(back) (contents) (next)
A house divided against itself cannot stand. These words of Abraham Lincoln forever resonant with the echoes of civil war rang in the ears of blind Americans during a critical four-and-a-half-year period in the history of the organized blind movement extending roughly from mid-1957 to early 1962. For in those years their own house, self-built and self-designed, was divided against itself and there was serious reason to doubt whether it could any longer stand.
The reasons for this protracted civil war among the organized blind were various but not fundamentally complicated. The troubles within the movement were related in part to the troubles without; for at least a few active members came to resent and resist the hard line adopted by the National Federation toward the hostile agencies of the blindness system in the struggle for the right to organize. (That difference of philosophy and attitude was to become more evident in later years when the splinter group formed by dissident ex-Federationists, under the name of the American Council of the Blind, consistently opposed the NFB in its struggles with industries and agencies engaged in acts of discrimination against the blind.)
A deeper source of division, however, sprang from the very success of the Federation its rapid rise in affluence and influence. Whereas in the lean years of the movement there had been a scarcity of office-seekers and volunteer workers, during the prosperous fifties aspiring leaders sprang up on all sides some of whom won national office and responsibility while others failed in their bids for recognition and accordingly came to feel neglected and ill-used. Reinforcing this source of friction in the movement were marked differences of personality and temperament among some of the more prominent members, which in a few cases became so deep as to become irreconcilable. Clearly as the bitterness and hysteria of many personal attacks upon Federation leaders demonstrated there were elements of envy and jealousy, as well as ambition, involved in the campaign of disruption. Added to these feelings of personal grievance, furthermore, were the common frustrations and suspicions aroused in many blind persons by the very real inequities encountered daily and habitually in a world geared to vision and the visual.
Although signs of disgruntlement had surfaced earlier, the first substantial outbreak of civil war occurred in the summer of 1957 with the firing of A. L. Archibald, the Federation's Washington representative. Archibald had tried to achieve political power by making alliances with various members of the Federation's leadership, but these efforts had been unsuccessful except in the case of Board Member Durward McDaniel of Oklahoma. Increasingly Archibald refused to accept supervision or follow instructions from President tenBroek. Finally (in August of 1957) tenBroek fired Archibald, but the full story of the events leading to the dismissal was not told until almost two years later.
In the spring of 1959 (at the height of the Federation's civil war) a special supplement of the Braille Monitor was issued. It carried, among other things, the details of the Archibald episode. Written by Kenneth Jernigan, the Archibald article played an important part in charting the course for the organization during the remainder of the internal struggle.
by Kenneth Jernigan
In August of 1957 A. L. Archibald was fired from the staff of the National Federation of the Blind. This event ushered in a new era in Federation affairs. It became the focal point of an internal conflict, which was already getting underway. It was the beginning of a civil war.
Throughout all of the strife which has plagued the Federation ever since, one figure, A. L. Archibald, has been ever present. In whatever part of the country the conflict has flared, wherever there have been unrest and dissension, wherever there have been charges made there has A. L. Archibald been. He has lurked in the background as a principal agitator and emissary of hate and suspicion.
Unlike McDaniel and Boring [Durward McDaniel of Oklahoma and Marie Boring of North Carolina], he has not, until recently, made public statements or circulated letters through the mail. He has kept himself in the background. Many of the delegates at Boston did not even know that he was present at the convention. Yet, he was always at Durward McDaniel's side.
The time has now come when A. L. Archibald must be brought forth from the shadows. His story must be told so that Federationists everywhere may know the real reasons for his dismissal the facts about his performance as a Federation staff member.
The McDaniel faction has sought to make Archibald a hero. In general the story they tell is this: Archibald was a tireless worker for the Federation. He was brilliant and shrewd, a lobbyist without equal. He was loyal to the organization that hired him. He worked both day and night to advance its interests. Because he would not bow to the whims of the dictator who was and is the President of the Federation, he was suddenly fired without warning or cause. He was not even given an opportunity to resign or told why he was being dismissed. Emissaries from the dictatorial President simply came to his hotel room one night and gave him a letter saying that he was fired.
What are the facts? Is this a true account of what happened? Was Archibald really a hard worker? Did he win friends for the Federation? What were his attitudes toward the elected officers of the organization? Were there specific reasons for his dismissal, or was it simply based on whim? Let Federationists everywhere read the record and judge for themselves. Let them read Archibald's own letters. Let him speak for himself. This is the Archibald story.
When the Federation was established in 1940, there was little money to hire staff or do anything else. The first thought of paid employees came in 1942 at the Des Moines convention. At that time the delegates unanimously decided that the President, not the Executive Committee [the name Executive Committee was later changed to Board of Directors], should do the hiring. The nominating committee was also serving as a resolutions committee. The exact wording of the motion establishing the first Federation staff position was as follows:
Your nominating committee formally recommends that the Federation authorize its President to appoint a person to act as his assistant and to be officially designated as Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind.
The first Executive Director of the Federation, Mr. Raymond Henderson, was selected and appointed by the President. He served brilliantly and efficiently from 1942 until his death in 1945. The President then selected and appointed Mr. Leslie Schlingheyde. Mr. Schlingheyde, however, did not get his work done, and he was dismissed by the President. In 1946 Mr. Archibald was hired as a part-time employee. In 1952 he was employed on a full-time basis.
It was hardly a year after his full-time employment that the trouble started. He began to refuse to carry out assignments given him by the President of the Federation. He insisted upon his right to decide whether specific articles or other printed material sent him by Dr. tenBroek should be distributed in Washington. In one instance he categorically refused to circulate a particular article concerning public assistance because he thought the wording was not quite what it should be this despite the fact that he was a hired staff member and Dr. tenBroek was the elected President of the organization with responsibility for supervising his work.
From 1952 to 1956 there was a gradual deterioration in Archibald's performance and attitude. He tried more than once (unsuccessfully) to form political alliances with individual members of the Executive Committee, always with complaints against Dr. tenBroek and the fact that he, Archibald, was under Dr. tenBroek's supervision. He became increasingly sulky and insubordinate, and there were long periods of time when he did (and moreover seemed incapable of doing) little if any work at all.
Throughout all this nonperformance and insubordination, Dr. tenBroek was patient in the extreme. As he later said, he kept hoping that if he were patient long enough, Archie would come to his senses. In the meantime Dr. tenBroek was careful to make no statement which would injure Archibald's relation with the affiliates. He had only words of kindness and friendliness for him.
It may well be that the 1956 convention at San Francisco, that meeting which seemed so harmonious and full of promise for the Federation, was the real turning point in the Archibald story. Archibald's earlier attempts at forming alliances with members of the Executive Committee in opposition to the President had been unsuccessful. At the 1956 convention the name of Durward McDaniel was placed in nomination for the Second Vice Presidency of the Federation. He was defeated in the nominating committee. It was then that McDaniel went to Dr. tenBroek's room and angrily talked to him and other leaders of the Federation about the presidential succession. It was soon after the San Francisco convention that Archibald's insubordination increased markedly and that carbons of almost all of his letters began to be sent to McDaniel, but not to other members of the Executive Committee.
The extent of Archibald's nonperformance and insubordination is so great that it should be shown by his own letters. Otherwise it could hardly be believed.
On August 6, 1956, Dr. tenBroek wrote to Archibald requesting him to prepare a draft of proposed federal rules and regulations implementing the new self-care and self-support provisions of the 1956 Social Security Act Amendments. This was simply a routine assignment.
On August 15, 1956, Mr. Archibald replied in perhaps one of the strangest letters ever written by an employee to an employer. Among other things, he said that while he appreciated the honor of it all, he felt forced to decline to carry out the assignment. He was not content merely to send this letter to the President of the Federation but sent it to others as well, among them, of course, Durward McDaniel. The letter says:
Dear Chick: [Dr. tenBroek was called Chick by some of his close associates.]
My vacation plans and reservations have all been canceled. I don't know how much good this will do the Federation; for I can't cancel my secretary's plans. She is scheduled to give birth to a baby this week. Tomorrow, in fact, is the due date. Having had the forethought to time the arrival of this infant for some time after the close of the congressional session, these plans can be changed by no one. She has, in fact, pressed her luck a bit by staying on as long as she has. But this is her final day with me. I have thus far had no luck in finding a temporary replacement. Were it not for her kindness in volunteering to come in for a few hours now and again until she goes to the hospital, my prospects for getting anything done would indeed be slight. I have set these facts forth in order that you and others may understand fully my situation here with respect to the project outlined in your letter of August 6th.
My first comment with respect to that project is that you do me entirely too much honor to believe that I can, like Athena sprang from the head of Zeus, single-handedly come forth with a complete plan in all its refinements whereby the Social Security Administration will have to do no work to adopt regulations putting into effect the new self-support purpose of state public assistance plans. I am sure that there are many ideas which would never occur to me; nor do I have any long administrative experience to think of all the details. Therefore, while I appreciate the honor of it all, I am compelled to decline the full responsibility for developing a set of regulations to submit to Schottland. [He refers to Charles Schottland, the head of the Social Security Administration.] I am in consequence calling upon a group of Federation leaders, including yourself, to concentrate upon this project with virtually the same attention that I shall be giving to it. Without their help and yours the project will amount to very little. Having deleted the last paragraph of your letter from the copies I have made of it (the paragraph is not relevant to the project), I am accordingly sending copies of your letter and this one to the people who are listed below in an earnest appeal for ideas from them and with the full knowledge on my part that if they do not make contributions we will probably not have very much to suggest to Schottland.
Cordially, A. L. Archibald Executive Director
On August 20, 1956, Dr. tenBroek replied:
This will reply to the tone and substance of your letter of August 15.
In my letter to you of August 6, I asked that you set to work immediately preparing a draft of proposed federal rules and regulations implementing the relevant provisions of the 1956 Social Security Act Amendments. In so doing, I had no idea that I was conferring an honor upon you. I was sending you an assignment, which I now repeat.
