Ellen Reihing, now Gabias, the year after the leadership seminar which she describes at the opening of her recollection about Dr. Jernigan. She was by then an unusually poised and wise young woman. The fruits of Dr. Jernigan's careful tending were already beginning to make themselves known in her actions and words. This is what she says:
When I was a young woman of twenty-one, I thought of myself as a college kid. I knew I was good at school work, but I had trouble imagining myself shouldering adult responsibilities. As a result of the work I had done organizing students in my state, I had been elected secretary of the national student division in 1973. But in my mind this was all practice; responsibility for the Federation belonged to the National President, Board Members, state leadersto the real adults. So, when Dr. Jernigan called to invite me to a leadership seminar in Des Moines over the 1973 Labor Day weekend, I was expecting a course for students. I read the literature I was sent as if I were preparing for an exam.
It didn't take me long to realize that this was no academic exercise. Nor was it a practice session for some future date when I might grow up and do some leading. Dr. Jernigan thought of me as both an adult and a responsible colleague. Others had told me I was an adult; he was the first person I had ever met who seemed thoroughly to believe it. He made it absolutely clear that every person at the seminar was expected to carry part of the loadeven scared, college-kid me.
Dr. Jernigan knew I was feeling overwhelmed. He did everything he could to reassure me at the same time he was presenting me with the toughest challenge I had ever faced. He went out of his way to make me feel I belonged.
On the first night in Des Moines we went to a restaurant where customers chose and prepared their own steaks. Another seminariana woman with more courage and honesty than I possessedtold him before we went that she didn't want to grill her own steak. She said she had never learned to grill them properly. She knew that other blind people could do it, but not she. "Don't worry," Dr. Jernigan replied. "You'll do just fine. I'll show you what you need to know. Grilling steaks is fun. How do you feel about grilling a steak, Mary Ellen?"
I had probably eaten fewer than ten steaks in my life! Not only had I never grilled one, I was not even sure whether I would know how a good steak should taste. I was embarrassed to admit my ignorance, but I knew it would be readily apparent as soon as we got to the restaurant. So I answered Dr. Jernigan's question in what seemed to me to be the safest way possible. "Well, sir," I replied, "I've never grilled a steak, but there's no harm in trying."
"There's no virtue in it, either," was his astonishing reply. "There's nothing more obnoxious than a blind person who's so touchy about his independence that he won't accept help when doing so would be more efficient and graceful. That sort of behavior says more about insecurity than independence." Someone showed me how to grill my steak, but that evening is memorable because of what it gave me to chew over in my mind. Dr. Jernigan was not a person who could be satisfied with a glib, safe, and self-serving answer.
The next day we started before eight in the morning and finished at ten in the evening. Dr. Jernigan showed me a thick stack of index cards with items he meant to cover. From time to time during the three days of the seminar he would walk over to my chair and show me how many items we had completed and how much was still left to do. There was more to do than we could possibly get done. That's the way it always is in the Federation. We worked hard, laughed a lot, and cried sometimes.
The experience changed the way I thought about myself. I began to understand that Dr. Jernigan could not carry the load alone. He could write and speak about blindness better than anyone else; his thinking was innovative; his courage was beyond question; but he also needed my help. He had shown me what the Federation meant to blind people. He had given the deepest and best part of himself to the movement. He had ceased to be an intimidating stranger and become a trusted friend.
I started work at the National Center for the Blind in October, 1982. Dr. Jernigan knew how to make hard work fun. The staff called themselves the citizens and met from time to time to celebrate birthdays and to decide on crucial matters like what brand of peanut butter we would buy for the lunch room. Citizens of the Center, like citizens the world over, paid taxes. There was a great deal of politicking to get the commodities various people wanted. Dr. Jernigan made alliances and brokered deals. Sometimes his side won, but not always.
Citizens who left items on the lunchroom counters or tables were subject to small fines that went into the treasury with the taxes. This boosted revenues and kept the lunchroom tidy. More than once a gleeful voice came over the public address system: "Dr. Jernigan, please retrieve your possession from the lunch room and pay your fine." He paid without a murmur of protest, but he also never missed an opportunity to collect fines from his colleagues.
Dr. Jernigan loved to entertain. Every year he invited the staff to his home for a picnic. We also had a potluck Christmas dinner. One year I made ratatouille. "Ratatouille," he said the word several times. Then he asked, "If you have just a little rattatouille, would you have mouse-atouille?"
He teased me a lot about my love of baseball, particularly my fondness for the Toledo Mudhens. "A coot can't mate with a mallard, but a mudhen can mate with either a coot or a mallard."
I wondered where in the world he had gotten that information about water fowl. "That shows that mudhens are very flexible," I responded.
"No, Miss Reihing," he answered. "That shows that mudhens are very promiscuous."
When I had been at the Center for a few weeks, someone called me with a good job listing in work with the blind. I called Dr. Jernigan, excited about the possibility of employment for a blind person.
"What does it pay?"
I had forgotten to get that basic data.
"Miss Reihing, you're going to have to lick your calf over. That's an expression I learned growing up on the farm in Tennessee. When a cow gives birth to a calf, she licks it clean. If she doesn't get the job done right the first time, she has to lick her calf over. Call the guy back and get me all the necessary information."
When I had done so and called him back with the complete information, he thanked me and then said, "You just wasted some poor person's PAC money." He never forgot that we were all accountable to blind people who sacrificed part of their meager SSI checks to help fund the Federation.
One day, when I was still very new on the staff, I told him I was afraid of making a mistake that would cause harm to a blind person. "You will, Miss Reihing. You can count on it. The only people who never get it wrong are the ones who do nothing."
