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Dr. Jernigan and Dr. Euclid Herie

Reflections on the Life of A Valued Friend and Colleague
by Euclid J. Herie

From the Editor: Dr. Herie is President of the World Blind Union and President and CEO of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

How does one measure the impact and influence of the life of Kenneth Jernigan? A twentieth-century Renaissance man for blind people across the United States and throughout the world, Dr. Jernigan was a man of letters and superior intellect. From the barricades to the board room he fought for inclusion of blind people in education, employment, culture, and society. He established the belief that with a proper attitude and appropriate training the condition of blindness can be reduced to that of a mere nuisance.

Blind since birth, Dr. Jernigan grew up in the hills of Tennessee. He graduated from university at a time when few blind persons were encouraged to pursue higher education.

Kenneth Jernigan, a writer, philosopher and teacher, was unequalled as an internationally renowned speaker. In true form he delivered the keynote address at the fourth General Assembly of the World Blind Union in August of 1996 on the theme, "Changing What It Means to be Blind." At the same Assembly he was elected an honorary life member of the World Blind Union, having served as Regional President of the North America/Caribbean Region for more than a decade.

In my role as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, I was privileged to be part of the delegation to honor Dr. Jernigan as the 1998 recipient of the CNIB Winston Gordon Award for Technological Advancement in the Field of Blindness and Visual Impairment. This prestigious international award, presented on September 14 at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, was given for the development of NEWSLINE for the Blind®. In his acceptance speech for the award, he found the strength to articulate for one last time his life work in advocacy on the theme of "The Day After Civil Rights."

Like Louis Braille, Kenneth Jernigan will be remembered as one of the most influential figures in the blindness movement in our time. The decorations and honors awarded him in his lifetime would require a large gallery for public display. President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, his biography and voluminous writings will preserve his memory and teachings for generations to come in private collections and libraries worldwide.

It is with a deep sense of loss that I say farewell to a close friend whom I held in the highest regard. He had a great influence on my professional career in the field of blindness and personally helped me to understand that it is respectable to be blind. I will miss him.