The task is not at all formidable. This is the sort of thing that staff people are doing in welfare departments all around the country every day and in voluntary agencies and organizations. I expected that the product would need some refinement and that it would not spring full-grown from your head, making unnecessary any further work either on our part or that of Schottland. There is no need to worry about refinement, however, until a primary draft is in hand.
As I view the picture, it is urgent that we prepare our proposals as soon as possible. We are under the gun. The federal people are already hard at work on such rules. Moreover, the people in the state departments are also getting their ideas together. Our proposals will have their maximum impact if presented while a relatively fluid condition still exists in the minds of federal and state directors. Progressively as their ideas jell, the possibility of getting our ideas accepted diminishes.
Let me say two things about your distribution of this assignment to other Federation leaders. The first is that if I had wanted them to work on the matter at this stage, I would have written them myself. The second is that this is the wrong stage of the matter at which to call on them for their contribution. They are all extremely busy and overburdened with Federation work. They should, therefore, be asked to contribute only when they can do so with maximum advantage and minimum effort. That stage would be to make their comments and suggestions when the primary draft has been prepared and the pick and shovel work done. Doing that pick and shovel work and getting the primary draft ready should be performed by staff.
You should, therefore, understand that these are instructions to you and that I expect them to be treated as such. When you have completed your draft, please send it directly to me.
Cordially yours, Jacobus tenBroek President
Despite continued urging on the part of Dr. tenBroek, the proposed draft of the federal rules and regulations was not forthcoming.
On November 21, 1956, Dr. tenBroek wrote as follows:
On October 9 I sent you a copy of a rough draft of proposed Social Security rules and regulations prepared by Perry Sundquist. In the covering letter to you and a number of other people, I requested comments and suggestions preparatory to the working out of a final draft, which I indicated I would try to do in a couple of weeks from that time when I returned from Ohio. Subsequent events have prevented my completing the draft. Meanwhile, much valuable time has gone by and valuable opportunity has been lost to present a set of well worked out proposals to the state and federal agencies.
I now re-assign this task to you. From August 6 to October 9 you were supposed to have been working on this job anyway. During most of that time you had very little else to do. Surely you had ample chance to do the thinking required. Assuming that you did not do it, however, you now have before you Perry's rough draft to aid you in the process. A very few days of concentrated work should produce the finished product. I expect you to get at it immediately and to complete it quickly. You are to send your final draft to me for review and distribution.
Let Federationists everywhere read and marvel at the reply of November 26, 1956.
You expressed an interest in learning what progress is being made on the proposed revisions of federal public assistance regulations to carry out the new self-care provisions added to Title X this year.
I am happy to say that work on these proposals has been underway for a long time past. I believe that, if there are no further serious interruptions such as have occurred frequently since the project was first undertaken, the job will be completed in the fairly near future.
I am happy to say (he refers here to Dr. tenBroek's appendectomy) that you have come out of your recent surgery in apparent good shape. We all seem to be subject to interruptions which are not of our own choosing.
One need hardly add that the inevitable copy was sent to Durward K. McDaniel.
On December 5, 1956, Dr. tenBroek replied in a letter which most administrators would consider mild indeed under the circumstances:
In your letter of November 26 you begin with the sentence: You have expressed an interest in learning what progress is being made on the proposed revisions of federal public assistance regulations to carry out the new self-support and self-care provisions added to Title X this year. This is a most amazing sentence. Yet, it expresses an attitude which you persist in clinging to. As the person in the organization responsible for supervising your work and determining what it will be, I gave you a work assignment. After numerous dilatory tactics, delays, and procrastinations, you now write me describing this work assignment as a mere expression of interest on my part just as you would reply to an outsider who had asked about this or that.
In the past when you have attempted to force an issue on this score, I have systematically followed the practice of deliberately avoiding it, hoping that if I were patient long enough you would gradually find your proper niche in the Federation and come to your senses. It is obvious now that my excessive patience has not been helpful. It is time, therefore, that we straighten this matter out once and for all.
You have simply got to face the fact, and moreover accept it fully, that your position in the Federation is not that of an independent constitutional officer. You are not free to decide what work you will do and what work you will not do and when and how you will do it. You are not free to select your own duties. Your duties are to be carried out under the supervision and direction of the President of the Federation. The tasks you will perform, your overall work load, and how and when you will perform assigned tasks are to be determined by him unless in the circumstances of particular cases he tells you that you are free to decide for yourself.
It is absolutely preposterous that at this late day I should have to say these things to you. You know full well that this has been the mode of operation in the Federation as long as you have been in it. The letter of appointment which I sent you when you were raised to your present salary was very explicit on this point. In addition, you were present at the Executive Committee meeting at the Omaha convention in 1955 at which a resolution was formally passed confirming the long-standing mode of operation on this point, i.e., assigning to the President the authority and responsibility of determining the duties and supervising the work of all employees of the Federation. That resolution reads:
WHEREAS, there is now every reason to believe that the income of the National Federation of the Blind will continue to increase and that, as a result, our organization will soon be in a position to make long overdue and desperately needed additions to its paid staff; and
WHEREAS, it seems desirable that there is a restatement and clarification of our established policies with respect to the hiring, supervision, direction, and if necessary, the dismissal of staff members:
THEREFORE, be it resolved in the future, as in the past, the President of the National Federation of the Blind shall have the exclusive authority to negotiate with, hire, supervise, direct, and when necessary, dismiss any and all members of the staff of this organization.
There are some intimations in your letter that you have not had time to get this assignment done and that you have been subject to distractions beyond your control. This assignment was originally given you some four months ago. Let us assume that you spent a month working on Dave Cobb's Post Office report, which is an extravagant assumption. [Dave Cobb was the Federation's Washington attorney.] Let us assume further that other work claimed your attention, or that you were sick for another month. I have had no evidence that either of these assumptions is correct. Since August you have done very little Federation work. Still this would leave approximately two months in which to do a job that at the very outside would take a week of concentrated effort.
You are receiving a very substantial salary. Including full maintenance in a Washington hotel, it totals between $9,000 and $10,000 a year. [This salary must be seen in the context of the value of the dollar in 1956.] For that amount of money, the Federation has a right to expect a substantial amount of work, and beyond that, a substantial amount of cooperative compliance with those responsible for the executive direction of the operations of the Federation. There are several people in the Federation who are more productive than you are despite the fact that they carry on full-time jobs in addition to their work for the Federation.
This may seem to you like a tough letter. After so many years of patience and putting up with your refusal or inability to comply with work assignments and of your maneuvers to carve out a different position in the Federation from that assigned to you, it is intended to be just that. It may also seem to you like an angry letter. If so, it is based on an attitude that I have had for a long time and will continue to have for a long time.
So far as I am concerned, Archie, you have only one course open to you and that is at long last to face and to accept the role assigned to you in the Federation and to carry out with a greater show of willingness and deliberate effort the tasks you are asked to perform.
It has been said by some that Archibald was given no intimation of the fact that his attitudes and work performance were not satisfactory. He was fired in August of 1957. The foregoing letter from Dr. tenBroek was written December 5, 1956. Let the record speak for itself.
These are by no means the only instances of insubordination on the part of Archibald during 1956. During the early part of the greeting card difficulties with the Post Office, our then Washington attorney David Cobb, suggested that Dr. tenBroek should secure from him and other employees of the Federation, including Archibald, an exact accounting of the way they spent their time working for the Federation. This would permit the distribution of expenditures in accordance with the various headings in the Federation's books. On June 13, 1956, Dr. tenBroek wrote to Archibald requesting that he keep a daily work log. On October 5, 1956, it was necessary to write again:
On June 13 I wrote you a letter asking you to keep a daily work log indicating the allocation of your time to the various projects on which you are engaged. I asked you to send me copies of this daily work log near the end of each month. It is now October 5, and in none of the intervening months have I received any work logs from you.
I now call your attention to this matter again. You are herewith instructed to begin keeping such daily work logs starting with the 1st of October and to send them to me at the end of each month.
On November 21, 1956, Dr. tenBroek wrote once again:
On June 13 I wrote you asking that you keep a daily work log. On October 5 I reminded you of my earlier communication, pointed out that you had not complied with it in any of the intervening months, and repeated the instruction that you were to send me copies of your daily work logs near the end of each month. You still have not complied with these instructions.
I reiterate to you once again that you are to keep a daily work log indicating what time is spent on what projects and that these daily work logs are to be sent to me near the end of each month.
Perhaps the only comment needed is this: Archibald never complied with the request. Was he really a dutiful and hard-working employee of the Federation, laboring diligently to advance its cause? What does the record say?
The year 1957 brought many new things, but it did not bring a new Archibald. He was back at the same old stand. Note the following letter from Dr. tenBroek dated April 10, 1957:
Last year I had occasion to write you several times to inform you with such emphasis as I could muster that some of your attitudes, methods, and procedures were decidedly unsatisfactory to the Federation. One of the points I discussed explicitly was the procedure by which you distribute to a number of people a request to submit ideas and judgments to you. In the case of the Switzer letter [he refers to Mary Switzer, head of the federal rehabilitation program] you indulged in this same procedure modifying it, however, to the extent of at least sending out your preliminary evaluation along with the request. The method is still completely unsatisfactory.
The procedure implies and your letter to Bill Taylor makes quite explicit that you will pick and choose among the comments submitted and decide what policy the Federation will follow. [Bill Taylor was a Federationist from Pennsylvania who was an attorney.] It is a basic principle of the Federation, as you well know, from public documents of the Federation as well as from instructions from me, that staff members of the Federation shall not decide important issues of policy.
I do not expect to go over this same territory with you two or three times every year.
To those who feel that the Archibald story reveals a new technique in employee-employer relationships, it can only be said that more novel experiments were yet to come.