When he was working, he worked very hard. When he wasn't working, he resisted working at all. One evening I was a guest at his home. The conversation around the dinner table was about politics, wine, the weather. I was thinking about something I was doing at work and asked him a question about it. He answered politely in one sentence and went back to discussing politics, wine, and the weather. Two more times I brought up questions about work with the same result. As the Bible says, "To everything there is a season."
Chapters and state affiliates frequently came to the National Center for the Blind to tour their property, talk to Dr. Jernigan and Dr. Maurer, buy aids and appliances, and enjoy good food and the excitement that comes from being at the nerve center of the National Federation of the Blind. Dr. Jernigan would often work late into the evening discussing the Federation with the members of the affiliates. At the end of a very long weekend he told a departing state affiliate that he was going to go and clean the bedroom and bathroom he had used while staying at the Center. One person said in an astonished tone, "He's the leader of the Federation, and he still cleans toilets!" Dr. Jernigan replied that it would be an irresponsible waste of the Federation's resources if he spent very much time cleaning toilets but that, if he was unwilling to spend some time cleaning, he didn't deserve to lead.
He was always teaching. Construction workers who helped with the remodeling at the Center frequently stopped me in the hall to tell a story about how Dr. Jernigan had noticed some flaw in their workmanship. They learned quickly that there was no room for sloppiness. One telephone installer grumbled, "I left less than a half inch of wire sticking out, and he noticed and asked me what it was for! I used to think that blind people didn't know what was going on because they couldn't see. I don't think that anymore."
Our opponents were often unnerved by his ability to change his approach when the situation warranted change. He could be unflinchingly confrontational when the rights of blind people were being trampled. He could also accept the need to work with people who disliked the Federation if doing so would safeguard the rights of blind people. I once asked him how he could keep from hating such snakes. "If a snake is going to bite you, you have to kill it. But you should always love the snake, even while you're killing it. A fat lot of good it does the snake, I suppose, but it does you a lot of good." Bitterness and hatred were not part of his character.
Dr. Jernigan was the first person outside of our immediate families to learn of my engagement to Paul Gabias. The growing Gabias family has continued to treasure his friendship. He was one of the people we called when our daughter Joanne was born with an infection that collapsed her lung and almost killed her. He rejoiced with us at her recovery and at the births of our sons Jeffrey and Philip.
Our fourth child, Elliott, was born on September 3--exactly twenty-five years after the First Seminar in Des Moines. Though he was weak and short of breath and knew his death was not far off, Dr. Jernigan rejoiced with us again. Without Dr. Jernigan's work, how many Federation families would never have come to be? The children of those families are truly his Federation grandchildren.
I'll miss Dr. Jernigan for the rest of my life. But I know the things he taught me will always be there to call upon, and my gratitude is even stronger than my grief.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: James Gashel, his wife Betsy Zaborowski, and Dr. Jernigan outside the Jernigan home]
September 14, 1998
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I'm not sure when it was that I last wrote a letter to you, but I think it may have been as long as thirty years ago back in Iowa. I guess this is so because I have had the honor to work by your side each and every day for the better part of this time. Now I must write to say good-bye.
It is an understatement to say that this is not easy. You have spent your entire life giving to us, and now we have only a few weeks left and very little that we can give to you in return. In the short term, I guess that just giving you time finally to be at peace is best.
Beyond that you should be comforted in knowing that the purpose to which you devoted your life is now shared among tens of thousands of us. It is true that your voice will be silent and your hand will not be on the tiller, but the course will be as steady as it has ever been.
You gave this assurance to Dr. tenBroek thirty years ago, and now we give it to you. One thing you know for sure is that the National Federation of the Blind is as strong as it has ever been. The trust that we now have is to keep it that way and to build on the progress you helped to make. Please know that this will happen. You have done everything you could possibly have hoped to do to make it that way.
You have said that there is no force on earth that can stop our progress. When you first said those words many years ago, it may have been a matter of faith, but now it has become a matter of fact. Through the patience of your teaching and the example of your life, the fire of your commitment to blind people has ignited an eternal flame which we will fuel and in our turn pass along.
So, Dr. Jernigan, as it has been during the journey of your life so far, it will continue to be during the journey you are now making. In ways that really count, you are not alone. I will miss your strength and your wisdom, but I promise you that my commitment to the mission of your life will always remain true.
Yours with thanks for all that you have meant and mean.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Deborah Kendrick]
From the Editor: Deborah Kendrick is a syndicated columnist, author, and editor. In recent years she has taken part in a number of Federation activities, but she did not know Dr. Jernigan. She wrote the following letter after she heard the news of Dr. Jernigan's death. She read it during the NFB of Ohio's convention memorial service. This is what she said:
October 13, 1998
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
A collage of stories surrounded your life. Charismatic, hypnotic, controlling, brilliantthese are words many have used in bringing those stories to life. There were stories about your holding the line and winning your point, and stories about your gentleness in incorporating a mistake into the overall fabric of knowledge. From the kitchen counter or the dining table, from the convention floor or the conference room, colleagues and friends have preserved and shared their memorable images of your magnitude. I have heard them, wondered over them, collected them too. All are now a part of the remarkable picture of the man, a picture growing and flourishing in my mind. But they are not my experience. What I will remember is your voice.
"It is OK to be blind," I heard you say on a recording a million years and miles ago, when I had thought perhaps the only way to continue my success was to hide the shameful fact of that ingredient.
"It's respectable to be blind," you said, and the concept, for me, was like a lifeline.
