The Braille Free Press
The Braille Free Press was a magazine published between 1959 and 1961. Two organizations published this periodical: first the Federation Free Press Association; later, the Braille Free Press Association. Upon its dissolution, the Braille Free Press Association transferred its rights and assets to the American Council of the Blind, the organization formed as an outgrowth of those events and activities chronicled in the pages of the Braille Free Press magazine.
At the time of its writing, the Braille Free Press magazine was perhaps the most widely distributed magazine among the blind of the United States. Chains of readers were formed in order to keep down the number of braille, print and tape copies that had to be produced. The print copy was mimeographed, colated, and stapled by hand through the work of dedicated volunteers in Oklahoma City, OK. Individual contributions made up a great share of the funding for braille and recorded distribution, along with chapter and state donations from some affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind.
The purpose of the Braille Free Press magazine was to print commentaries and articles expressing concerns about certain aspects of the National Federation of the Blind. Key issues included the ability of the President and Board of Directors to serve in perpetuity in their elected positions, the lack of meaningful use of the Board of Directors by the President; the unauthorized and relatively large expenditures by the President, and a completely closed publication to points of view that differed from that of the President. The magazine served as a grassroots expression of concern, and gave voice to facts that simply could not be made public in any other way than through this publication. It represents, even today, some of the finest writing about organizational structure and purposes within the organized blind movement in North America.
The Braille Free Press is a key part of the heritage of the American Council of the Blind. It has been and will doubtless continue to be quoted and referenced from time to time in The Braille Forum for this reason.
The "Braille Forum" and New Horizons
by Marie Boring
(Reprinted from "The Braille Forum," April 1962)
This is the first issue of "The Braille Forum." It is published by the American Council of the Blind, a new national organization of blind persons established in July of last year. Information concerning the publisher will be found elsewhere in this issue. We concern ourselves here with the aims and policies of this magazine.
Many of those receiving this first issue of our magazine have during the past three years become acquainted with "The Braille Free Press," a magazine published by the Braille Free Press Association. Some of its readers have requested information concerning the future of this magazine. The Braille Free Press Association has been dissolved, and all its assets have been transferred to the American Council of the Blind. "The Braille Forum" has thus become to some extent the successor to "The Braille Free Press." However, as the American Council of the Blind is a new organization with broader aims, "The Braille Forum" is a new magazine with broader horizons.
Though "The Braille Forum" is published by the American Council of the Blind, it has not been planned as a house organ of the publisher. There are already in the United States 105 braille publications. Of these, 30 are house organs of organizations, schools or agencies. Most of the remaining publications are dedicated to specific fields such as religion and news.
It is the hope of the American Council of the Blind to publish a magazine that will be unique in its approach and broad in its presentation. As the name implies, "The Braille Forum" will present to blind persons a medium through which they themselves may discuss any issue of special interest to blind people. It is the aim of this magazine to open its pages to all and to give space insofar as is practicable to discussions on both sides of those issues which may be of a controversial nature. It is hoped that the pages of "The Braille Forum" will also be used to disseminate information of special interest to the blind population of this country.
At present, "The Braille Forum" is prepared by an editorial board under the direction of a publications committee. This magazine will succeed if the readers make use of its pages and demand the fulfillment of its promise.
We believe that many of our readers are not interested in any publication so insipid as to be totally without bias. However, we also believe that a publication so narrow as to present only one point of view would soon cease to hold the interest of many of our readers. We believe that there is a need for the kind of publication which inspires thought and presents a challenge in developing attitudes toward blindness and the problems of blindness. It is hoped that "The Braille Forum" will appeal to those who seek the freedom to develop their own opinions and their own personal philosophy toward life and the handicap of blindness without the kind of presentation that gives the impression that one must fit into a special pattern or be cast forever into outer darkness. The aims of "The Braille Forum" then might well be stated as fairness, growth and progress.
