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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 Headlines

Chicago the TRIBUTE to play Opera House Saloon in Roseville(ROSEVILLE, CA) - Chicago the TRIBUTE, a 9-piece tribute to the band with the horns and hits will be playing the Opera House Saloon Roseville on Thursday, March 30

Roseville Criminal Activity Heats UpRoseville, CA- As the weather heats up, so does Roseville criminal activity. The Roseville police log digest update for the ten-day period covering March 10-20, 2017.

Free STD and STI Testing and Treatment in Roseville(Roseville, CA) - Sierra Pregnancy & Health (SPH) announced they have begun offering free testing and treatment for STD/STIs, including gonorrhea and chlamydia

Placer County Government Center ProposalAUBURN, Calif. -- After considerable analysis, stakeholder engagement, design and planning, the Placer County Board of Supervisors were presented a plan for a re-envisioned Placer County Government

Ghost in the Shell coming to IMAXGhost in the Shell: An IMAX 3D Experience opens at the Esquire IMAX Theatre on March 30 at 7:00 p.m

Auburn Art Walk begins April 7The Auburn Art Walk will take place on the first Friday of April, June, August and October 2017, from 6 pm to 9 pm

Achieve Tahoe to Host Ability Challenge Fundraiser at Squaw ValleyAlpine Meadows, CA - Achieve Tahoe, a leading provider of winter and summer adaptive sports instruction at all ability levels for adults and children with disabilities

Guys and Dolls at William Jessup University in AprilROCKLIN, CA. - William Jessup University's Creative Arts department presents Guys and Dolls for six weekend performances, starting April 7-8-9.

Prenatal Health Services to begin at Auburn Health CenterAUBURN, CA - Chapa-De Indian Health is proud to announce that its Auburn Health Center will begin providing prenatal health services to patients starting this week.

Roseville Skatetown to Host Curling BonspielRoseville, CA -Brand New Barrel Bonspiel Brings 16 California Curling Teams to Roseville on March 24-26.

Placer Valley Tourism to operate Placer County FairgroundsAUBURN, Calif. -- The Placer County Board of Supervisors today approved Placer Valley Tourism, a private nonprofit organization, as the new operator of the Placer County Fairgrounds

Roseville Gas Price Competition StiffensRoseville, CA - Competition has stiffened as Roseville gas prices were mostly flat during this past week.


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