Your life is a wonderful mosaic that none could assimilate in a single encounter. From each shared experience we take from your historyas we did from your presencethe resounding chords of power and pride. I never touched your hand; but I heard your voiceand I thank you for your legacy.
From the Editor: Dr. Kudlick is a professor of history at the University of California at Davis. She grew up struggling with low vision but having none of the techniques and supports to assist her to live and work efficiently. Even though she has now regained much of her vision, she recognizes in retrospect how much she would have benefited from participation in the National Federation of the Blind. The Kernel Books have played a significant role in her growing understanding of herself and visual impairment. This excerpt from an e-mail message demonstrates the impact Dr. Jernigan had on people he never met:
I read Dr. Jernigan's obituary in yesterday's New York Times and wanted to express my sorrow to you and the NFB. As you know, I'm very new to lots of this, but in the past year a man I never had the good fortune to meet touched me very deeply. It will always be one of my great regrets that I hadn't come to terms with my vision stuff soon enough to have been able to talk to him about history and the rest, but I guess he talked to me, and sometimes dialogues are serial; I feel that I will carry much of what he said into my interactions with students, colleagues, friends, and others, and we will do the talking instead. . . .
I know you are beyond busy, so don't feel you have to write back anytime soon. It's just good to be able to write to you, and I was thinking of you and all the sadness around the loss of Dr. Jernigan, so there. Best of luck in the days and weeks ahead.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Larry McKeever walking together at the 1998 Convention in Dallas]
Larry A. McKeever
I first met Kenneth Jernigan in the mid-1960's. I had been reading for the Iowa Library for several years, and when I returned from Australia, I began work at a classical music station in Des Moines.
Shortly after that Dr. Jernigan called and wondered if this off-beat station would be interested in a program of poetry. Our friendship began with the production of those programs. I was immediately impressed with his knowledgenot only of poetry but of people and the world. His dedication to the Federation was apparent from the beginning.
Later that year Jim Valiant, Dr. Jernigan's administrative assistant at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, resigned to return to Maryland. Dr. Jernigan and I discussed the possibility of my assuming that position. After an intense interview and testing I was hired and attended my first NFB convention in Washington. We eventually decided that this was not the right position for me, so I assumed another job at the Commission. Mary Ellen Anderson, now Jernigan, joined the staff at that time. That was the beginning of my friendship with both of these remarkable people, a friendship which has lasted to this day.
Early in 1968 I started a recording studio. Not too long after that Dr. Jernigan called saying that the person who had been recording the conventions was retiring. He wondered if I was interested in that job as well as recording and producing the Braille Monitor. I began reading the Monitor and working closely with Dr. Jernigan, who usually read the articles he had written. My last Braille Monitor and Convention recording were done just as the studio at the National Center opened.
I remember the discussions about the difficult situation in Iowa in 1978--whether to stay and fight the nay-sayers or move the NFB offices. When Dr. Jernigan decided to go to Baltimore, I was saddened, but I agreed with the decision. I also remember the first time I went to Baltimore. The NFB occupied a smallish office on St. Paul Street with boxes and furniture everywhere. What a difference between that tiny space and the magnificent headquarters today at the National Center for the Blind! Kenneth Jernigan was the worker, the dreamer, and always the builder.
Speaking of building, later Dr. Jernigan called me to Baltimore to discuss building a recording studio at the National Center. We planned the rooms and the settings just as they exist today. Once they were built, I came again to Baltimore to equip the studio and help find someone to run it.
Everyone is familiar with Dr. Jernigan's dislike of flying. Many have heard a description of the eventful flight that Dr. Jernigan, Iowa Commission Librarian Mrs. Florence Grannis, and I made to Boise, Idaho, in the early 1970'sparticularly Dr. Jernigan's embellished version of that trip. But fewer knew of two other flights we made in the single-engine plane I flew. Before the Idaho trip Dr. Jernigan, Mrs. Grannis, and I flew into Chicago for a meeting. After landing my back gave out. By the time their meeting was over I was not fit to fly. So we quickly went to Midway airport to get a commercial flight. It was Dr. Jernigan's ministrations that got me safely back to Des Moines. (I recovered the plane a few days later.)
Dr. Jernigan kept sufficient faith in my piloting ability to make one later trip to Tennessee. This one was uneventful. But on the way I was able to acquaint him with the operation of the airplane, the radios, and the air system. I remain convinced that, if something had happened to me on that flight, with the help of another plane to talk him down he could have landed the airplane safely if not prettily.
For the past three years I have been privileged to serve as personal assistant to Dr. Jernigan at National Conventions. I was with him most of the time, attending sessions, travelling between meetings, and helping wherever needed. I also helped supply the Jernigan Suite, did necessary errands, and on occasion brought dignitaries to the convention. It's impossible to describe the wide-ranging discussions we had in our walks between meetings and after the day's work was done.
By the time we reached Dallas last summer, Dr. Jernigan had fought lung cancer for nearly a year and was tired from the illness and the treatments. But he carried on in convention sessions very nearly at the top of his form. Doing so took a great deal out of him. On the Saturday after convention, as I was leaving, he took my hand and said: "Mr. McKeever, if I don't make it to next year, find someone else to work for and tip one for me." I assured him at the time that I would tip several for him, and I will.
I feel distinctly blessed to have known Kenneth Jernigan. Tens of thousands will miss him because of the attitudes he changed. Thousands more will miss him because of the opportunities he made available. I will miss him because he was my friend.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Jim Omvig]
Through the Hands of Such
by James H. Omvig
From the Editor: Jim Omvig is an attorney who worked for some years with Dr. Jernigan in Iowa and who then went on to have a distinguished career in law. What follows is the entire speech he prepared for the memorial service.