Kansas City, 1961: The Organization Dismembered - Year of Destiny
Marie Boring included some frank advice in a letter she wrote to George Card on January 23, 1961. She thought he would do better to remain silent about his “pre-conversion” deeds: “I believe that you can serve no good purpose by trying to defend any of your actions while you were working with the tenBroek-Jernigan machine, except to say that you believed at the time that you were acting in the best interest of the Federation. You see, too many of us still remember the April Supplement and other issues of the Monitor. Though I am aware of the authorship of the April Supplement, it is also true that you accepted editorial responsibility for it in the April issue which preceded the Supplement.” 1
On January 24 it still had not been definitely determined who would become editor of the Braille Free Press. In a letter to Floyd Qualls, Durward McDaniel reported, “Marie called me today. I asked her if she were interested in becoming Editor of the BFP. She said she would not know until after an executive board meeting this weekend. I had sensed that she might be interested. … I suppose this would not complicate our Braille Free Press Association [BFPA] affairs too much to have more than one possibility.” 2
A “Third Faction”?
McDaniel also responded to George Burck of New Jersey, who had expressed concern about the BFPA demanding internal NFB reform before reunification. He wrote: “I can appreciate your concern for the obstacle which such a requirement on our part would create.” McDaniel went on to explain that, as a matter of fact, no such demand had ever been formalized. But he also took the occasion to point out a happy solution to which Burck could well contribute, in view of the terrible state of affairs to which the NFB administration had openly admitted being reduced: It appears to me that the Federation is now in a state which could produce substantial change if a number of leaders of state affiliates would set about to fill the vacuum created by the apparent demoralization of the administration. Whatever his history has been, tenBroek cannot reunite the organization. … I believe the best chance of avoiding his playing out the game to total destruction lies in the concerted effort of men like you acting cooperatively with others in similar position. … Unity, reconstruction and progress are impossible … under the control of tenBroek, Jernigan, and John Taylor. … Amputation is no real solution. Nonetheless, I anticipate that tenBroek will hold on desperately until the ship sinks under him unless he is convinced well in advance of the Kansas City convention that a large number of state leaders who have formerly supported him will no longer do so, and that they have banded together for the purpose of assuming a degree of leadership and responsibility which will not tolerate further destructive excesses on his part. Without trying to debate which is blacker, the pot or the kettle, I would be receptive to a plan which would afford our present “leadership” a graceful and honorable way out of the dilemma which their holding of official positions create for them and for the organization. Such a solution is not easily found with a personality which must win at all costs, but someone less partisan than I might be able to do something with the idea. … In short, and in plain words, a third faction is needed to break the logjam which threatens to submerge the organization. When I say “faction,” I am thinking of a coalition because I have learned the hard way that a group of loosely associated individuals cannot compete with the entrenched political force of Chick tenBroek. 3
Ned Freeman wrote to McDaniel the next day, noting that “one of the most important elements in our program is the provision (Article IV) for collective representative leadership through district representation on the executive board and other policy-making bodies. This substitution of group leadership for the one Big Leader should help to convince many that a national organization for the blind can exist without tenBroek.” He closed with the hope that the “proposed constitution can be completed in time for publication in the March Free Press.” 4
In this unsettled situation, no one seemed quite sure what should be done. Dave Krause wrote to Floyd Qualls on January 27 to congratulate him on his second installment of philosopher Borderline Lee, but he also expressed his ambivalence about how to proceed. His personal conviction was that “ever since Dr. tenBroek’s mad Miami massacre, it was time to form a new national organization. … Reform is well nigh impossible. More important, however, I am not at all sure that the very name National Federation of the Blind can ever again, in our lifetime at least, be made respectable and free from the taint now attached to it.” Krause realized, however, that the majority of those interested in reform wanted to make one last effort to accomplish it within the NFB at Kansas City. “Such being the case, I think we should make this one final try.” Krause favored going to Kansas City with two well-prepared alternate scenarios, ready to put either one quickly into action: “If the reform effort fails, let us plan now to have a second convention in Kansas City while we are all still assembled, should it become necessary to form a new national organization. … I hope we can put an end to our meeting to plan to plan to meet to meet to plan.” 5