In April of 1957 Archibald sent to Dr. tenBroek a bulletin concerning bills affecting the blind which had been introduced into Congress. He requested that the bulletin be mailed immediately to all of the membership. Dr. tenBroek felt that the bulletin was not well written, that it was entirely too long, and that it emphasized rather starkly the poverty of the Federation's legislative efforts for the past few months. He so informed Archibald. On May 10, 1957, Archibald wrote:
I have your letter of May 7, 1957, commenting upon my letter of April 29, which responded to your letter of April 25, describing the bulletin I sent you for release as emphasizing starkly the poverty of the Federation's legislative program. You re-assert your description. I again reject it.
I further herewith reiterate my request that the bulletin as submitted to you except for one paragraph be put on the mimeograph machine and mailed out to the general mailing list without delay.
You will receive this Monday, May 13. Unless I hear from you by letter, wire, or telephone before noon on Wednesday, May 15, that the bulletin is in the course of publication to be mailed, Ishall proceed at my personal expense to order it mimeographed here and mailed out to the limited and incomplete mailing list of this office. It can be decided later whether the National Federation of the Blind will reimburse me for the expense. Needless to say, I shall disregard any directive from you ordering me to refrain from this course of action.
A. L. Archibald
Again the inevitable carbon. To whom? Durward K. McDaniel.
At this stage surely most administrators would have felt that Archibald's usefulness to the organization had ended. A paid staff member announces that a particular piece of material must be mailed out immediately. If the elected President does not comply with his wish, then he, the paid staff member, will order the mailing to be done from the Washington office. Moreover, he will disregard any directive to the contrary.
Apparently McDaniel felt that his friend had gone too far and had perhaps put himself in an untenable position. Accordingly, McDaniel, in a telephone conversation with Dr. tenBroek on May 13, 1957, suggested that he, McDaniel, would negotiate with Archie and get him to back down on his demand. Dr. tenBroek said that there was no negotiating to be done. In a few days the Archibald bulletin was mailed out from Washington. It contained no spectacular material or information, and is probably not remembered by most Federationists.
Despite the fact that Archibald had said in his letter of May 10 with regard to the mailing of his bulletin, It can be decided later whether the National Federation will reimburse me for the expense, he sent a bill to Dr. tenBroek on July 16, 1957, in the amount of $328.50. It will be noted from Dr. tenBroek's reply dated July 31, 1957, that still other instances of insubordination had occurred in the meantime. Archibald had asked whether he could take his secretary to the New Orleans convention. Dr. tenBroek had told him that he should not do this, that it would be cheaper to hire local secretarial help than to pay all of the travel expenses involved. Note Dr. tenBroek's letter concerning the Archibald bulletin and the secretarial incident:
July 31, 1959
I have your letter of July 16 containing a number of suggestions and attaching two bills, one from Ginn's and one from the City Duplicating Center. The bill from Ginn's has been forwarded to Emil for payment. [Emil Arndt of Illinois was the Federation's Treasurer.] The bill from City Duplicating Center (the firm that had printed the Archibald bulletin), since it is a personal one, is herewith being returned to you.
I cannot agree with your suggestion that a Washington bank account be established from which you could make payments on your own authorization. Such an independent account would facilitate the development of staff positions into the positions of constitutional officers.
You are authorized to incur Federation bills prior to approval from Federation headquarters only if the bills are small and of a routine nature. For all other bills you must secure headquarters approval in advance. This applies not only to supplies and equipment, but also to trips for the Federation.
When I was in Washington in June, you expressly raised the question with me of taking your secretary to the New Orleans convention. At that time I told you not to do so since arrangements were being made to procure secretarial help locally. Yet, you did take your secretary and submitted a bill for her travel expenses to the Federation. That bill was paid by Emil before he secured my approval. Emil has been alerted not to allow such a slip to occur again.
P. S. Your bill from Ginn's is not accompanied by any invoice. You should secure invoices in triplicate along with all bills so that Emil and I will have a permanent record of what the expenditures were for and the third invoice can be returned with the paid bill so that the supplier knows what was covered in the payment.
On August 15, 1957, the real character of Archibald was clearly revealed if, indeed, there had been any doubt about the matter before. He announced to Dr. tenBroek that he, Archibald, intended to incur expenses in the name of the Federation for any item or service that he considered necessary and reasonable. He said that it was unreasonable of Dr. tenBroek to ask him to send invoices in triplicate, that Dr. tenBroek had a photographing machine in his office, and could make his own copies. Finally, he said that the bill for the mailing of his bulletin must and would be paid by the Federation. He said that if it were not paid, he would advise the creditors to sue the Federation, and that he would give testimony in their behalf. This was the responsible, loyal, and hard-working Archibald! These are his exact words:
August 15, 1957
I have deliberately permitted a considerable time to elapse before reacting to your letter of July 31. Surely you realize that I will not agree to accept a Federation expense as a personal bill. I am, therefore, returning to you herewith for prompt payment the bill from City Duplicating Center, Inc. in the amount of $328.50. Since you have delayed payment of this bill into the third month, there is no difficulty in supplying you with copies in triplicate.
I need not recount here the facts surrounding the incurring of the bill. They are known in detail to you, to Durward McDaniel, and to me. When Durward was in Washington during the last week of May, I confirmed with him my understanding of the agreement reached by telephone between you and him on May 14, following your receipt of my letter of May 10. I can say with confidence that both Durward and I understood that I was to mail the legislative bulletin from here and forward the bill to you in the normal procedure.
My actions were taken in good faith. I am sure Durward acted in good faith also. I directed City Duplicating Center to bill the National Federation. They accepted the job in good faith, and billed the Federation in good faith. They expect to be paid in good faith. In addition to repeated billings, they have telephoned to inquire why they have not been paid and reimbursed.
You may rest assured that under the circumstances I shall not pay from my personal funds any bill made out to the National Federation. [It might be inserted here that Archibald made the bill in the name of the Federation utterly without authorization.] Even if the Federation's creditor should find it necessary to sue for payment, I shall take no action except to give testimony to the facts as I know them. If I am again contacted by City Duplicating Center on the subject of this bill, I shall have no alternative but to advise them regarding their course of action. Before raising any question about the bill, you permitted two months to pass [this statement is not true, of course, since the bill was not even sent until July 16, and Dr. tenBroek answered on July 31] during which there was ample time and opportunity to straighten out any misunderstanding which might have existed, and to take action to avoid embarrassment for the Federation. I can only be very forthright and honest with the Federation's creditor if questioned again.
Your request for bills and invoices in triplicate will seem demanding to business establishments supplying us with small assortments of items. You have a photographic reproducing machine in your office. You can easily make as many copies for record as you desire.
Your recollection of our conversation on June 13 about taking my secretary to New Orleans is obviously hazy. I regret the necessity of directly contradicting your statement that you told me not to take her to the convention. I did not expressly raise with you the question of taking her along. After some questions about how she was working out as my secretary, you commented that you were attempting to make some arrangements in New Orleans for secretarial help. When I had heard nothing more regarding the subject of secretarial help in New Orleans, I made the decision on Friday before leaving for the convention to secure reservations for my secretary in order to assure myself of competent help in the difficult and arduous task of drafting, re-drafting, and putting in final form the very large number of resolutions presented.
My practice generally in respect to incurring expenses for which I ask reimbursement from the Federation has always been to exercise great care to determine that they were reasonable, under the circumstances. For me to operate under any other rule would be to make my work impossible of accomplishment in a variety of situations. There have been occasions which have required me to reach a decision on my own that a hurried trip was necessary, and there have been occasions when I have had to hire people to get urgent work for the Federation done. There have also been other instances which could be enumerated. The only practicable way for me to function is to continue the exercise of the rule of reason in making outlays for which I expect to gain reimbursement.
Very truly yours,
A. L. Archibald
Once more the inevitable carbon. To whom? To all members of the Executive Committee? No! To Durward K. McDaniel.
It was at this stage that Dr. tenBroek paid the bill for Archibald's bulletin and fired him. He did not further negotiate with him or plead or persuade. He simply fired him.
In view of all of the past circumstances, however, the letter of dismissal and the financial conditions allowed can hardly be called other than generous. The First Vice President [George Card] personally delivered Dr. tenBroek's letter to Archibald in Washington. The letter reads:
August 20, 1957
Effective immediately upon receipt of this notice your services as Executive Director of the Federation are terminated.
You are directed to turn over to George Card the keys to the Federation's Washington office and all files and other Federation property in your custody.
Your salary will continue for four months as separation pay.
Your reasonable travel and removal expenses to California, if you desire to return there, will be met by the Federation. Other expenses incurred by you after receipt of this notice will not be paid by the Federation.
Your maintenance expenses incurred prior to the receipt of this notice but not yet paid will be processed and paid by the Federation in the usual way.
Very truly yours,
In his letter of August 23, 1957, to the Executive Committee Dr. tenBroek said in part:
On behalf of the Federation I have today carried out the personally very unpleasant duty of firing Mr. A. L. Archibald as the Federation's Washington representative. The separation has been made immediately effective.
Archie has been a full-time employee of the Federation since 1952. Prior to that, beginning in 1946, he was a part-time employee. He was originally hired as an Executive Director. However, I soon discovered Archie was not cut out to be an executive. He was very slow and inefficient in handling routine matters. He failed to allocate time in accordance with the importance of items. He went to pieces under pressure. I therefore assigned him to duties in connection with the Washington work of the Federation. These increased gradually until in the past two or three years he has spent full time, practically the year round, in Washington. Despite this reassignment of duties, the title of Executive Director has not been changed.
At the present time Archie's salary is $10,000 per year. He received $5,000 in cash plus full maintenance. Full maintenance during the past 12 months has amounted to $5,235.00. If Archie maintained a home in California, his living expenses in Washington could not properly be considered salary. In that event they would be properly treated as costs of travel. However, Archie does not have to maintain a residence elsewhere and does not maintain one. Since he is in Washington practically the year round and that is the almost exclusive location of his work for the Federation, the payment of the ordinary living expenses such as rent and food must be regarded as part of his salary.
There are two major reasons for Archie's separation at this time. The first has to do with the level of his performance; the second with the conception of his position.