He gave us hope where there had been only hopelessness; joy where there had been only sadness; confidence where there had been only doubt; and enthusiasm for life where there had been only despair. He gave us something else too, and he burned it into our very souls: "We know who we are, and we will never go back!"
It is a privilege of a very special order for me to speak to you here today, to rejoice in the life and work of Kenneth Jernigan. First, I was honored simply to know and work closely with Dr. Jernigan for nearly forty years. But, even more than that, my own life has been blessed by my relationship with him, for I was one of the lucky ones, one of those who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
My wife Sharon, who happens to be sighted, is as blessed as I. She met him as a young woman of nineteen; and, as she puts it, "He raised me up."
In my own case I was living in Iowa when Dr. Jernigan came into the state and opened the new Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center using the National Federation of the Blind's philosophy. I was one of the very early students in this remarkable attitude factory, and my life was changed forever. Through his kind, loving and patient tutelage, I acquired a passion for life and that burning desire not merely to survive, but to succeed.
Many can attest to his brilliance, to his passion for justice for the blind, and to the fact that for more than thirty years he was the prime mover in pushing back the frontiers of ignorance about blindness. But today I would like to show you a side of Dr. Jernigan not many people saw, by telling you several seemingly unrelated stories. Then I will finish by talking briefly with you about giving.
It was only many years after I had met Dr. Jernigan (when I was older and obviously a whole lot wiser) that I had an astonishing revelation: Dr. Jernigan loved me and believed in me long before I either hoped or believed in myself. When I met him in 1960, I had sat at home for almost eight yearsthis following my graduation from a wretched, regressive residential school for the blind. I had been in his office for about two minutes when Dr. Jernigan asked, "Are you blind?"
"Oh, no sir," I said. "I'm just a little hard of seeing." But he wouldn't let me off the hook with that kind of foolishness. So he asked, "How many fingers am I holding up?"
I was so ashamed of being blind that I didn't have the guts to tell him that I couldn't see him at all, so I guessed, obviously incorrectly, for he then said, "My friend, you are blind; you are a blind person." At that point I was convinced that this was one mean man.
He then explained his definition of blindness to me, but the interview didn't get any easier. Soon, when he learned that I was twenty-five years old, he said, "The chances are that you'll live for another fifty years. What are you going to do with all of that time?" He continued, "The choice is yours. Either you can come here as a student and learn to deal with your blindness, or you can go back home and sit. You should think about the fact, though, that a man can wear out the seats of a lot of trousers in fifty years."
I was stunned to silence by this grim prospect, but by and by he explained the Center's programs to me and offered me the chance to be one of his students, and the rest is history. Thank God I had enough sense to take the chance.
Now to a series of other stories. While I was a student in the Iowa Center, I learned both just how hard Dr. Jernigan worked (he usually put in more than a hundred hours a week) and also just how much he loved personally working with and teaching students. For example, we students lived right in the Commission building, and so did he. As students we typically worked from 6:00 in the morning until around 11:00 at night, five days a week. So we looked forward to sleeping in on Saturdays.
But it was common, at around 6:00 on a Saturday morning, to be awakened by a ferocious banging on our doors and a hearty, "Look alive in there. You can sleep when you get old! Breakfast is ready!" And we would go to the Jernigan apartment for breakfast. This gave Dr. Jernigan another hour or two to teach and motivate before he got on with the rest of his day.
It was following times like these around his dining room table or sitting in his living room or after 6:00 a.m. gym class or in his office that he also had one-on-one talks with us: peaceful, frank, and instructive. Those of us who were lucky enough to be his students will always feel deep gratitude for these special times.
And Dr. Jernigan also loved grammar, so he offered us a chance to attend his grammar class one night a week: another hour or two a week of motivating and teaching.
A wonderfully mellow side of Dr. Jernigan could be seen at holiday time. We always had a Center Christmas party, and it was never complete without his reading to us in Braille. He loved to build a great fire, sit near it, and read the Christmas Story from the Bible, "The Gift of the Magi," "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus," and other Christmas favorites. Those too were warm and wonderful times which will never be forgotten.
Ever wonder about this last name business either at the Iowa Commission or in the Federation? There is a story behind that too. It all started shortly after Dr. Jernigan came to work in Iowa as Director in March of 1958. He hadn't been there long when he observed a troubling practice: the sighted staff members were addressed by their last names while the blind employees were called by their first names. Being a man of justice, he knew that he must do something to save the situation. He could either have everyone use first names or last. He opted for last, from the Director right through the table of organization to the janitor. He believed that the bankrupt Commission for the Blind with its beleaguered staff needed to find waysanything he could use to bring about a feeling of pride and prestige. He thought that using last names might help. It worked.
And the financially bankrupt agency wasn't bankrupt very long, either. Success in the programs paid great dividends, but some other minor ingredients helped too. For instance, in the late 1950's and early 1960's, many of the Iowa state legislators loved poker, and they played a night or two a week. Now it so happened that Dr. Jernigan loved to play poker too, and he was good at it. Soon he was engaged in weekly games with members of the legislative leadership. He won so frequently that, before long, the legislators refused to let him deal the cards. They were convinced that he was able to feel the Braille dots while he dealt and thus to know their hands. To their way of thinking, how else could one explain that a blind man beat them so regularly?
These contacts, together with his obvious intellect and charisma and later the success of the program, soon resulted in unparalleled legislative support. For almost twenty years the Commission got virtually every dime of legislative funding it requested.