At almost the same time, Durward McDaniel made it clear to Allen Jenkins, active NFB member and longtime friend of tenBroek, that, “I would like to see the Federation hold together as the single national organization of the blind, and I am doing what I can to make this last effort succeed. … Chick cannot unify the organization—neither can he lead it in a constructive program. … [He] could save his friends a vast amount of anguish if he would quit without being forced out or before the organization is completely destroyed—one of these is the alternative to a peaceful departure.” 6
McDaniel also wrote to Philadelphia lawyer William Taylor the same day, raising the same “third force” possibility that he had proposed to George Burck. Such a force “would have an excellent psychological advantage, and I think many of the weak and doubtful votes would align with a movement which appeared to offer some hope for reunifying the organization and for putting a stop to the conduct we have had from the tenBroekites since this fight started. … I would like to help put the NFB back together into an effective organization, but I think no one will have this chance unless my exhortation is heeded by someone. You ought to do something because you can.” 7
When Card switched his allegiance, many wondered whether he knew of other secret NFB financial transactions besides the arrangement for his own salary. At first, he said nothing, but after Jernigan’s double-barreled attack on him late in the year, he was apparently less reluctant to probe his memory. He wrote to McDaniel on January 30, referring to “legal aspects of a certain matter,” which he would discuss by phone, noting that “cash transfers took place on two occasions—once in Madison and once in Boston. All instructions were given me over long distance.” 8
As associate editor of the Free Press, McDaniel was trying to take care of arrangements for the March issue. On January 30, he wrote Ned Freeman: “I think an editor will be chosen in the near future, but since we have had some static from the P.O. for not getting the magazine into the mail during the published month of circulation, I would suggest a deadline of February 20.” He also speculated on the dilemma of fund-raising. It should be noted that McDaniel had never objected to the unsolicited mailing of cards as long as they were of good quality and the accompanying text was straightforward and honest, not an objectionable appeal to pity. However, he wrote: “Be that as it may, I believe our group is sufficiently divided on the use of fundraising prospects as political bait to the ‘rice Christians’ that we should not use it ourselves.” 9
A letter from George Card written that same day reveals much about the churning rumor mill in this chaotic period. Jernigan was reported as claiming that “Clyde Ross had told tenBroek that I had asked him to run against tenBroek at Kansas City. … I wrote to Clyde and asked him point blank if there was any truth in Jernigan’s statement. He telephoned … and told me that he had not had a single word with tenBroek. … He said he had voted with the majority because he did not want to give away his hand prematurely. … He reminded me that we had been friends and allies for too many years to allow a Jernigan lie to create a misunderstanding between us. … George Burck has also informed me that he voted with the majority for the same reason—not to give away his hand prematurely.” 10
On February 6, Floyd Qualls finally wrote to Hollis Liggett, regretfully accepting his resignation as editor of the Free Press, but urging him to stay on as associate editor because of the high standards he had set and his “enormous contribution to the magazine and the movement. … Your advice, judgment, and experience we can ill afford to lose.” 11
The Death of Newel Perry
The “winter of discontent” of the organized blind became yet more bleak on February 10 with the death of Dr. Newel Perry. Two days later at his funeral, the mourners were asked: “Is it not strangely appropriate that on the day of the year our nation pauses to remember Abraham Lincoln we should be gathered here to praise God for the life and work of another man equally entitled to be called Emancipator—a man who, like the great President, sought to deliver great numbers of his fellows from unreasoning and oppressive bondage. … ‘The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget’ what Newel Perry did in his time and place.”12 On February 14, Earl Scharry wrote Delbert Aman that, “although I do not believe it is official, everyone seems to be acting on the assumption that I will have the honor and the burdens of editing the Free Press for the time at least.” 13
That same day McDaniel wrote to Scharry reminding him that he was “about to become the editor of the most important braille magazine in America” and suggesting “that an appropriate piece be written by one or more who are qualified” to mark the passing of Newel Perry in the forthcoming issue. 14