Throughout the remainder of this letter Archibald's performance and lack of performance are discussed in detail. Since much of the discussion would be repetitious to those who have read the foregoing letters, it will be omitted.
However, perhaps the final paragraph dealing with the relations between hired staff and elected officers should be quoted. It reads:
The theory and even necessity behind this policy and practice (that is, that hired staff members all be under the supervision of elected officers) is of utmost importance to the future of the Federation. If the policies of the Federation are to be carried out and its purposes accomplished, the Federation must have a strong executive. Because of the Federation's democratic and representative make-up, that executive must be elected. The difficulties I have had with Archie during the past several years illustrate what can be seen without such illustration: Either the staff will govern the officers, or the officers will govern the staff. All of the advantages in the struggle are on the side of the staff. They are permanent; they are full-time; they are paid; they become knowledgeable. Even without a deliberate purpose to do so, the whole tendency of the operation is for them to become the governing forces. In the Federation, the President must have authority to hire, fire, and supervise the staff. If the President's administration is not a good one, if he is weak, ineffective, or otherwise incapable of discharging his duties, then the delegates at the convention should elect another person. No such safeguards exist in the case of the staff. If the organization is to remain democratic, then all major policies must be handled by persons who are responsible to the convention by election. Once the staff is in control, then the Federation simply becomes another agency. It loses its democratic and representative character. Elected officers simply become the fronts for the activities of paid employees.
Even though Archibald's conduct had been of the character described, Dr. tenBroek permitted him on August 24, 1957, to submit a letter of resignation for the record. This was done in order to increase his chances of employment elsewhere. The same consideration (namely, the wish to do nothing which would damage Archibald's chances of finding employment) has been largely responsible for the fact that the entire story has never been fully told before. Such a consideration can no longer be taken into account.
McDaniel's reaction to the Archibald firing was immediate and violent. With Archibald's firing, McDaniel saw for a second time the ruin of his hopes and ambitions. The first setback had come in 1956 when he had failed to get the nomination for Second Vice President. Now the alternative means of achieving power and influence, an alliance with the Washington staff representative of the Federation, was also gone. In a bitter letter to the members of the Federation's Board of Directors dated August 29, 1957, McDaniel railed against the President and demanded an immediate meeting of the Executive Committee. He said concerning the Archibald firing:
In closing I would like to make a statement about the President's letter of August 23rd, 1957. I am one of the few members of the executive committee who has been intimately acquainted with this episode as it developed. This letter of August 23rd is an inadequate revelation of the facts. I know A. L. Archibald very well. I know that he has had no desire to exert an improper influence upon the organization which has employed him. This superficial and erroneous issue of staff versus elected officials must not confuse and conceal the real problems confronting us. I can think of many major achievements to add to Mr. Archibald's credit. I was shocked to receive such a letter about a loyal Federationist who apparently was not given a chance to resign. I note in today's mail an effort to mitigate this injustice by accepting a resignation which was voluntarily submitted.
Sincerely and fraternally,
As Federationists will remember, the meeting of the Executive Committee demanded by McDaniel was held in Chicago early in September of 1957. At that Executive Committee meeting, despite all of his threats and railings, McDaniel had no case to make and he and Marie Boring stood alone as a disgruntled twosome. McDaniel went away from that Executive Committee meeting a bitter and a disappointed man. Ever since that time his actions have seemed to say, If I cannot rule the Federation, I will ruin it.
The foregoing series of letters and statements has been called The Archibald Story. But it might also be called The Story of Frustrated and Twisted Ambition, The Story of Rule or Ruin, The Story of Distortion and Suspicion, or it might simply be called: THE MCDANIEL STORY.
At the Federation's Boston convention in 1958 a small minority (soon to be known as the McDaniel-Boring faction) sought to gain control of the convention, or failing that, to disrupt it. After a long and embittered debate, the dissident group was decisively put down by a vote of the delegates, and order was at least temporarily restored. But it was plain to most conventioneers that the internal strife had just begun and that it was threatening to consume the Federation. Thus one veteran observer of NFB conventions Braille Monitor editor George Card of Wisconsin reported despairingly on the scene at Boston:
There has never been a National Convention like this one, he wrote, and it is my fervent hope that there will never be another like it in the future. He went on to declare: For the first time in our history, there seemed to be real dissension among us. Feelings ran higher and higher as the time for the showdown approached. When it was all over, there was little evidence of any real reconciliation. Some degree of tension and grimness was apparent right through to adjournment on Monday. Whether or not the National Federation can ever again become the united, consecrated organization that it always has been is now in the balance.
Those grim sentiments came to be even more widely shared among Federationists in the months that followed the Boston convention. In May of 1959 (as has already been said) the NFB published a special edition of the Braille Monitor devoted expressly to a full account of the internal warfare which threatens to destroy the National Federation of the Blind. The special issue featured a report from the President, Jacobus tenBroek, entitled The Crisis in the Federation. His narrative began with these words:
Two years ago I reported to you that the National Federation was faced with a concerted and serious attack from without from a number of powerful agencies which had pooled their resources to oppose our right to organize.
Today I am obligated to report to you that the Federation is faced with an equally concerted and no less serious attack from a different source: an attack from within.
The assault upon the Federation by the agencies was principally characterized then as it is still characterized by defamation of the character of our elected leadership, by ridicule of the achievements of our movement, and by systematic attempts to disrupt or dominate our national, state, and local organizations.
The present attack upon the Federation from within is characterized by the same strategy and tactics: by defamation of the character of our elected leadership, by ridicule of the achievements of our movement, and by systematic attempts to disrupt or dominate our national, state, and local organizations.
Declaring that one thesis above all has been repeated again and again with mounting clamor and bitterness by a small group of members the thesis that tenBroek must go the Federation's President maintained that the effort to oust him from elective leadership did not stand by itself but was part of a larger scheme to destroy the democratic character of the Federation if not the Federation itself. He went on:
The drive for the elimination of the present administration has been accompanied, as thousands of our members and much of the public are now aware, by such depths of vituperation and divisive action as to bring the National Federation of the Blind to the brink of ruin. Whether such total destruction of our movement is within the purpose of the minority faction may still be a matter of speculation; but that the disruption of the Federation has been deliberately threatened as the alternative to resignation of the President is now plainly part of the record.
The bitter division within the National Federation, which this special edition of the Monitor documented in comprehensive detail, raged on unabated into the 1959 convention at Santa Fe, where the issue was finally formulated in terms on which the entire convention could vote (the so-called Georgia Compromise). The steps leading up to the decisive action, and the mood of the delegates during the strife-torn convention, formed the substance of an illuminating Monitor report by editor George Card. His article, simply entitled Convention Notes, follows:
A Year of Travail: A great many of us left Boston at the end of our National Convention a year ago rather depressed and full of forebodings for the future of our beloved organization. The 1958 convention had been a disillusioning experience. From all previous annual meetings we had gone home inspired and with rekindled enthusiasm for our cause. At Boston, for the first time, we had found ourselves torn by internal dissension. Old comrades-in-arms, veterans of many battles with our traditional foes, hurled bitter recriminations at each other.
The year that followed was surely the darkest in our history. The internecine bitterness intensified as each month passed. Our mailboxes were clogged with voluminous documents, full of charges and countercharges, until many of our members became utterly bewildered. Those on the outside who hate and fear us looked on with deep satisfaction, confidently and joyously predicting to each other that the end of the National Federation, as a united and powerful movement, was in sight.
But when the hour for adjournment came at five last Monday afternoon, most of us started for home with a feeling that perhaps, after all, the good ship NFB had ridden out the storm, had righted herself and was once more on course. Not that the 1959 convention was a peaceful one. Not by any means. But the decision of the delegates when it finally came bespoke such an overwhelming vote of confidence in the tenBroek administration that no doubt can any longer exist as to the sentiments of the democratic majority. Since both sides on innumerable occasions had sworn eternal fealty to the democratic process, there is now at least reasonable ground for hope that the verdict, freely and democratically arrived at, will this time be accepted in good faith.
A Day of Decision: The showdown came late Saturday night, after thirteen and a half hours of debate. Everyone was given a chance to express his views. Dr. tenBroek, as always, leaned over backward in an effort to be absolutely fair. There was plenty of applause but no boos or catcalls, and all speakers were given respectful attention. I have listened to many debates in state legislatures and in the halls of Congress, but I have never seen an audience display a more mature attitude throughout. In all candor, however, I doubt whether a single vote was changed by what the speakers had to say. Nearly everyone had come to Santa Fe with his mind grimly made up; and if there were any switches after the convention began, I suspect they were brought about in smoke-filled rooms.
The Georgia Compromise: Many of us have been racking our brains all year in a desperate effort to find a face-saving compromise formula. We had not found one. Yet, the Santa Fe delegates were offered such a compromise, and it came from a most unexpected quarter. The delegation from Georgia worked it out and presented it to us. It was just a bit startling at first, but it was beautifully simple and entirely workable. As it was finally voted on, after the thirteen and a half hours, it contained three parts: 1. All officers and members of the Executive Committee were to resign immediately, the nominating committee (one member nominated by each state) was then to bring in a complete slate, and those elected by the convention delegates would serve out all unexpired terms. If one resigned, all were to be considered recalled providing the motion to adopt the Georgia compromise passed by a two-thirds vote. 2. All incumbent officers and members of the Executive Committee were to be eligible for re-election. 3. After this convention, anyone who persists in reckless and irresponsible charges against any other member, or members, without substantial evidence, may be given a fair hearing before the Executive Committee and, if found guilty, deprived of the rights and privileges of membership in the National Federation.
The Executive Committee is made up of the five constitutional officers and eight directors. All officers are elected every two years. Four of the directors are elected each two years and normally serve for four years. The numerical strength of the Executive Committee is, therefore, under ordinary conditions, thirteen. This time there were only ten. During the past year I had resigned as First Vice President while John Nagle and Walter McDonald had resigned as directors. During the course of the debate all four remaining officers declared their willingness to resign, and Clyde Ross and Jesse Anderson did the same with respect to their memberships on the Executive Committee. Three of the four officers Dr. tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan, and Alma Murphey spoke in favor of the Georgia compromise. When the vote came, it was a resounding thirty-four to twelve in favor of adoption.