In addition to his counseling with and teaching students, Dr. Jernigan also often became involved in school and job placement activities. Let me tell you a little of the story of Curtis Willoughby, one of my fellow Center students in 1961. In casual conversation one day, Dr. Jernigan asked Curt what he planned to do as a career. Curt replied that he didn't know. Dr. Jernigan said, "I understand that you're good with electronics. I thought you'd probably pursue that as a career."
Curtis replied, "I'd actually like to become an electrical engineer, but my teachers at the school for the blind said a blind person couldn't do that."
Dr. Jernigan replied, "Look, I don't know any blind electrical engineersat least any who went through school as a blind personbut if that's what you want to do, then try."
Curtis did try, but Iowa State University officials then refused to admit him. As they put it, "This program is extremely difficult even for sighted students. We can't imagine how a blind person could possibly get through it."
Eventually Dr. Jernigan became involved in the struggle. He argued, "Look, all that Curtis wants is the chance to tryno special treatment, no favors, just a chance. If he succeedsand I believe that he willthat will be great. If he fails, then flunk him out just like you would flunk out any other poor student." School officials relented, Curtis was admitted, and the rest of his story too is history. Curtis has worked successfully ever since as an electrical engineer.
Then there is the story of Judy Young. She was the first totally blind public elementary school teacher to teach sighted children in both Iowa and North Dakota. When Judy was hired by the principal of Des Moines' Urbandale Elementary School, some irate Urbandale parents were so outraged about the hiring of a blind person to teach their kids that they actually pulled those children out of school. However, when reason prevailed, the kids came back, and by the end of that first year there was almost universal agreement that Judy Young was the best teacher their children had ever had.
But, as Paul Harvey says, "Let me tell you the rest of the story." After Judy's graduation from the Orientation Center, she had no difficulty being accepted at the University of Iowa, and she did well. But when she announced her intention of going into elementary education, the door was closed. Unenlightened school officials absolutely refused to let Judy in. In their minds it was one thing for a blind teacher to work in a high school, perhaps teaching social studies, but it was quite another thingindeed, an impossible taskfor a blind person to teach elementary education to sighted children.
Everything came to a head at a meeting which Dr. Jernigan attended along with school officials in Iowa City on a Sunday evening. (Just as an aside, imagine today a state agency director at a Sunday evening meeting 120 miles from home advocating for the rights of an agency client.)
Dr. Jernigan had gone to Iowa City to persuade officials to let Judy in. However, these officials first remained steadfast in their discriminatory determination to keep her out. Faced with this stubborn resistance, Dr. Jernigan finally said, "If that's the way you want it, fine. You should know, though, that I'm going to hold a press conference tomorrow morning in Des Moines to announce to the public that the State University of Iowa discriminates against its blind students. Frankly, I don't think you'll like that very much, and I can guarantee you that the public of Iowa won't like it at all. But if that's the way you want to have it, then so be it."
Dr. Jernigan's suggestion struck a nerve, and miraculously, right then and there, these officials became enlightened and understood that the bright and competent Judy really ought to have a chance. Again, this is the stuff which distinguished Dr. Jernigan from his director peers. Judy Young was extremely successful at teaching both in Iowa and, following her marriage, in North Dakota. Sadly, she died as a young woman, leaving behind a husband and three small children.
One last student story must be told. In the early 1970's a student named Jim Speed enrolled in the Center. Jim's was a unique case. He was around 6 feet, 9 inches tall and had come to Iowa to play basketball at the University of Iowa. All had agreed that he was a future All-American. However, during the first week of practice Jim became ill, and within a few days he was permanently, totally blind. He enrolled in the Center shortly thereafter, but it was difficult for him. First, of course, his entire NBA career with its potentially huge salary was gone. But also, almost everyone in Des Moines knew of his story and recognized him on the streets. They constantly stopped him to pat him on the back and to tell him how sorry they were for his terrible plight.
These two factors took their toll, and before long Jim was utterly down-hearted and discouraged. He became one of the most negative students the Center had ever had. Even more, this negativity began to rub off on the twenty or twenty-five others who were students at the time. Nothing we tried helped. Finally Dr. Jernigan called Jim into his office one day. "Jim," he said, "the time has come when we can't treat you with kid gloves any longer. You have two, and only two, choices. Either you pack up and leave today or tell me you want to stay. But, understand me, if you stay, you will be happy!
Jim grumbled, "If I choose to stay, are you saying I have to fake being happy?"
"That's exactly what I mean," said Dr. Jernigan. "Look here, Jim, it's one thing if you choose to throw away your own life, but I can't stand by and let you hurt these other students."
Since going home would have been a dismal prospect for Jim, he chose to stay, and he did fake it. The immediate change both in Jim and also in the other students was remarkable. Five or six weeks later Dr. Jernigan was awakened at around midnight one Saturday evening, not by Jim, but by another student. This poor fellow said, "I'm sorry to wake you at this time of night, but Jim Speed wants to see you in his room."
Dr. Jernigan thought, "What in the world has gone wrong now?" But he pulled on his robe and went to Jim's room. "Jim," he said, "I understand you need to see me."
Speed said, "Yah, I have something to tell you. I've faked being happy for so long now, that I just realized somethingI really am happy!"
Dr. Jernigan said, "That's wonderful, but don't you suppose you could have waited and told me in the morning?"
Jim said, "I could have, but I just wanted you to be the first to know!"
Jim Speed is working today as a rehabilitation counselor.
These and hundreds of other stories define the Dr. Kenneth Jernigan a lot of people didn't know. I could also have told you, for example, of the new, young staff membernot studentCommission staff member who, when he was arrested for possession of drugs on a Saturday night, called Dr. Jernigan rather than a lawyer or his parents for help. Or I could have told you of how, when he was speaking to some bored high school students one day, he flipped up and walked on his hands around the stage, "To capture their attention." It worked. However, in the interest of time, these few stories I have told will have to do.