Marie Boring also wrote to Scharry, congratulating him “on your possible selection as editor. … Your ability as a writer and knowledge of developments within the NFB for the past few years assure a superb job.” But what she really wanted was his assurance that “between now and Kansas City” nothing more would be said in the Braille Free Press about forming another national organization: “I realize that it will probably be done when it becomes obvious that Kansas City is only a repeat performance of the past three NFB conventions.” 15
But she did not want to give the tenBroekites of North Carolina any more ammunition than necessary. McDaniel received replies to his “third faction” probes: Bill Taylor thought it might work; George Burck said frankly that “I could not successfully organize such a group,” but thought perhaps someone like T. Munford Boyd could. 16 McDaniel’s own avoidance of any official and overt leadership role was something that others found difficult to understand. He tried to explain it to June Goldsmith, in a long letter dated February 16: “I prefer not to contemplate what role I will play in a new organization. I do expect to be active … if one is formed, but I do not believe it essential that I be its president. When and if such a group comes into being, I hope one of its guiding principles will be to utilize many persons in many positions of responsibility. … I have tried hard to bring more and more persons into important positions in the Reform, and I believe our enemies know best how well this has succeeded. … Capable people are not going to become a part of an organization if they have nothing to do but to help constitute an audience for a great speaker.” 17
March: “Internal Rift” Threatens NFB
Only three weeks after Newel Perry’s death a comprehensive article appeared on the front page of the Oakland Tribune under the headline “Internal Rift Threatens to Break Up Blind Federation.” Written by Ed Salzman, it carried a photo of Jacobus tenBroek and reported that “the NFB is on the brink of breaking up as a result of a tragic internal struggle over the policies of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek of Berkeley, president and founder of the organization. The blind are battling the blind over charges that tenBroek, 49, … is a "dictator." … The Federation has curtailed its activities and will soon run out of funds, the president has reported to the 60,000 members.” The occasion for the article’s appearance became clear when it mentioned that “George Card of Wisconsin, once one of tenBroek’s strongest supporters, will come to Oakland Thursday to amplify the Free Press side of the story to the sightless of the Bay Area. … While the antitenBroek element began to criticize the president openly in 1958, it wasn’t until April 1959 that the Braille Free Press Association was formed to publish a quarterly magazine in opposition to the official federation periodical, the Braille Monitor.” The reporter then quoted portions of Brad Burson’s resignation letter to convey the basic criticism: “The NFB is not your organization. It belongs to Jacobus tenBroek. … A disproportionate fraction of the federation’s treasury is spent in eulogizing the president and his clan. The administration is a sham. It makes a mockery of the constitution, abuses those who dare to disagree and affronts the integrity and intelligence of all the members.” Given the opportunity by the reporter to respond to these charges, Jacobus tenBroek first denied them any validity at all, claiming that “under the democratic process, the president is directed to carry out the policies. … In the United States and in the Federation, what we need is a vigorous executive.” But he then went on to admit that something had obviously gone wrong, and he was going to try to get the organization “back on track” at the July convention: “I think I’m making progress.” Hollis Liggett was also interviewed for the story and explained in his usual forthright style the four major goals of the insurgent groups: “(1) an end to one-man rule; (2) incorporation of checks and balances into the constitution; (3) restriction on presidential use of funds; and (4) adoption of new budgetary procedures.” The article then explained that Bernard Gerchen’s withdrawal as fundraiser was the chief reason for the immediate financial crisis, and ended by quoting the fiery religious rhetoric of Jernigan in the December Monitor, calling on “every true Federationist to put on his armor and go forth to battle,” without giving the slightest hint of considering any kind of compromise or reform. 18
Before Earl Scharry edited a single issue of the Free Press, an unexpected turn of events canceled his appointment. Floyd Qualls explained in a March 22 memo to the Editorial Board that Scharry had just accepted a position with the American Printing House for the Blind (APHB) in Louisville. “In this new position Earl feels it is not to his best interest to continue as editor of the Braille Free Press (BFP), since the BFP is printed by the APHB. We all regret losing him … but I am sure we will agree it is the only course Earl can choose.” Qualls mentioned five prospects for editor, then cautioned that the board give the selection its full attention, since Hollis had agreed to let his name appear on the forthcoming (March) issue. The five names were Marie Boring, A. L. Archibald, Mary Jane Hills, George Fogarty, and Juliet Bindt.