When President tenBroek arose and uttered the terrifying words, I hereby resign as President of the National Federation of the Blind, the assembly sat stunned. I felt my body temperature drop about thirty degrees. He was immediately elected temporary chairman of the meeting by acclamation; and when he took back the gavel, the delegates stood up and cheered wildly. It was one of the most dramatic and emotion-fraught moments I have ever lived through. The temporary chairman ruled that the vote on the Georgia compromise had constituted a recall of all ten members of the Executive Committee. This ruling was challenged and appealed to the floor. It was upheld by a vote of forty to five.
Late as it was, the nominating committee went into immediate session. The Wisconsin delegation had nominated me as its representative on this committee. The nominating session lasted about three hours, and on the whole the atmosphere was one of friendliness and cooperation. George Burke of New Jersey acted as chairman and did a superb job. When he finished, it was well after three a.m.
The election was held immediately after the Sunday morning session began so that we would not be without officers. The nominating committee recommended the following slate: President, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek; First Vice President, Kenneth Jernigan, Iowa; Second Vice President, Donald Capps, South Carolina; Secretary, Alma Murphey, Missouri; Treasurer, Emil Arndt, Illinois; Directors (unexpired three-year terms): Jesse Anderson, Utah; Clyde Ross, Ohio; David Krause, Virginia; Victor Buttram, Illinois; Directors (unexpired one-year terms): Eleanor Harrison, Minnesota; Don Cameron, Florida; William Hogan, Connecticut; Dean Sumner, South Dakota. In some instances other candidates were nominated from the floor, but the committee's slate was elected with a single exception. Russell Kletzing of California was nominated against Dean Sumner, and the vote twice resulted in a tie. Then, Connecticut switched from Sumner to Kletzing and that did it.
The hopes of the vast majority of Federation members for an end to the factional plotting and disruption which had led to the decisive actions of the Georgia Compromise at the 1959 convention were dashed, however, as the disgruntled losers continued to maneuver for power at the next National Convention the twentieth anniversary convention to be held in Miami in 1960. On the other side the Federation's elected officers, led by President tenBroek and First Vice President Kenneth Jernigan, had become determined both to settle the internal conflict once and for all and to restore the convention to its normal agenda of positive programs, undertakings, and accomplishments.
The first sign of this deepened determination on the part of the leadership came with startling surprise on the opening day of the Miami convention. What the President was to term a severe blow to the National Federation and all its members occurred with the unexpected withdrawal of Kenneth Jernigan as First Vice President and member of the Board of Directors. In a dramatic address to the convention, Jernigan announced his refusal to permit his name to be placed in nomination for any future office. He attributed his decision to two principal factors: the mounting responsibilities of his job as director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, and, of course, of more compelling importance, the factional warfare within the Federation which had recently come to concentrate its campaign of character assassination in large part upon him.
Jernigan provided in his address the most complete and detailed account yet available to Federationists of the origins and ambitions of the dissident faction within their midst, as well as an assessment of the destructive effects of the continuing civil war.
The text of his speech follows:
For the past eight years I have been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. For the past year and a half I have been First Vice President of the organization. With this convention my membership on the Board comes to an end. Under present circumstances I feel that I cannot be a candidate for re-election to the Vice Presidency or any other Board position. In short, I will be unable to permit my name to be placed in nomination for any elective office in the Federation this year.
When I reached this decision several months ago, I quite naturally discussed the matter at some length with Dr. tenBroek. It was his opinion and also mine that the reasons involved in my withdrawal from office were of such a nature that they should be discussed with the convention. Accordingly, I am now on the platform for that purpose.
To summarize my first reason for withdrawing from Federation office this year, let me say that the time needed to make the program of the Iowa Commission for the Blind a complete success makes it difficult for me to carry the full responsibilities of Federation First Vice President. It is as important for the Federation as for the blind of Iowa that the program succeed. The withdrawal from office does not mean that I intend to become in any way inactive in the movement, and it certainly does not mean that I feel that there is any conflict of interest involved. I would be a strange Federationist, indeed, if such were the case.
The second reason for not allowing my name to be placed in nomination for Federation office this year admittedly in some ways more compelling than the first has to do with the present internal situation which faces us. In order to explain I must talk a bit about history and background.
My first Federation convention was at Nashville in 1952. That convention is still talked about and remembered by many as one of the best we have ever had. In more ways than one it was a milestone and a turning point in my life. I found a united, dedicated, aggressive organization working toward the achievement of goals which I could believe in wholeheartedly and support without reservation. Merely to be in the meeting hall and listen was an inspiration and a challenge. Many of you will remember that I was president of the Tennessee affiliate in 1952 and that I had charge of arrangements and planning. I made up my mind at that convention that the Federation was the greatest and most promising force in existence for the betterment of the blind and that I would give to it all that I possessed in the way of effort, ability, and talent. I have never regretted the decision. It was in 1952 that I was elected to membership on the Board.
Nineteen-fifty-two was a good year for the Federation, as were '53, '54, and '55. The greeting card program was launched and made successful. Whereas in 1952 the national office of the Federation had less than $30,000 to work with, our income was five times as much by 1955. For the first time in the history of the organization money was also being pumped into the state affiliates. New members were coming in. New growth was being achieved. Everywhere there was expansion. And above all there was unity the kind of unity and devotion to purpose which made the Federation unique. There was virtually no politics in the Federation and comparatively little striving for position. Leadership was based not on influence peddling or the holding of office, but upon the ability to work and the willingness to work. The conventions at Milwaukee, Louisville, and Omaha were climaxes for successive years of growth. They were not political battlefields where contending majorities and minorities monopolized the sessions with charge and countercharge and little else. Instead, they were meetings of inspiration and substantial program items, of friends and comrades gathered to exchange ideas, of organizational renewal and preparation for the year to come. They were not like Boston or Santa Fe.
By 1956 at San Francisco the progress was phenomenal. The first state surveys had been made. Nine new affiliates had come into the Federation in a single year. The Monitor was a going concern with a regular staff and a monthly publication.
As important as any of these things, our enemies had taken alarm and were desperately trying to crush us a sure token of growing prestige. It seemed that the achievement of our goals was near at hand.
But such was not to be the case. By the 1957 convention at New Orleans still a tremendous success a subtle change was beginning to come over the organization. A small group of people from within our own midst began, for reasons best known to themselves, to sow dissension and to foment civil war. They began to write letters and to go from state to state systematically destroying the unity and feeling of oneness which had always been the principal asset and distinguishing feature of the Federation. They began to say that the Federation, where any blind person had always been able to make his voice heard, was not truly democratic that we had simply believed that it was that in reality it was controlled by a sinister dictator and his small clique of followers who had somehow hoodwinked the gullible, unsuspecting members into thinking the Federation was representative and democratic. In short, the blind were told that there had been a colossal fix and that they had, for eighteen years, been too stupid to see it a fix which this enlightened minority had just discovered and was bent upon exposing. There were half-truths, innuendoes, twisted facts, and outright falsifications.
By the time of the Boston convention the Federation that we all had known and loved, the old Federation of unity and oneness, of constructive achievement, and substantive, inspiring conventions was dead killed by the very people who had said they had come to save it. In the year between New Orleans and Boston the Federation was transformed from a dedicated crusade to a bickering, political movement.
During that year many things changed. Perhaps the most important of these changes occurred in the activities and direction of effort which took place. My own personal role was altered substantially. Before New Orleans virtually none of my time or attention was given to internal political matters. Between 1952 and 1957 I traveled more than 530,000 miles organizing and building chapters in state affiliates; wrote What Is The National Federation of the Blind and Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind, and Local Organizations of the Blind How to Build and Strengthen Them; conducted a study for the Federation concerning the employment of the blind in the teaching profession; and took part in three state surveys of programs affecting the blind. These were happy years. The work was challenging and rewarding. Even the hostility and opposition of the agency administrators in Arkansas and the bitter accusations of having ruined the lives of some of the rehabilitation officials dismissed in Colorado and Nevada did not diminish the keen pleasure. The brotherhood and mutual support which characterized our movement were at the heart of the joy of accomplishment. It was a time of unparalleled growth and progress.
After New Orleans all of this changed. For the first time in Federation history a group from within our own ranks organized itself and pounded away at the very foundations of our movement with sledge-hammer blows. It coordinated its efforts and embarked upon a systematic campaign of vindictive destruction and sabotage of the elected officers and leaders. If the majority was to survive, if indeed the very structure of the organization was to be preserved, speedy action and counter-measures had to be taken.
The situation can, perhaps, best be summarized in the words of Edmund Burke, the English political philosopher, who championed the fight of the American colonies for independence. Burke said, When bad men combine, the good must associate. If the good do not associate, then they fall one by one, useless sacrifices in a contemptible struggle. To paraphrase these words, we might say, When a minority of disgruntled dissenters combine to achieve destruction and to subvert the will of the majority, then the members of that majority must associate and bestir themselves to militant action. If the majority does not so associate and bestir itself, then its members will fall one by one, useless sacrifices in a contemptible struggle not to mention which the minority dominates and controls the society.
This sort of thing was new to us. We had long been accustomed to fighting our external enemies, but never before had we been forced to repel slander and false charges from those who had been our comrades-in-arms and still proclaim themselves to be Federationists. With sorrow and reluctance and, perhaps, too slowly and with too much kindness the great overwhelming majority of Federation members, officers, and leaders organized for battle and took up the challenge of the civil war.
The majority was at a disadvantage, however, in defending itself because it could not devote its full time to the struggle. It had the responsibility of carrying on the constructive work and programs of the Federation, of repelling our external enemies, and of keeping the organization afloat, while the minority, on the other hand, could and did divorce itself completely from such responsibility, spending virtually all of its time and energy in subversive attack and destruction. The minority would be hard put to point to a single legislative or other constructive proposition which it has advanced or been responsible for since the New Orleans convention. In the interest of promoting the basic objectives of our movement the external work of the Federation could not be allowed to come to a standstill.