Let me conclude with this: one of Dr. Jernigan's favorite teaching books is The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. His passage on giving speaks volumes about the life and work of Kenneth Jernigan. Gibran writes:
"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
"There are those who give little of the much which they haveand they give that for recognition; and their hidden desire makes these gifts unwholesome.
"There are those who have little, and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
"There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
"And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor do they give with mindfulness of virtue; they give as in yonder valley the flower breathes its fragrance into space.
"Through the hands of such as these, God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
"For it is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding."
Dr. Jernigan, surely God has spoken through your hands, and from behind your eyes He has smiled richly upon the earth. God bless you.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Pierce and Dr. Jernigan]
September 11, 1998
Dear Dr. Jernigan,
Like everyone else who loves you, in recent months I have been remembering all the things you have done for me and all the ways in which you have influenced and shaped my life since our first contact, in June of 1974. As I look back, it seems as if you have always called forth more from me than I thought was there to be found. How vividly I recall your telling me when you called to invite me to a leadership seminar over the Labor Day weekend in 1975 that I was not in a position to know what contribution I could make to the organization. If I could come to the seminar, that would be sufficient; we would discover together what I could do to help build the NFB during the months and years ahead.
As I flew home from that seminar, I wrote, "Those who oppose us may try to undercut this man's character, but during this seminar I have taken his measure, and I have never before met anyone with his capacity for love and faith in other people. No one can ever convince me that he is anything other than the finest man I have ever been privileged to know." That was twenty-three years ago, but my assessment has never altered.
In 1988, when you approached me about coming to work with you, I was frightened and uncertain at the prospect of taking on such an important and visible job. But you seemed convinced that I could do it. By that time my experience had taught me to depend on your assessments. As so often before, I walked out in faith and in the trust that you would steady my steps and teach me what I needed to know. You have been gentle, tactful, patient, and unfailingly kind, and you have always served as my teacher and guide.
For twenty-four years you have been only a phone call or letter away. Now I am forced to contemplate a future in which I must apply what you have taught and counseled without the immediate steadying of your wisdom and common sense. I will not pretend that I am eager or even ready to be turned loose, but I can promise you that I will do my best to remember all the lessons you have taught me, and I will do my best to continue your work to make the Braille Monitor the ringing voice of the Federation.
We who love you will continue to nurture and build the organization you have given your life to define and strengthen. The time and thought and love you have poured into shaping me, I promise I will pass on as best I can to those who come after. You believed in me at a time in my life when I hardly dared believe in myself. I promise you now that I will do my best to pass on what you have given methe love, the commitment, the wisdom, the patient concern, and the dedication. To whatever degree I possess these things, I will offer them to the movement you have built and taught me to cherish.
With love and gratitude,
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Hazel Staley]
Ruth Hazel Staley
Charlotte, North Carolina
September 3, 1998
Dear Dr. Jernigan,
For the past year I have prayed hard daily for your recovery, but apparently that was not to be. Now I try to console myself with the belief that God has something very special in heaven that He wants done: and, having carefully surveyed the whole world, He chose you as the person most likely to do it and do it well. I know you will serve Him well there as you have served Him and us here. I can't imagine life without you. You have been there so many times for me when I needed help or encouragement. I probably don't have many more years here myself, so I shall look forward to meeting you again when my turn comes.
I have been where Mrs. Jernigan is now, and I know the pain and frustration she is experiencing. Please convey to her for me that, if she ever needs a shoulder to cry on or just an understanding friend to talk to, I will be here.
Until we meet again, I am
Ruth Hazel Staley
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Following the memorial service, Barbara Walker reaches down to touch the roses on Dr. Jernigan's grave.]
Making It Count
by Barbara Walker
From the Editor: Barbara Walker is President of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. Here is the eloquent and moving tribute she paid to Dr. Jernigan at the December 5 memorial service:
Somewhere in our National Center for the Blind, I once helped to secure a nail. I don't know exactly where it is or even if, in the course of remodeling, it's still there. But the lessons of that nail will always be a part of the building of my life. My instructor was Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.
I believe the year was 1979. The occasion was a meeting of the American Brotherhood for the Blind, now the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. The place was an old run-down building at 1800 Johnson Street in Baltimore.
We gathered in an enormous, echo-y room, where we were given the opportunity to nail down a section of floor covering. Some on the Board eagerly accepted the hammer and nails Dr. Jernigan offered and went immediately to work.
As he handed me a nail (the biggest one I had ever seen), Dr. Jernigan quietly asked me if I had ever driven one. Embarrassed and a bit apprehensive, I said "No."
With irresistible enthusiasm he drew me into the process of building. Neither the nail itself nor the driving of it was insignificant to him. He showed me how to choose where to place it, taking into consideration its function and its proximity to other nails. He then invited me to observe the placement of his hands as he held the nail firmly upright while tapping it gently, saying that it was important not only to get it started straight but also to hold it steady until its direction was established and it was solidly grounded. After that, it was a matter of rhythm, coordination, and confirmation of the nail's position and progress. This he accomplished by touching the head of the nail between hammer strokes.
When he handed me the hammer, there was still room for the nail to bend if I hit it wrong, but it had a good straight start. My first taps were tentative. The nail didn't bend, but neither did it progress. Dr. Jernigan pointed out that, even if you're doing the right thing, if you do it without conviction, it's all for naught. "Make it count!" he urged. "Make it count!"
