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Tom Bickford accompanies Lloyd Rasmussen on guitar as
Lloyd sings the "Technology Song" during the memorial service

Thomas Bickford

From the Editor: The following recollection was submitted to the Braille Monitor.

I first met Kenneth Jernigan in 1955. I was a blind college student in California, and rehab referred me to the orientation center in Oakland. We were young then, both in our twenties. He looked young too, though he didn't like to be told so. As the years went by, he grew to feel the weight of responsibility and the power of authority, and he learned to carry those burdens with dignity and wisdom.

In our first interview we talked about independent travel. I finally asked, "Do you mean that you would take your cane and fly to Japan?"

He answered simply, "Yes." I didn't believe him, and I am sure he knew it without my saying so. But he made a believer out of me. Since then I have traveled alone by every means of modern transportation from Oakland to Russia and back and through plenty of places in between. And I, who graduated from college hating to write, through the Federation have become a published author on the subject of cane travel.

Kenneth Jernigan was not the administrator of the center, but just by his personality he was the spiritual and philosophical leader. He taught several classes, but the most important one was called "Business Methods and Procedures." We discussed ideas about blindness, ours and society's. Each day he would pick on a particular subject and often on a particular student, and he would grill us on our attitudes and beliefs. We learned and changed and put these beliefs to work in our own lives. We worked hard, we thought hard, and at the right times we played hard. Kenneth Jernigan was there with us, leading by example.

When the orientation students were inspired to plan an overnight camping trip, he joined us, leading a hike over the hills and barefoot through a running stream. That was the trip when one of the students, a former logger, brought his climbing rig and went up a big tree, the incident we heard celebrated in the "even I" story [in the Kernel Book To Touch the Untouchable Dream.]

Among his many characteristics Kenneth Jernigan was eager, energetic, enthusiastic, idealistic, and practical. At least one time his idealism got ahead of his practicality. He brought me to Iowa and tried to make a rehab counselor out of me. I wasn't a good one, and we both knew it. We parted company as employer and employee on good terms.

He taught me that to improve my own lot in life I had to work through the National Federation of the Blind to improve the lives of other blind people. He taught me how to live a good life, and I have.