Therefore, between New Orleans and Boston the effort of the officers and leaders had to be divided and redoubled. Legislative and other program work had to be continued and at the same time the affiliates had to be alerted to what was happening internally. This had to be done in such a way as not to give our external enemies aid and comfort or knowledge of our growing problems. State and local leaders all over the country had to be shown the documentary evidence of what was occurring and warned of what was to come at Boston. They needed indisputable and provable facts as ammunition against the propaganda of half-truths being spread.
With the same energy which I had always tried to give to promoting the welfare of the Federation, I along with other leaders and members of the movement entered into this grim, new task. As I went from state to state late in 1957 and early 1958 collecting evidence and writing testimony for the right to organize bill, I also talked to the members about what was happening to us internally. For the first time in my life I found myself working for the Federation without pleasure or zest. I knew beforehand that I would earn the hatred and bitter attack of the dissenters in exact proportion to the effectiveness of my work. Dr. tenBroek and the other leaders were, of course, in the same situation.
In this connection the minority showed how badly it had misassessed matters when at the Santa Fe convention last year several of its members said from the platform (as if they thought it was an accusation, and one which I would feel called upon to deny) that I had gone from state to state organizing the majority and showing the documentary evidence of what the dissenters were doing. They should have known than I have never yet apologized for or been ashamed of any work that I have ever done in behalf of the Federation. They should also have known that I would not have denied but rather would have insisted that I had done all that I could to expose their tactics and subversion.
At the Boston convention in 1958 the Federation became acquainted for the first time with political hauling and maneuvering. The minority came organized as a bloc, and the majority found itself forced to close ranks and counter-organize in self-defense. Votes were taken not on the merit of issues but along party lines. Slates of candidates were selected, and the spirit of crusade and dedication died a painful death.
After Boston a new vocabulary came into being in the Federation. The minority taught us that when they attacked any of the rest of us or made charges, it was democracy in action or the right of free speech. When these attacks were answered, however, it was character assassination or defamation and slander. If they won an issue (a rare occurrence) it was the will of the people or democracy. When they lost on an issue, it was dictatorship and tyranny. When they combined to try to elect candidates or to defeat or pass motions, it was freedom of association and the democratic process. When the majority combined for the same purposes, it was dirty politics and tyrannical dictatorship.
Despite the fact that the will of the convention was made clear at Boston, the civil war continued. By the time of Santa Fe the days of unity and dedication were only a memory, and even the memory was beginning to fade. Again, the convention made clear its will and by a majority even larger than the one at Boston.
By Santa Fe, however, the real beginnings of chaos were commencing to set in. The political alliances and arrangements which had been made during the preceding two years were bearing their inevitable fruit. It had become accepted practice that the way to achieve recognition was not by the difficult method of doing hard work for the Federation and forwarding programs. There was a quicker and an easier way. Form alliances. Circulate resolutions, make personal attacks, rise in defense of a popular leader, and, above all yes, above all! come up with suggestions for change any change, so long as it would bring notoriety and publicity.
Another year has now gone by, and we are at Miami. The civil war has continued and, if possible, has even further degenerated. There is now scarcely a person in our movement who is not under attack by someone or disliked by this or that group. Our legislative and other programs have largely become secondary to internal politics. Witness, for example, last year at Santa Fe when even the right-to-organize bills were publicly attacked on the floor of the convention by the minority faction.
Or consider the fact that letters which I now have in my possession were written into Iowa by the dissenters attempting to destroy the expanding work of rehabilitation and job placement being put into effect by the Commission for the Blind. In order to hurt me personally as administrator of the Commission, certain members of the dissenting faction were willing to destroy the program of rehabilitation and job placement for the entire blind population of the state. The same thing occurred in California when Dr. tenBroek came up for reappointment to another term on the Social Welfare Board. Regardless of the effect on the blind of the state, letters of vindictive, personal attack were sent to the Governor. As you know, Dr. tenBroek was reappointed anyway and made chairman of the board into the bargain. Again the dissenters were defeated in their efforts at destruction, but the next Federationist anywhere in the country who comes up for appointment to an advisory or policy-making board and who has not capitulated to the minority may expect to be treated to the same type of vicious and unprincipled attack.
Also consider the letters opposing Federation legislation recently sent by the dissenters to Congressman Baring and others. Is this the so-called constructive activity to which the dissenters point with pride? Is this their positive new program? Is this the brave new democracy they would bring us?
Our fund-raising programs have been endangered, and the very existence of the Federation as a continuing organizational entity is now threatened. Yet, there are those who at this present convention and even at this late date in our civil war will tell us that the past three years of destruction and strife have been a wonderful thing for the Federation, that we are now stronger than ever. I doubt that many of us will be taken in by that line. Certainly our external enemies are not taken in by it. If what we have had for the past three years has been success and progress, I would to God we had been less successful and less progressive.
The attacks on me personally have increased steadily since the New Orleans convention. For the reasons I have already given it was inevitable that this would be so. I knew what the cost would be when the civil war began and accepted it as an unpleasant but necessary by-product of the work which had to be done. During the past three years, especially since Santa Fe, I have been accused of every possible vice of being unscrupulous and ruthless, without principle, morally dishonest, and above all of being desperately and wildly ambitious. These charges have been made not only by the recognized members of the minority faction, but also by some whose principal claim to recognition is the fact that they have previously held themselves out to the general membership as friends and supporters of the administration.
Again I say that such charges and attacks were inevitable in the climate of continuing civil war and political maneuvering. Such a climate encourages petty politicians and office seekers to attempt to bargain for position and to seek notoriety by slick maneuver and slanderous attack. Always as civil war continues, it degenerates into chaos and anarchy. Factions splinter and beget new factions, which in turn divide and further splinter. As dissolution and ruin approach, stability becomes harder and harder to maintain.
Leadership in the Federation does not depend upon the holding of office. It has never so depended. To the extent that the organization is worthwhile, leadership as always will continue to depend upon willingness to work and ability to work.
Very soon after the Santa Fe convention I told Dr. tenBroek that I felt I could serve the Federation and the administration better if I did not allow my name to be placed in nomination for office at Miami. Such a decision would certainly set the record straight with respect to the whispered charges of reckless ambition and desire for presidential succession. It would also rob the enemies of the administration of one of their principal issues an issue in fact upon which they have based more and more of their campaign in recent months. It would utterly destroy one of the main arguments upon which the case of the dissenters has been built and by which they have sought to justify their actions. Then, too, it must be admitted frankly that the continuing torrent of personal abuse and vilification made the prospect of Federation office seem somewhat less than attractive.
The decision was made, but not announced. Why? The answer is surely obvious. What now of the charges of reckless ambition and desire for office which the opponents of the administration have so laboriously put together? During the remainder of this convention the delegates will undoubtedly be subjected (from the platform, but principally in the corridors and bedrooms) to hurried and desperate verbal gymnastics in an attempt to explain away the utter deflation of what has been charged. It will be interesting, indeed, to see how the dissenters attempt to explain away their calumny and misrepresentation.
In leaving Federation office to become a rank-and-file member I would like to make these final remarks. By ceasing to be an Executive Committeeman I do not cease to be an active Federationist. Nor do I cease to be a part of the administration. I shall continue to defend and support it actively.
Moreover, I shall continue to give whatever organizational help I can to any local or state affiliate in the nation. When I am invited to do so (and as time permits), I shall attend state conventions, write articles and testimony for the Federation, attend meetings, or do anything else which I may be asked to do.
I have already said that the Federation has very nearly been destroyed by the past three years of political bickering and civil war. It may already be too late to reverse the trend and forestall the final descent into chaos and utter destruction. However, I believe that this is not necessarily the case. It is not on a note of despair but of hope that I should like to conclude. It is no game we play this business of organization. It is as serious and important as the lives and destinies of us all. The formula for solving our problems and saving our organization is simple. It is also painful and hard to face. It is this. One way or another, once and for all, now and forever, we absolutely must put a stop to the disgraceful internal strife and warfare which is destroying the Federation. It is as simple as that. We must make it unmistakably clear to all concerned that this organization will no longer tolerate the continued wrecking and destruction of its goals and purposes whether the wrecking and destruction be in the name of free speech, democratic procedures, rights of the minority, freedom of association, will of the people, or any other high-sounding and respectable phraseology used to cloak real purposes. We must refuse to be intimidated or bamboozled by pious words. We must have the courage to put down the demagogue, even if he makes his appeal in the name of the very virtues in our organization which he would destroy. If it requires taking stern action, then stern action must be taken. If it requires losing some of the dissenters, then they must be lost. Whatever the cost, it is cheaper than the alternative of absolute ruin which faces us. We cannot delay, and we cannot equivocate. By not choosing one course of action, we automatically take the other.
Perhaps the old Federation was too idealistic. If so, I can only say that I believe most of its members wanted it that way, and loved and respected it for what it was. The traditional goals and objectives of the Federation are still the most compelling reason for our existence as an organization. To open new fields of opportunity to the blind, to secure the passage of needed legislation, to exchange ideas and give encouragement to each other, to labor in a common cause against discrimination and denial of acceptance as normal people, to establish the right of the blind to compete for regular jobs in public or private employment these are the things for which the Federation was created. These are the things which continue to make it worthwhile. Surely the National Federation of the Blind means enough in the lives of the blind people of this nation that a way will be found to save it from destruction and, even more important, to save it from becoming merely a hollow shell and an empty mockery of the great crusade of former days.
