Trailblazer for Blind: Dr. Kenneth Jernigan
This is that column held in reserve more than a decade, the one I'd always envisioned writing but wouldn't until now.
Over a lifespan, I've met many impressive people. Perhaps the one impressing me most by his or her mere physical presence was Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who I used to call "neighbor."
Before his passing in 1998, he led in some capacity the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), a Baltimore-based organization serving about 50,000 blind Americans. The Federation always has been quick at saying it's "of" the blind, not "for," meaning they run their own organization.
Jernigan was born blind in rural Tennessee and through hard work eventually earned in 1949 the Captain Charles W. Brown Award as America's most outstanding blind college student. He then became a teacher in California and in 1954 challenged that state's public schools to hire qualified blind teachers.
His letter to that state's legislature provides insight into his spirit: "The barriers have at last begun to crumble, and the blind to emerge from their long subjugation. In the democratic tradition, they have organized themselves for united action and now, instead of charity, they have begun to demand equality-the right to work and to live as free citizens in a free society; the right to succeed or fail according to their individual abilities."
In the late '50s, he started reforming the nation's worst state commission for the blind, Iowa, into the best, and from 1968 until his death in 1998, he personified the Federation's "can-do" mentality. Many Federation members still liken him as their "Moses."
We met in Baltimore. He lived four blocks away in an ante-bellum home off Augusta Avenue, and the first time I saw him, he was at an Irvington Community Association meeting addressing a contentious issue. He was immaculately dressed, including wearing spotless, shined shoes and a red pocket hanky. When he spoke, literally everyone listened. I've never met a person with such physical "presence."
I can still see him standing at the bus stop every morning, along with Mark Maurer, the man later succeeding him at NFB. Using their white canes, they looked like distinguished London bankers off for a spot of tea. Theirs was such a contrast of style for our mostly middle-class, blue-collar neighborhood. Likewise, Jernigan's style was such a contrast to most others representing people with disabilities. He stood out.
Sponsored by Blue Valley Sod.
Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.
Daniel J. Vance may be reached at www.danieljvance.com
Placer County News HeadlinesBuying a Home is Still Better Than RentingRoseville, CA-- Home prices continue to rise faster than incomes and new employment, but it is still more cost efficient to own a home than to rent.
Parking Fees being levied at Hidden FallsAUBURN, Calif. -- Placer County's Hidden Falls Regional Park in North Auburn is a gem of a park. Unfortunately, parking can be hard to find, especially during weekends
$22.5 Million Approved for Placer County BuildingsAUBURN, Calif. -- Placer County Board of Supervisors approve an investment plan that will allocate a minimum of $4.5 million annually over the next five years
Placer SPCA Sees Success in Waiving Adoption FeesRoseville, Calif. - Adoption fees are waived for all animals, without exception, at the Placer SPCA during the month of August for its "full hearts, empty kennels" campaign
Classic Car Show in Grass Valley August 25(Grass Valley, CA) Cascades of Grass Valley, a senior living community located at 415 Sierra College Drive in Grass Valley, will be hosting a classic car show on Friday, August 25
Warriors Set to Start 2017 Volleyball CampaignROCKLIN, Calif. - The William Jessup women's volleyball team will start the season this week hosting the Warrior Invitational
Podcasts for Fundraising Professionals and DonorsWith that goal in mind, Eric Hogue and David Pineschi of William Jessup University are regularly producing light-hearted podcasts each month
Mono County Events for Scenic Adventure SeekersMONO COUNTY, Calif. - After record-setting snowfall that refilled lakes and rivers, leaving glistening snow on high peaks and meadows below
Lowest Reported Gas Prices in RosevilleRoseville, CA- Gas prices in Roseville and Rocklin are holding relatively steady as residents shift from summer vacations back to school and work
WJU Volleyball signs Isabella MauricioROCKLIN, Calif. - The women's volleyball head coach, Shasta Millhollin announced the signing of Isabella Mauricio from Foster City, Calif. to the 2017-18 roster.
Foam Fest Craft Beer and Live Music Festival[Olympic Valley, Calif.] - Achieve Tahoe (formerly Disabled Sports USA Far West) will host its 28th annual "Foam Fest" fundraising event
The Great Banquet in Roseville October 7thROSEVILLE, Calif., - Joni and Friends Sacramento will hold its fourth bi-annual event titled "The Great Banquet" at Bayside Church in Roseville on October 7, 2017