The Braille Monitor                                                                        December 2005


Aloha with Love

by Katie Keim

Dr. Floyd Matson addresses the Hawai’i convention while Katie Keim looks on.
Dr. Floyd Matson addresses the Hawai'i convention while Katie Keim looks on.

From the Editor: Katie Keim is secretary of the NFB of Hawai'i. She is also a rehabilitation teacher at Ho'opono, Hawai'i's state agency for the blind. In the following article she reports on a special presentation made at the NFB of Hawai'i's convention. This is what she says:

One of our longtime soldiers was honored this year at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawai'i. We were honored and give thanks to our national president, Dr. Marc Maurer, for reading Hawai'i's resolution 2005-01. Thanks go as well to many in Hawai'i and across the country for their participation in authoring this resolution. Whether joining in the spirit that created it, in the thought that conceived it, or in the writing and editing of it, thank you.

Dr. Floyd Matson was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai'i. In our local language of pidgin we call him "one kine Kama'aina," which means of the land or earth, and Matt is indeed of the earth. Dr. Floyd Matson has been rooted in our Federation, an NFB kama'aina, for over fifty years.

He first became involved after his return to California at U.C. Berkeley, having completed a tour of duty during World War II and then two years during the occupation of Japan. He returned in early spring of 1948 to Berkeley, where he completed his undergraduate work in what was then called public policy. A young man earning a mere $65 a month on the G.I. Bill needed to supplement his income, supporting himself through school. Seeking out the campus's help-wanted ads, he responded to a notice looking for a research assistant.

A partnership began that quickly evolved into a long-standing friendship with our movement, first with Dr. TenBroek, then Dr. Jernigan, and now Dr. Maurer. Dr. Matson was often in Dr. tenBroek's office while Chick was discussing NFB business. Within the first year that Matt worked with Dr. TenBroek, Chick began to share the nature of his business with his assistant. As happens to many NFB members, Matt gradually found his day filled with NFB matters.

Early in Matson's work as an assistant doing research for a book to be published by Dr. tenBroek, it became apparent to Chick that Matt had, in essence, written a third of the book while doing the research. Dr. tenBroek's partner and co-author, another professor, was adamant that a lowly undergraduate and a paid assistant to boot should not receive the honor of being a co-author. In the spirit of fair play that created our organization, tenBroek was just as adamant. The book, Prejudice, War and the Constitution, was born in the fall of 1954 with three co-authors; known fondly as Matt, Chick, and Barnie. The book almost immediately received a major award, the Woodrow Wilson Award, and was nationally known as the best book on government and democracy. Great honor, prestige, and $1,000 divided three ways went to the bank that day.

Dr. Matson graduated from Berkeley in 1950 and immediately began his master's and then his Ph.D. in political science, which he received in 1960. Political controversy being nothing new to Matt by the early sixties, he undertook to publish a book that undermined the foundations of behavioral sciences of the day in his bid for tenure at U.C. Berkeley. Though Matson lost his chance for tenure in California, his support by 75 percent of his scholarly readers landed him an academic job back in Hawai'i in 1965. The book is titled The Broken Image, Man, Science, and Society.

As with any devoted Federationist, Dr. Matson took the NFB with him wherever he went. Because the NFB had been in Hawai'i informally and later formally since the 1920's, he connected with Eva Smythe. She had organized a blind movement with graduates of the Diamond Head School for the Blind. Ms. Smythe originally called her blind movement "the Hawai'i Federation." She later communicated with Dr. TenBroek in the 1950's, making our Hawai'i Federation a formal part of the NFB.

Matt first met Eva Smythe in 1965 at our twenty-fifth national convention, sitting at the Hawai'i delegate table. That evening he also met several representatives who served and continue to serve in Congress. When Dr. Matson returned that fall to Hawai'i, by then deeply entrenched in our philosophy, he connected with Eva Smythe and has continued to work tirelessly for our cause ever since.
Dr. Matson first met Kenneth Jernigan in the early 1950's in Oakland, California, while Dr. Jernigan was teaching at the orientation center for the blind. After almost two decades of work with Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Matt began to work regularly with Dr. Jernigan in 1968, meeting in Jernigan's office, home, and often at formal dinners that the Jernigans hosted for legislative representatives and politicians.

Matt first met Marc Maurer while meeting with Kenneth Jernigan in Iowa. Dr. Maurer was coming in as a new student at the commission for the blind in Des Moines. Dr. Jernigan invited Dr. Matson to stay and observe this new student. Who could have guessed then that young Marc Maurer would come to be our next national president? Matt's relationship with President Maurer was quickly established since his role had already been well defined in the Federation with two preceding presidents. Matson would come to work as closely with Dr. Maurer as he had with Drs. tenBroek and Jernigan.

We in Hawai'i have been blessed to have as a member such a distinguished historian as Dr. Floyd Matson. He has remained with us since his return in 1965. He still sits on our state board as a director, and if you bring him a bottle of wine, he might just recollect a few anecdotes from NFB history.

Hail, hail to our Mattie! Here is the text of the resolution:

Resolution 2005-01

A Resolution Celebrating the Contributions of Dr. Floyd Matson to Our Blind Civil Rights Movement and Declaring Him a "State Treasure"

Author: Many devoted Federationists, with love

WHEREAS, Dr. Floyd Matson has humbly toiled in the cause of justice, equality, and liberation for the blind of this country in the service of the National Federation of the Blind for over five decades; and

WHEREAS, through his research, writing, and oral contributions, Dr. Matson has helped to transform the status of blind people in the eyes of society from a dependent, helpless social group to a progressive, capable, and vibrant civil rights movement; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Matson has set an example of true commitment, stepping up to the line whenever called upon to serve both the national organization and its Hawai'i affiliate; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Matson has preserved for generations to come the historic legacy of our founder and revered leader, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, by brilliantly chronicling his life in a recent biography; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Matson, a sighted man who joined Dr. tenBroek as an assistant in the 1950's, continues to stand steadfast with the Federation on the barricades, in the halls of Congress, before the media, and in the pages of history forever as one of us, an indefatigable advocate for the blind of America:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Hawai'i in convention assembled in the city of Honolulu, Hawai'i, this 10th day of September, 2005, that we honor and salute Dr. Floyd Matson for his decades of tireless service and monumental historical achievement and for the written legacy of our blind civil rights movement to which he has dedicated so much of his life, and accordingly that we proclaim Dr. Floyd Matson to be a Hawai'i affiliate State Treasure; and that we declare with utmost pride that he is and shall remain one of us: a devoted and loyal Federationist.