by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: President Maurer has written a tribute to former NFB president, Russell Kletzing. It is followed by his obituary as it appeared in the Sacramento Bee for March 3-4, 2013:
Russell Kletzing (Russ), who died February 15, 2013, served as president of the National Federation of the Blind from 1962 until 1966. He was a lawyer trained in California who worked for much of his career for state government. He came to his appreciation of the law—and he got a lot of his training—from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the first president of the National Federation of the Blind. Dr. tenBroek was Russ’s mentor, his friend, and his leader. He also supported Kletzing’s election for president of the National Federation of the Blind. During the time that Dr. Kenneth Jernigan served as a member of the faculty of the newly established California Orientation Center in Oakland, from 1953 to 1958, he and Russ became good friends. At the time Dr. tenBroek was, of course, president of the Federation. He had a group of leaders who worked with him to build the organization and to manage its affairs. Russ Kletzing, Tony Mannino, Muzzy Marcelino, Perry Sundquist, and Dr. Jernigan were all part of this group. Russ became president during a time of turmoil in the Federation, and he brought stability to the organization at a time when its governance had suffered from chaotic conditions. During his presidency there was a period of rebuilding and slow but steady growth.
I never met Russ Kletzing, but I have heard his voice, and I participated in the 1969 convention, at which I believe he was present. Russ ceased to be a political factor in the Federation beginning in about 1970. After I had become president of the organization, I invited him to visit the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, but he never accepted the invitation.
Although Russ ceased to be a political factor in the organization, he never sought to disrupt it. In the 1990s he offered us some of his recollections in an oral history.
Russ Kletzing is remembered for a very practical approach to the politics of blindness and to the operations of the Federation itself. When Dr. tenBroek was thinking of resigning from the presidency, Russ Kletzing remarked, “The only thing you get by resigning is out of office.” This direct, practical approach to the politics within the organization is what Russell Kletzing is noted for pursuing. He benefited from the Federation; he served as our leader for four years; his life was enriched by his experiences in the organized blind movement; and he did what he could to contribute to it.
The presidency of the Federation is a most demanding and challenging position. It changes the people who take the job. I appreciate Russell Kletzing’s willingness to attempt to manage the administration of the Federation during a period of trial, and I am a little sorry that he did not accept the invitation to visit our headquarters, to share ideas, and perhaps to be willing to become active in the organization once again. I respect him for the positions he took and the leadership he offered.