Frank Lugiano’s “Minutemen”
During March, Frank Lugiano of Pennsylvania tried to assemble a group to be known as “The Minutemen.” Like McDaniel’s proposed “third force” notion, they were to be a committee of level-headed NFB members who could look at both sides of all the divisive issues and try to find compromise solutions. He named George Burck chairman and Alma Murphey secretary, and asked Al Jenkins, Bob O’Shaughnessy, and Dean Sumner to be the other members. Lugiano told tenBroek about it and got a commitment from tenBroek that the agenda of the first day’s program at Kansas City would include a presentation of the group’s proposals. McDaniel was pleased when he learned of this and thought there was “a good possibility that here is the making of a third force which is badly needed to give the timid ones a place to rally.” 19
George Card heard about the Minutemen from Al Jenkins when he visited Oakland; they discussed it at length, agreeing that it was a good idea but not sufficiently representative. Card wrote to Lugiano that he and Jenkins “both felt it would be enormously more effective if it were expanded to contain well-known Federationists who have not been strongly identified with either side in the controversy. We felt it should be enlarged to 11, 13, 15, or even more. We both felt that it was an absolute must that you yourself be a member of this committee.” Other potential members they suggested were T. Munford Boyd, Kingsley Price, Clyde Ross, Jesse Anderson, Harold Reagan, Alaric Nichols, William Taylor, Lyle von Erichsen, and William Wood. 20
On March 27, tenBroek’s office issued a fairly substantial Legislative Bulletin dealing with “the recently convened 87th Congress.” John Nagle had obviously been very active in identifying issues and tracking more than a dozen bills. In light of earlier clashes it was refreshing that tenBroek noted that he was “pleased to report to you that the common front established with the Legislative Committee of the American Association of Workers for the Blind [AAWB], begun so fruitfully in the 86th Congress, continues and prospers in the 87th Congress. The King-Hartke bills, the Anfuso-Humphrey disability insurance bill, the King income tax bill, the Vending Stand amendment bills and the American Printing House bills have the full support, not only of the NFB, but also of the AAWB.” 21
When Bob O’Shaughnessy asked Brad Burson what he thought about Frank Lugiano’s Minutemen, Burson gave him an earful: “I think both … [O’Shaughnessy] and the Illinois Federation of the Blind would be damn fools to have anything to do with it.” His response was much the same when George Card wanted to call a meeting before Kansas City to adopt a “manifesto”: “You should all tell George to go to hell and, as you say, consolidate behind what we have already said we believe in.” 22
When Dean Sumner heard of this, he wrote directly to O’Shaughnessy, taking exception to Burson’s advice, and urging that “you follow the other course of action,” and become a member of the Minutemen. 23
The Braille Free Press, March 1961
Meantime, the “editorless” March 1961 issue of the Free Press appeared in mid-April, thanks to the joint efforts of Liggett, Scharry, and the McDaniels. It was shorter than the previous issue, but had plenty of solid material: Earl Camden: “As One Lay Member to Another” The lead article by Earl Camden gave an account of his experience as an ordinary rank-and-file NFB member who was greatly saddened by the internecine conflict. He had nothing but the greatest admiration for Jacobus tenBroek and his many talents: He has done a wonderful work as the president. … However, he is only another human being, and as such, he can, and does, make mistakes. We should not give him all the blame for those mistakes. … Perhaps, if we had kept ourselves better informed … we could have prevented a great deal of it. Our first mistake was in following blindly whatever he thought or did. … A second grave mistake we have made is in not putting limitations on both the number of terms of the president and the powers of his office. … Our Braille Monitor has been a farce for the last three years, at least. … Are we children that we must not be allowed to read [criticism of the president]? If this censorship had not been put upon the Monitor there would have been no need for the Free Press Association. I attended the convention in Santa Fe, and I sat through the DAY OF DECISION. To me, it was a day of horrors. Never were the steam-roller tactics more in evidence. … That day marked a turning point in the NFB. Since then we have continued to lose, from our leadership, some of our best men and women. … Something is terribly wrong and we are responsible for seeing that it is righted. 24