My next swing of the hammer was both true and convincing. The nail went deeper. When I hesitated between swings, Dr. Jernigan said the job would be done more quickly and with less chance of error if I just got into the rhythm and drove the nail home.
He was right. As I concentrated on the goal, bringing my whole self into synchronizing the components, most of my swings were productive, and the nail went down, resting at last flush with the flooring. When, upon completion, Dr. Jernigan voiced his approval, I felt at once proud of having made a small contribution to our building and awed by the impact of the wise counsel I had just received from this master builder.
As if reading my thoughts, Dr. Jernigan proclaimed, intermittently slapping a nearby pillar for emphasis, that each of us had now contributed to the structure of the National Center for the Blind. He hoped we felt proud of our investment and personally responsible for maintaining and improving upon it. I did and still do.
As I reflect on that moment with Dr. Jernigan, I recall many similar lessons in building within the context of Action Fund business. Mostly they have to do, not with nails, but with people's lives. For just as he took, more than once in his lifetime, shabby and dilapidated structures and dreamed them into grand and functional facilities, so too did he take broken and dispirited human beings and love them into independent and fulfilled people.
Dr. Jernigan taught us, in all we do, to be builders. Sometimes we build with intangibleshope, encouragement, or truth about blindness. Sometimes we build with thingsgrants, equipment, or books in Braille. But whatever the setting, whatever the tools, our job is, as it was for me the day I learned to drive a nail, to answer Dr. Jernigan's challenge and "make it count!"
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Nicolas Stockton]
The Fifth Generation
by Nicolas Stockton
From the Editor: Not many of today's blind children will grow up with strong recollections of Dr. Jernigan. Nicolas Stockton is one of the lucky ones. His mother is active in the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and Nicolas, who is now about ten, has been attending NFB conventions for more than half his life. This is what he wrote:
Dr. Jernigan was one of the most important people in my life. I first met him when I was four at the NFB Convention in Dallas, Texas. Mom told me that there was a man who had known my great-grandfather, Dr. Sam Lawton, who was blind; and she took me to see Dr. Jernigan after one of the sessions. Dr. Jernigan told me about my great-grandfather. He called him a very great man, and he called him a friend. Dr. Jernigan took out his own pocket knife and gave it to me. He told me that it was to remember him by. All these years I've kept his pocket knife in my NFB music box. Every time I take it out, "Glory, Glory, Federation" plays, and I remember Dr. Jernigan.
I've learned a lot about my great-grandfather since then. He helped start the NFB in South Carolina, and he was a preacher and a teacher and a good man. When I think about Dr. Jernigan, it makes me remember what people have told me about my great-grandfather. Dr. Jernigan was not my great-grandfather, but I think he was very much like him. My great-grandfather died before I was born, but Dr. Jernigan did what a great-grandfather does: he gave me a sense of my family's place in NFB history. He gave me a heritage. He also helped me to get a Brailler so I could learn to write. I wrote to him when he was sick with my Brailler. I miss him very, very much, but I still have his knife, and I will always remember him almost like he was my great-grandfather.
by Kenneth Jernigan
For the recipes this month we have gathered together several recipes that Dr. Jernigan contributed through the years to this column.
From the Editor: It's unlikely that anyone who ever shared a meal with the Jernigans in their home found no cornbread on the table. Dr. Jernigan dearly loved it and made sure that there was always a supply on hand. The recipe is the authentic one, and one can still buy cast iron pans for baking it from the Materials Center at the National Center for the Blind.
1 cup yellow corn meal
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Sunflower seed, safflower, corn, or olive oil
Method: Mix the cornmeal (the nondegerminated kind if you can get it) with the soda, baking powder, salt, and buttermilk. Do not mix the buttermilk with the dry ingredients until the oil has been put into the oven to heat. This will give you a better product.
Get your oven to a temperature of 475 degrees. (Be sure that you get it that hot even if you have to use an oven thermometer to know.) Use iron muffin rings or iron corn stick molds, and put two teaspoons of oil in each individual ring or mold. Wait until your oven has reached 475 degrees. Then put your oiled pans in, and leave them for six minutes.
Take the pans out of the oven and put one tablespoon of the corn bread mix in each ring or mold. Put the filled pans back into the oven immediately and leave them there for sixteen minutes. Remove from oven and much joy in eating. By the way, the teaspoons and tablespoons and the cups are the measuring variety, not the regular kind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and Barbara Pierce concoct a barrel of NFB Tea.]
Somewhere around 1970, when the National Office of the Federation was at the Randolph Hotel Building in Des Moines, I began making a concoction which I called NFB Tea. I served it to the first seminar, which occurred in the fall of 1973, and I served it in the presidential suite at National Conventions. Some admired it; others couldn't tolerate it; but everybody knew about it.
Then, as the seventies passed into history and the eighties came and went, the custom of serving NFB Tea at conventions and seminars faded. However, there are those who pine "for the good old days" and long to see a revival of the soothing brew. They continue to ask that the recipe for the NFB Tea appear in the Monitor.
When I remind them that I put it into the Monitor some time early in the seventies, they simply respond with annoyance, saying that they don't remember it, don't have that edition of the Monitor, or don't want to be bothered with irrelevancies. Since the recipe is now quite different from what it was when it appeared in the Monitor a decade and a half ago and since the requests continue, it seems worthwhile to print it again. So here it is as revised:
You can make as much or as little NFB Tea as you want by increasing or decreasing the quantity of the three basic ingredients. Just keep the proportions the same. Pour equal parts of pineapple juice, orange juice, and cranberry juice or cranberry cocktail into a large container. If you don't intend to use at least as much as a forty-six-ounce can of each of these juices, it hardly seems worth the bother, not to mention which it will be difficult not to overflavor. After you mix these three basic juices, the fun begins. I usually add about one-third as much peach or apricot nectar and one-third as much apple juice as I have used of each of the three basic ingredients. Sometimes (but not always) I also add a small amount of pear nectar if I have it, about half as much as I have used of the apple or peach.
