Kenneth Jernigan, November 13, 1926, to October 12, 1998 
by Barbara Pierce

Dr. Jernigan's casket is pictured in the Jernigan living room shortly before the arrival of the hearse.

The pallbearers and honorary pallbearers stand in the Jernigan dining room. Each man wears a tie purchased by the Jernigans last fall in France. Pictured left to right are Herbert Magin, Mohymen Saddeek, Charles Cook, John Cheadle, Anthony Cobb, Marc Maurer, Allen Harris, Lloyd Jernigan, Donald Capps, and Wayne Wilhelm.

This scene took place on Wednesday, the visitation day during which people came to pay their respects and spend time with the family.

The Jernigan home the morning of the funeral.

Dr. Jernigan had died quietly on Monday, October 12, and that evening word went out across the nation and the world that the long vigil had ended. Knowing that time was short, Dr. Jernigan himself had participated in making many of the plans for the two-day celebration of his life and work.

Family and Friends gather for the walk to the church.

Following the Wednesday evening wake (a quiet service of scripture and prayers), the casket was returned to the Jernigan home for the last night. Thursday morning the Jernigan family, Mrs. Jernigan's family, the pallbearers, and a few close Federation friends walked the three blocks to the church, accompanying the hearse carrying Dr. Jernigan's body. The day was perfect October weather—warm sun, cool breezes, intensely blue sky, and trees just beginning to change color.

Mrs. Jernigan, family members, and friends walked from the Jernigans' home to the church, following the hearse. David Maurer carried the American flag. His sister Dianna carried the NFB flag and Larry McKeever accompanied the flag bearers.

Meantime buses were loading at the National Center for the Blind, and cabs were carrying Federationists and friends from hotels around the city.

The pallbearers and one official from the funeral home carry the casket into the church.

Four hundred mourners gathered in St. Joseph's Monastery Church for the 10:00 a.m. Mass of the Resurrection. Ramona Walhof, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and a colleague of many years; Tony Cobb, Dr. Jernigan's son-in-law and a member of the National Center staff; Charles Cook, a long-time colleague; and Wayne Wilhelm, a close personal friend, read scripture. Jim Gashel led the congregation in prayer, and Mrs. Jernigan's nephew James Irwin sang "How Great Thou Art."

The nave of St. Joseph's Monastery Church

Father Gregory Paul delivered the sermon and presided at the service, and President Maurer delivered the eulogy. Craig Gildner of the national staff acted as server during the service.

Marie and Tony Cobb stand at the lectern as he reads the Twenty-third Psalm. Craig Gildner is seated in the background.

At the close of the eucharist Mr. Cobb read a deeply moving compilation of some of Dr. Jernigan's words capturing the Federation's determination to march forward and claim the promise of tomorrow. Here is the text he prepared and read:

Marc Maurer delivers the eulogy. Father Gregory is seated in the background.

Walking Alone And Marching Together

The procession through Loudon Park Cemetery to the grave site.

Many of Dr. Jernigan's students and colleagues in the National Federation of the Blind came to the movement in the 1970's and 1980's to march by his side on the way to first-class citizenship. It is therefore fitting to remember the pride and profound respect many here today felt as he spoke the following words:

On Madison Avenue in New York City, July 6, 1973:

Finally we came marching—marching to take part, marching to be heard, marching to be free, marching to be treated like human beings.

The pallbearers carry the casket to the grave.

And when we came marching, they closed their eyes. They locked us out, and they turned us out, but we are here today— because they cannot turn us off.

On Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, Convention week, 1980:

We have come from our farms, our businesses, our workshops, and our agencies. We have come so that we might demonstrate our determination to

Almost everyone who attended the funeral participated in the interment service as well.

be free.... Through our sacrifices, our turmoil, and our scars, we have climbed close to the final plateau on the stairway to freedom.

We have come today from throughout this nation to sustain our march toward freedom, to renew our climb up the stairway to first-class citizenship.

Father Gregory conducts the interment service.

Marc Maurer and Mary Ellen Jernigan sprinkle dirt on the lid of the casket.

Finally, who of those present at the 1985 National Convention Banquet

Mary Ellen Jernigan, Marc Maurer, Marie Cobb, andTony Cobb stand at the casket after all the mourners scattered dirt or flowers on it.

Speech in Louisville could forget the mood as Dr. Jernigan concluded with this moving invitation:

Tomorrow is bright with promise. We go to meet it with gladness: and we take with us all that we have—our hopes and our dreams, our will to work and our knowledge of deprivation, our faith and our purpose, and our heritage of slavery. And this also we take— our trust in ourselves, our love for each other, and our belief in the ultimate goodness of people.

President Maurer makes an announcement to the luncheon crowd seated at tables on the Skydeck.

My brothers and my sisters, the future is ours! Come, join me!—and we will march together to freedom!

So it was then, is now, and will be in the future Dr. Jernigan now passes to each of us—a future which we accept with its implicit challenge to love as he loved, to give as he gave, and to persevere as he persevered, walking alone and marching together.

Part of the display of photographs and furniture in the dining room at the National Center.

The pallbearers then accompanied the casket to the hearse as the recessional began, and Mrs. Jernigan and those seated in the family pews followed the pallbearers out of the church, leading the procession to the grave site. David Patrick and Dianna Marie Maurer soberly carried the American and NFB flags at the head of the line. As people left the church pew by pew, they either fell into the procession wending its way into the cemetery or stepped aside to board buses for the short ride to the grave.

The walk represented the last time we would follow Dr. Jernigan in an important march. Even in the midst of our sadness, it became a wonderful affirmation of the unity and love of this movement which Dr. Jernigan worked so hard to build and which he loved with every ounce of his being. Members of the press recorded the event, and all those who took part will never forget the experience.

The committal service was brief, and it concluded with Mrs. Jernigan and President Maurer sprinkling dirt on the casket as it waited to be lowered into the grave. All those interested in doing so were invited to pay their final respects by also sprinkling dirt on the casket. Then they boarded the buses for the return trip to the National Center.

As people arrived on the fourth floor, they were invited to step out onto the new Jernigan Skydeck, where luncheon was served to everyone. Following lunch guests were encouraged to visit several areas of the building where special events or activities were taking place. In the dining room was a

Two tables filled with paper airplanes in the Harbor Room in the National Center

display of photographs of Dr. Jernigan and examples of the furniture he had made. In the East Mall was an audio retrospective of many of his speeches. In the conference room was a video montage of highlights of Dr. Jernigan's life.

Dr. Jernigan testing a paperairplane during a National Convention lunch recess. Don Bell stands in the background.

And in the Harbor Room were materials for constructing paper airplanes. Dr. Jernigan used to make planes and fly them into the audience during the lunch recess at conventions. Now, while listening to some of Dr. Jernigan's favorite music by Bing Crosby and Vera Lynn, Federationists had the chance to write messages on their own planes and take them home or leave them to be made into a collage to commemorate the day.

The celebration lasted well into the afternoon. Everyone experienced moments when tears filled the eyes and the throat constricted at the thought that this wonderful man would never again walk among us. But we were surrounded by his words and filled with his determination to change the world.

Eight floral tributes that arrived at the National Center are pictured here in the conference room.

The love that he had poured out so lavishly upon blind people everywhere welled up within us, and we found ourselves comforting each other and rededicating ourselves to the work Dr. Jernigan had called us to undertake. In short, it was a day that Dr. Jernigan would have loved and which everyone who took part will always remember.