With those solemn words, Kenneth Jernigan left the convention rostrum and gave up his elective office. But he continued, side by side with President tenBroek, to lead the fight on the convention floor in defense of the National Federation and its democracy. During the next four days, decisions of major consequence were taken on several fronts. The Constitution of the NFB was substantially amended; six state affiliates were suspended for activities destructive of the Federation; all national officers and Board Members found themselves facing election; and important commitments were made in various program areas. When the Miami convention was finally adjourned the National Federation of the Blind, while still a house divided, was not merely standing but was more firmly grounded than before the convention. The amendments to its Constitution, all adopted overwhelmingly, spelled out rights and responsibilities in terms not readily twisted or evaded. And the convention's decisive action in suspending from membership the six state affiliates (those of Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Dakota) that had been at the heart of the insurrection proved to be the most effective step yet adopted toward a solution of the protracted civil war.
It should be noted that the action taken against these state groups was not that of expulsion they were not permanently thrown out of the Federation but only suspended as affiliates until such time as they might furnish evidence in good faith of a willingness to abide by the responsibilities as well as the rights of membership. In a post-convention Monitor article reviewing the suspensions, President tenBroek repeated the main points of the motion he submitted to the convention:
Through calculated activities on various fronts, these states have critically endangered our vital source of fundraising; they have opposed our basic legislative programs, and thus have jeopardized our warmest relationships with Congress; they have obstructed and fought against our organizational efforts within the states themselves; they have plotted assiduously to impugn the reputations of our elected officers and to block their appointments to positions in public service; and they have cast suspicion upon our integrity and fundamental purposes as an organization of the blind. They have done these things deliberately, actively, and vigorously. Moreover, they have formed the spearhead of a permanent hostile organization within the National Federation the so-called Free Press Association, openly dedicated to a policy of rule or ruin. All six states have contributed through specific actions and concerted agitation to the condition of alarming instability which has come to characterize our organization in the eyes of growing numbers of friends, foes, and the public alike. The harm which has already been done to the Federation and its cause is incalculable. The harm which would be done in the future if this condition were permitted to continue is, however, not incalculable. It would, quite simply, be fatal.
The eventual consequence of the Federation's action in suspending the six state affiliates was to lead to the permanent separation of these factional groups, the closing of the Federation ranks around its leadership, and the formation of a splinter organization known as the American Council of the Blind as a haven for the disgruntled and a willing ally of anti-Federation forces in the blindness system. But in the short run the civil strife continued unabated within the National Federation during the period leading up to the 1961 convention in Kansas City.
At the time of the firing of A. L. Archibald in the summer of 1957 the Federation was a united movement with harmony among its leaders and members and a clear-cut purpose to achieve its goals. But as the civil war got underway and continued month after month and year after year, the unity and viability of the movement began to disintegrate. The strains were such that friend began to attack friend, and total chaos seemed likely.
No better example of the destructive disintegration can be given than the conduct of George Card of Wisconsin. At the beginning of the civil war in 1957 he was First Vice President of the organization, as well as the Editor of the Braille Monitor. During 1958 and 1959 the minority faction (calling itself the Free Press Association) made prolonged and vicious attacks upon Card, impugning his morals and motives and accusing him of a variety of derelictions. In 1959 he resigned as First Vice President but continued as a paid staff member, serving as Editor of the Braille Monitor.
By 1960 the internal strife had become so bitter that war weariness was almost universal. The unity of purpose which had once characterized the movement was gone, and almost every day someone else came forward with a different scheme to end the fighting. Even George Card (Monitor Editor and long-time stalwart) was apparently not immune. Shortly after the conclusion of the 1960 Miami convention, he openly joined the minority faction and began a nationwide campaign, going from state to state to attack President tenBroek. Apparently his level of dissatisfaction had been rising for months, but he now openly changed sides and fought with the same vigor against the administration which he had formerly shown in its behalf.
In September of 1960 he was replaced as Monitor Editor by Kenneth Jernigan. This was four months before the Monitor suspended publication December 1960, being the last edition for the next four years. The October 1960, Braille Monitor carried an article about Card's defection to the minority. The text of that article follows:
The resignation of George Card from his position as a staff member of the National Federation of the Blind became effective in mid-September as the result of a letter to the President reaffirming his defection from the administration and his adherence to the McDaniel Free Press faction.
Card's defection, although long in the making, was first openly announced two weeks earlier in a letter to Dr. tenBroek setting forth his plans for the immediate future plans which were indicated to be permanent and unalterable, and which included joining the McDaniel faction in its Nashville meeting and embarking upon a countrywide tour of agitation against the national administration and the policy of the National Convention. At that time Card stated: I am going to campaign to the best of my abilities in an effort to persuade the states which voted against the suspensions to stand their ground next year and to persuade at least twelve other states to join with them and to vote for reinstatement at Kansas City. I shall write many letters (always on my personal stationery), and I shall make as many personal contacts as I can. I am going to Nashville the latter part of this week.
Card's defection and resignation constitute the latest links in a chain of events set in motion over a year ago when he inaugurated a series of attacks upon the President, the First Vice President, other staff members, and close associates of the Federation. As the evidence and destructive consequences of Card's activities became unmistakable, the President ordered him as a staff employee to cease carrying them on. Instead of complying with this elementary condition of staff employment, Card broadened his attacks and redoubled his political activities. During recent months, and most conspicuously following the Miami convention, the scope of his campaign has been still further extended.
On August 20 the President informed George Card that due to the deterioration of his health and effectiveness, as well as of his personal relationships, he was to be relieved of several of his staff duties (notably the editorship of the Monitor and the supervision of greeting card mail) and placed on semi-retirement at reduced salary. Card's reply was to challenge the President's authority to carry out the transfer of staff functions, to level an attack upon him personally and upon the convention for its action in suspending six affiliates, and to disclose his plan to tour the country as the agent of the McDaniel faction's purposes. As detailed elsewhere in this issue (see article entitled Round-Up of Free Press Agitation), Card has since begun his tour and has visited numerous states with the now openly avowed objective of eliminating the President of the Federation and overthrowing the policy democratically adopted by the National Convention.
On September 10 President tenBroek wrote to George Card answering various of his charges and clarifying his status as a staff member of the Federation. In view of Card's subsequent resignation and political itinerary, the President's letter is herewith reprinted in full:
Let me try to make a few things crystal clear. I made a similar effort last spring which apparently failed. In personal terms you cannot afford to misunderstand now.
You tell me in your letter of August 29 that I may wish to withdraw my offer to you of a changed job in the light of your avowed intention to carry on a campaign against the administration for the unconditional reinstatement of the suspended affiliates. I made no offer. I shall not withdraw any offer. In my function as President, I altered your status as an employee of the Federation. You were placed on semi-retirement; your duties were adjusted. If because of this change of status and assignment of tasks or because of any other reason you wish to resign, that is entirely up to you. You are free to remain as a staff member only if you comply with the established policies of the organization regarding the staff. You may not carry on a political campaign regarding the duties assigned to you as a staff member; you may not carry on a political campaign regarding the policies of the organization; you may not carry on a political campaign affecting the officers or members of the Executive Committee. All three of these things you are quite patently carrying on at present. Only one of them is frankly avowed in your letter to me of August 29. You must cease all such activity and cease it immediately. If you do not, you will have automatically resigned your position as a staff member.
I still adhere to what I said in Omaha in 1955. Federation members who have genuine moral scruples on any point should not be subject to moral pressure. There is quite a difference, however, between a moral scruple and political shenanigans, and between a staff employee and a member or officer. I see no moral or other scruple in what you are now doing; you are simply joining a political campaign which, if it is successful, will eventually destroy the Federation.
The renewal of your campaign against the administration includes an outright fabrication. I did not, in our June 30 meeting in Miami, request you to make a statement in my support. You volunteered to make it. Moreover, you did so in the presence of a third person, so that you knew that you could not get by with your present misrepresentation. Or is this, after all, as I am convinced it is, another lapse of memory accompanying your deterioration of health? These lapses have occurred frequently in the past couple of years, and at times have been virtually complete.
You seem, indeed, to be strangely ambivalent on the subject of your own health. When the purpose is to show that you can carry on all your staff functions, you claim that your health is not a factor. At other times, you are willing to portray it in the direst terms. At Miami you asked your wife to leave the room in order to inform Bernie Gerchen and me that you felt the end to be very near, that you were in incessant pain, and that the symptoms were occurring which the doctors had warned you to watch for. Whatever you may now wish to say about it, the objective evidences concerning the state of your health cannot be disregarded.
Your defection to the McDaniel camp is reflected not only in your personal attacks but in your faithful echo of the McDaniel doctrine concerning the suspensions. That argument holds that it is only the minority which has rights, and that those rights are unlimited, whatever the degree of internal or external wreckage they may cause. When, after years of this bickering warfare, the majority at last rose at Miami to assert its own rights and protect the Federation from further destruction, its democratic decision is held out by you to be a mockery of fair play and a monstrous miscarriage of justice. There is nothing unjust or unfair in requiring members to fulfill the minimum responsibilities of their membership, and holding them to account for flagrant refusal to do so. There is no need to repeat (to you of all people) what the grounds of suspension were; they were not only recited at length in my presentation of the motions at Miami, but they have been thoroughly and painfully thrashed out for three years at our conventions and meetings, in the Monitor and Free Press, in public bulletins, open correspondence, and continuous discussion throughout the country. Most Federationists now know them by heart.
Furthermore, as you well know, the suspension decision was not a punitive action or courtroom prosecution, to be regarded in legal terms of crime and punishment. It was simply an effort on the part of the majority to save the Federation from future destruction. It was preventive and protective rather than punitive and retributory. It was not expulsion which was voted, but only suspension. The proper judicial analogy is that of a restraining order or preliminary injunction from which the defendants are released if they can show that they are complying with proper standards. Any or all of the suspended members may be swiftly and readily readmitted to full standing whenever they are willing to abide by the indispensable conditions of membership in any democratic society. If they cannot bring themselves to do so, they are free to disaffiliate. The choice is clear, and it is theirs to make.