Then I begin to sweeten the mixture with either sugar or sugar substitute and add flavors, tasting as I go. I regard certain flavorings as indispensable, but NFB Tea is a highly flexible brew, which should be crafted to the taste of the brewer. I always use vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I use liquid cinnamon and nutmeg, and if I don't have the liquid, I make it by heating the ground spice in water as strong as I can and straining it.
Next I add small amounts of a large variety of other flavorings. I emphasize that you should begin with only dribs and drabs. Remember that you can always put more in; once it's there, you can't take it out. The mixture of flavors will depend on the whim of the moment and what I have handy. But I will always use at least eight or nine in addition to the cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. Here are some of the ones I use: almond, Angostura bitters, anise, apple pie spice, arrack flavoring, banana, blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, brandy flavor, butternut, butterscotch, butter rum, caramel, cherry, peach, chocolate, clove, coconut, coffee flavor, English toffee, a tiny amount of ginger, hickory nut, lemon, pineapple, lime, maple, orange, orange bitters, pear, pecan, pistachio, pumpkin pie spice, root beer, rose, rum flavor, sassafras, violet, sherry flavor, strawberry, tangerine, walnut, and most anything else I can find. I don't use mint, eucalyptus oil, or wintergreen. It will also be observed that NFB Tea contains no tea. When I first started making the brew in the early seventies, I used Lipton tea, but I abandoned the practice before the end of the decade. It had to do with some of my Mormon friends and also with my evolving taste. I like it better without the tea.
When the mixture has been thoroughly concocted and tasted, a good deal of ice should be added and stirred in. All that remains is to enjoy the product and try different proportions next time, but not different proportions among the three basic ingredientspineapple juice, orange juice, and cranberry juice or cocktail. And no omission of the three basic flavorings vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Anything else goes.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer inspect a Thanksgiving roast of beef.]
Ginger Beef and Other Things
Ordinarily I appear in these pages as Monitor Editor, and sometimes as the author of an article, but on this occasion I want to deal with cooking or, more precisely, the creation of recipessomething which I dearly love to do. Two or three years ago Mrs. Jernigan and I went to a Jewish wedding, and the beef was just about the best I had ever tasted. I hunted up the host, who hunted up the chef, who told me how he did it. It had to do with a marinade, in which he had partially immersed the meat, turning it now and again. I liked the recipe, but I thought I could improve itand, at least to my taste, I have.
This is what you might call a sort of all-purpose marinade. Mrs. Jernigan and I use it for beef, pork, and fish. We boil mushrooms in it. We make gravy of it. I'm sure it would be good with chicken, vegetables, and (for all I know, though I have never tried it) desserts, stir fries, or mixed drinks. It might even work as hair tonic, liniment, shoe polish, cleaning fluid, or a remedy for the flu. Be that as it may, here it is for whatever you choose to do with it. Use it at your own risk. We make no guarantees and assume no responsibility for the results.
When I use this recipe, I usually multiply everything by four or five so that I will have some to use and some to keep. If I am preparing beef or pork, I put a gallon or two into a large bucket or pan and totally immerse the meat, putting a plate or bowl on top of it if necessary to hold it down. I then refrigerate it for twenty-four hours, remove the meat, and either cook it or freeze it for future use. Frozen, it will keep very nicely for months or years, perhaps because of the potency of the marinade. Anyway, here it is:
4 cups soy sauce
2 cups dry sherry (Dry Sack preferable)
½ cup ground ginger (Yes, I know it sounds like a lot, but that's how much to use.)
¼ cup liquid smoke
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning (Old Bay is a Maryland spice. If you can't find it, maybe you should substitute a couple of teaspoons of McCormick Season-All and a teaspoon of chili powder. If you can't find the Season-All, then you might simply want to leave this ingredient out, or have a shot at something else.)
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper
Method: Stir all ingredients thoroughly; immerse the meat; and prepare for pleasure.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mrs. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan]
From the Editor: Last year Mrs. tenBroek came upon the following prayer in some travel diaries. It was written by her brother, Rabbi Norman Feldheym. She sent it to Dr. Jernigan "with all good wishes to the best of good friends." Since it expresses Dr. Jernigan's heart-felt prayer during the final year of his life, it seemed a fitting way to close this memorial issue.
February 8, 1934
O Lord, God, Master of the Universe, Thou by whose will and intelligence this universe was created, heed Thou my earnest prayer.
I know that the life of man on earth is a precarious thing, that it is his lot to bear pain as well as to enjoy happiness, that it is his fate to endure suffering as well as to be blessed with health. This is the price man pays for the privilege of living.
I who know Thy ways do not ask to be different from all other men and women; I know that I, who am mortal, must with my fellow man bear my share of pain in its turn, and endure my portion of suffering in its time. My only prayer, O God, is for patience, strength, and courage. I ask only for the patience to bear my lot with calmness, for the courage to face my pain with hope, and for the strength to endure my suffering with fortitude.
I ask only for patience, strength, and couragethe patience, strength, and courage by which all ills are finally overcome, by which all wounds are healed and soon forgotten. This is my earnest, my sincere prayer, O God, O God in whom all hope resides, in whom all faith endures. Amen.
Copyright© 1999 National Federation of the Blind
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Posted January 29, 1999