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Lloyd Jernigan confers with Dr. Jernigan
at the head table.

My Brother, My Friend
by Lloyd Jernigan

From the Editor: Lloyd Jernigan was Dr. Jernigan's older brother. This is what he said at the memorial service:

First, I want to read two paragraphs from a letter that I received from Dr. Abraham Nemeth and his wife Edna. I received the letter shortly after returning home from Kenneth's funeral, and I appreciate his kind words about my brother. These two paragraphs will explain a great deal about Kenneth's life and his legacy. I now quote from Dr. Nemeth's letter:

"Now he belongs to the ages." These were the words uttered by Edwin McMasters Stanton, President Lincoln's Secretary of War, at the moment of Mr. Lincoln's death. Dr. Jernigan will forever occupy a prominent place of honor, love, and respect in the history of the blindness movement. No one whose life in any way touched that of Dr. Jernigan could fail to sense that he was in the presence of greatness. We are grateful and privileged to have had that experience.

We know that we cannot, nor are we required to, achieve all the goals that we have set for ourselves—having achieved one, there is always another in the distance—but neither are we at liberty on that account to refrain from exerting the effort toward that achievement.

When we are momentarily disoriented and are required to assess the alternatives before us, we should pause, turn back, and take careful note of the direction in which Dr. Jernigan is pointing. Then we should face forward again and follow that direction. He has always guided us along a path which has brought us closer to our objectives.

Those three paragraphs bring us a great message from Dr. Nemeth. In Dallas during the past convention an NFB member from New Jersey said, "He taught us how to be a family." The blind definitely have a better chance in life today than at any other time in history. Kenneth Jernigan also fought the battle of prejudice through pity. Without the acceptance of sighted people, it is difficult for the blind to achieve their goals.

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Dr. Jernigan and his brother Lloyd stand
in front of a bus at the Bear Creek barbecue in 1993.

As youngsters Kenneth and I were raised on a farm in Tennessee. Several of the Kernel Books have articles about his life on the farm. Our parents and I were afraid to let Kenneth out of our sight for fear that he would be injured. That action is what I now see as loving pity, which hinders the future independence and ultimately a happy and successful life of a blind child. It took me many years to rid myself of that loving pity. I believe that one of the great obstacles facing blind persons during Kenneth's youth, as well as today, was the lack of understanding of blindness by family members. My family truly believed that because of his blindness Kenneth would lead a bleak helpless life, depending on others for survival. Thank God we were wrong.

All blind persons, present and future, will have a better chance to be independent and self-supporting because of our brother. He was not only my brother; he also considered many of you his brothers and sisters.

Kenneth was a very serious person when it involved the NFB or other business activities, but he was also a fun person to be around. I am told by some of his college associates that he was a typical, devilish, happy-go-lucky kid in college. Like the time at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee, when he and some cronies were out one night much later than they were supposed to be. They decided to drive across the Dean's lawn, and the car mired down and became stuck. I understand that the Dean was not very happy about the incident. When Kenneth lived in Iowa, he was appointed to the State Wine Board for the purpose of purchasing wine for all state stores. I was invited to attend a meeting with him to a wine tasting in Des Moines. The location of the event was three or four blocks from Kenneth's apartment. After tasting many different wines, we started walking home. Realizing that I was not feeling well, Kenneth said, "My God, man, I can travel better than you, come on: I'll take you home."

I remember my first meeting with Dr. tenBroek, which took place in Detroit. I marveled at the mobility and independence displayed by him. He stood erect and carried himself with dignity. After Dr. tenBroek's death Kenneth carried on the fight for the blind movement. I know that President Maurer and the members of the National Federation of the Blind will continue the battle. My sister-in-law Mary Ellen is to be commended for her loyalty and support to my brother. She stood by him until his last breath.

A great leader's work is never finished. We always say, "If he could have lasted just a little longer." If Kenneth were alive ten years from today, he would have new projects going, and we would say, "If he could have lasted just a little longer." I believe that Kenneth lived a good, full life. He has helped his fellow man; he has made a difference.

Kenneth Jernigan was a giant of a man, not in physical stature, but in achievements. Blind persons around the world, as well as their government leaders, knew his name. Kenneth Jernigan—my brother, your teacher, our mentor—He will be missed.