What choice they are making is also quite clear from their post-convention conduct. The Georgia convention refused to budge an inch from the activities which had led to their suspension. Moreover, they then and there voted a $300 contribution to the Free Press Association and authorized delegates to attend its forthcoming meeting with power to join. Oklahoma voted a $500 contribution to the Free Press. The Louisiana executive committee voted to surrender the national charter. The first vice president of the Georgia Federation dispatched a letter to Congressman Baring doing everything possible to alienate him from the Federation. A Free Press meeting was called for Nashville on the Labor Day weekend. The six suspended states and one or two others were present. They voted not to comply with any conditions of readmission that may be laid down by the Federation. They made a pact that no one of them would seek or accept readmission unless all were readmitted. They voted to establish another national organization. George Card traveled to Nashville to attend the Free Press meeting and has since projected a long tour of states in league with the Free Press and to achieve their objectives.
It would be instructive to know how you explain and justify these latest factional maneuvers. Are these maneuvers fair play or are they such unmistakably vicious blows at the very existence of the Federation that suspension (if it were not already in effect) must seem only the gentlest of possible sanctions?
We both know that the actions and attitudes which you now see fit to disclose have long been in the making. For many months prior to the convention you were engaged in attacking the Federation's fund raiser, in attacking its then First Vice President as a ruthless and unscrupulous schemer, and in attacking me as the accomplice or dupe of both of them. These charges which you knew to be altogether false when you spread them, were merely the weapons of a personal political campaign designed to destroy the First Vice President, to bolster your own position as finance director, and to foster an image of the President as an impractical and idealistic professor utterly dependent upon the practical common sense of the finance director.
Early in 1960 I was forced to call you to task for this agitation, and to direct you as a staff employee to bring it to a halt. Instead of complying, you offered to resign from the paying part of your position. Out of consideration for your years of service, as well as for your failing health, I declined the offer. You then promptly took up the affair with a member of the Executive Committee and formed your league with Dave Krause, with the result that problems of staff were made the principal issue of the March meeting of the Executive Committee. Since then you have not only refused to discontinue your political activity but have vastly increased it and broadened the scope of your attacks.
You state in your letter that I should not have informed the convention of my decision not to remain either as President or as a member if the Federation was unable to defend itself against these attacks. That decision was a fact. Obviously it should be considered among other facts. If it is not a fact of importance to you, it is not unimportant in the minds of others. To have kept the members in the dark about it would have been the height of deception. It had the same relevance to the discussion as the other factual consequences of this destructive campaign bearing upon our relations with Congress, our fundraising, and our effectiveness as an organization.
In another phase of your attack on me, you speak of a myth of my indispensability. I have never contributed to such a myth or believed anything of the kind; on the contrary, I shall be most happy to be relieved of the Presidency whenever the majority believes that it has found a better man for the job. But in the meantime I assure you that I shall not be driven from that office by the harassment of a minority, even though you have now seen fit to join its cause.
But if I have done nothing to encourage the myth you mention, I confess that I have done much to build another one: the myth of George Card. Unlike you I do not now regret that action. There was then a great deal of justification for it. I would not now seek to rewrite history as it then stood. That you have ceased to be the George Card you once were makes of the earlier portrayal a myth of today or of any time since Boston.
I have, despite everything, been willing to retain you as a member of the Federation staff with the adjusted responsibilities indicated in my letter. Let me repeat, however, unequivocally that if you continue to flout the constitutional policy governing staff employment, and to carry on the further agitation you have outlined and already initiated, you will forthwith have resigned from your position.
Jacobus tenBroek, President
As 1960 drew to a close, the level of discord seemed (if this were possible) to increase. The minority (calling itself the Free Press) met in Nashville, Tennessee, over the Labor Day weekend and followed the meeting with a series of blasts at the Federation and its leaders. The Braille Monitor no longer attempted to stand above the battle but openly came into the fray to defend the democratic character of the Federation and the right of the majority to set policy. Editor Kenneth Jernigan set the tone in an open letter to the members in the November, 1960, issue of the magazine, saying that he believed the Federation to be democratic and worthwhile and that he would defend it from the destructive elements that were trying to tear it down.
Jernigan was as good as his word, for in that same November 1960, issue of the Braille Monitor he published a satirical commentary on the lack of democracy in the Free Press Association. Here, in part, is what he said:
Everyone knows that the Free Press Association [later the American Council of the Blind] is made up of dedicated reformers. The Free Press would never have been established if its members could have received fair play and just treatment in the Federation. Despite slander and vilification by the tenBroek administration and others, the Free Press and its adherents practice democracy in its purest form. Let those who doubt the truth of this statement consider the following comparisons between the National Federation of the Blind (which everybody knows to be a notorious dictatorship) and the Free Press group.
The National Federation conventions are open meetings. Anyone may attend. Anyone may make tape recordings. Anyone may take notes. Anyone may speak on any issue, subject only to time limitations voted by the majority after discussion and debate. At the Miami convention of the Federation and at the Santa Fe convention in 1959 members of the Free Press group made tapes of the entire proceedings.
Compare with this the meetings of the Free Press Association. At Nashville this year during the Labor Day weekend the Free Press leaders stopped people at the door and demanded to know what their sentiments were before they could enter the room. Now, wait! I know what you're thinking! Don't jump to conclusions. You can't call this undemocratic. You see, this was not a meeting. It was simply a session of the Free Press held as a committee of the whole. Yes, I know that meetings of the resolutions committee and other committees of the Federation are open to all who wish to attend, but you just don't understand. A new organization has to protect itself against spies and tyrannical majorities. As I was saying, at the Free Press meeting in Nashville people were questioned at the door as to their loyalties and sentiments before they could enter. Permission was denied for anyone to make tape recordings. The President of the Federation requested the right to attend, either personally or by representative, but permission was denied.
During the Free Press meeting one person was caught taking notes. Mr. McDaniel immediately explained that no one could take notes except the official note takers. Of course, these official note takers had not been elected by the group. One person who managed to get into the meeting and who said, when asked about her loyalties, that she hadn't made up her mind but had come to observe, was asked to leave the meeting. She did leave. In other words, the Free Press proved that it certainly practices what it preaches.
Perhaps the greatest testimonial to the Federation's basic soundness and deep significance to the blind of the nation was the fact that through all of this pulling and hauling the overwhelming majority of the state and local leaders and the rank-and-file members remained unwavering in their support of the tenBroek administration and their wish to leave the civil war behind them. The 1961 convention in Kansas City was to see the climax of the hostilities and the beginning of the end of the strife.
The Kansas City convention represented a watershed in the history of the movement; for it was then that a symbolic thunderclap struck the Federation and its members an occurrence which none anticipated and few were prepared to accept. Here is how that event was described in a subsequent convention report by John Taylor:
After 21 years as founder and as the continuously elected President of the National Federation, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek surprised and dismayed the convention by announcing his resignation from office on the first morning of the sessions. Dr. tenBroek's resignation, which came in the middle of his current two-year term in office, was prompted solely by the bitter factional strife which has gripped its activities during the past 12 months. As the new President of the organization, I cannot fully describe my own feelings. Dr. tenBroek brought this organization into being and has nurtured it through a score of years. We have lost in Dr. tenBroek the greatest leader the organized blind movement has ever had or will ever have. His announcement struck dismay into the hearts of hundreds in the audience; at its conclusion there were few among us with eyes entirely dry. As founder of the Federation, as its only President for 21 years, as its leader and leading spirit, he built the Federation (against persistent external opposition during the whole life of the Federation and internal disruption in recent years) into an organization that is democratic, representative, and national. In a unique way, and to a striking degree, its philosophy is his philosophy; its character is his character; its accomplishments are his. In the hearts and gratitude of his fellows, he stands as the blind man of the century.
The stunning announcement by Jacobus tenBroek of his resignation from the presidency, catastrophic as it appeared to most of the delegates, served to inspirit the convention to the task of putting its house in order. The key decision was a vote against readmitting unconditionally the four state affiliates still under suspension (two had been re-accepted). The result of this vote was that the suspended affiliates, while they did not formally withdraw from the NFB, walked out of the convention and met in a neighboring hotel, where they formed themselves into the opposition American Council of the Blind taking with them a handful of other disgruntled Federationists, and by so doing effectively bringing to an end the organized insurrection within the NFB.
The American Council of the Blind, being composed as it was of people who had not succeeded in the mainstream of the organized blind movement, grew slowly and sporadically through the years. After a full generation it remained comparatively small. During the first twenty years of its existence the Council spent much of its time reliving the Federation's civil war and attacking the Federation and its leaders. The 1980s saw some mellowing of this attitude, but at the end of the decade bitterness against the Federation still constituted a significant element of the Council's rationale. As it developed, the organization moved closer to the more reactionary agencies in the field and was often used by them as a counter to the Federation's advocacy role. It is fair to say that the American Council of the Blind has never played a major part in the affairs of the blind.
The struggle within the Federation, the events surrounding the 1961 convention, and the establishment of the American Council of the Blind were assessed by Jacobus tenBroek in 1962, when the organized blind movement was recovering from its self-inflicted wounds. His speech said in part:
The last of the threats to the welfare of the blind is by no means the least. In many ways it is the gravest of all. It is the self-challenge of our own division and dissension the interna peril of palsy and paralysis. Movements, too, have their diseases. And the worst of these, the one most often fatal, is the virus of creeping anarchy the blight of disunity and discord which gnaws at the vitals of a stricken movement until its will is sapped, its strength drained away, and its moral fiber shattered. The movement of the organized blind we all know to our sorrow has been so afflicted. If our movement is to rise again, there must be among us a massive recovery of the will to live: a revival of the sense of purpose and mission, indeed of manifest destiny, which once infused this Federation and fired its forward advance.
If we fail in that, more than a movement dies. The Federation has been, above all things, a repository of faith the faith of tens of thousands without sight and otherwise without a voice. It has become a symbol, a living proof, of the collective rationality and responsibility of blind men and women of their capacity to think and move and speak for themselves, to be self-activated, self-disciplined, and self-governing: In a word, to be normal. Our failure is the death of that idea. Our success is the vindication of that faith.
(back) (contents) (next)