Ned Freeman on New Frontiers
Echoing President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, ACB President Ned Freeman invoked the obvious parallel of new frontiers: “We stand at the end of one era and at the beginning of another. … The need for a change of direction in the NFB would certainly seem to be indicated by the deterioration of the past months, the loss of prestige. … The hysteria and despair evident in the December Monitor indicate the inability and the unwillingness of the old regime to reunite and reestablish the NFB. … Kansas City will be a time of decision. … We must repudiate the immoral and unethical, if not illegal, action of the Miami Convention in suspending six affiliates. Let us work together to build a strong, progressive organization of the blind in which the principles of representative group leadership, of affiliate autonomy, and of individual freedom of thought and expression are firmly established.” 25
George Howeiler on “Two Approaches to Blindness”
Oregon’s George Howeiler reflected on the ideas expressed in two recent conflicting articles, one written by Dr. tenBroek and the other by Dr. Cutsforth. Both “contain much food for thought. Every thoughtful blind person would do well to study them.” On the surface they may seem to be diametrically opposed, he said—one stressing the individualistic, the other stressing the social. In reality, however, “they are not an antithesis but a complement of each other.” 26
This was the kind of moderation that seemed to mark Howeiler’s thinking. Invariably he saw the world in terms of both/and rather than in terms of either/or, and thus he tended to find that most conflicts stem from ignorance, foolishness, or malice.
Earl Scharry on the Value of Cutsforth’s Work
Earl Scharry took the occasion of this issue to dwell further on Cutsforth’s article in the previous issue of the Free Press. He found it “one of the most stimulating and significant articles that have appeared in this magazine,” but also saw it as sounding “the keynote for a revitalized national organization of the blind by suggesting the possibility of a new direction and a rebirth of purpose.” Since he had done much of the editing of this issue, he knew that both Freeman and Howeiler had already commented on Cutsforth’s article, but he was very much aware that “my own reaction differs from both.” Scharry had been working on this piece for some time. He wanted to take Cutsforth’s basic thesis and see if he could usefully apply it to his own NFB experience. This led to some interesting interpretations of the actions of the Executive Committee, which had led the NFB into its current disarray. He concluded that “there can be no doubt that the advancement of the best interests of the blind coincides with the best interest of the entire community, but it will take some real statesmanship and ingenuity to reorient our programs to the promotion of the common good. … It will require even more vision and imagination to discover or devise ways in which we can make a positive contribution to society as a distinctive but integral segment of it.” In other words, blind people, like everyone else, can see only when they keep the whole in view, refusing to engage in narcissistic self-absorption or a tendency to try to purge anything over which they do not have full control. 27
Lugiano’s Opinion Poll
Among other items featured in this issue was a report on an opinion poll that Frank Lugiano had conducted before he formed the Minutemen. It was hardly scientific and he received only 34 responses, but he felt the results left no doubt about what Federationists wanted. Most agreed that when the NFB met in Kansas City, the organization’s internal problems should have “top priority on the first day, meeting early and staying till midnight.” This was what led to the idea of the Minutemen, since their function was to hold hearings in the three days prior to the convention and give their report on the first day. “Of course, I realize that the President would have to appoint such a committee in order for it to begin functioning. If we are really worried about the imminent collapse of the NFB, then no obstacle should be placed in the way to obstruct the solution of the problem.” 28
Earl Scharry on “Compromise and Conciliation”
Earl Scharry’s editorial on “Compromise and Conciliation” aimed squarely at Jernigan’s much-quoted editorial from the December 1960 Monitor, which urged no compromise and no conciliation because there had already been too much of it. Scharry wrote: “It is utter nonsense to blame the present tendency toward disintegration on an excess of compromise and conciliation. It was the Administration’s uncompromising insistence upon conformity and uniformity which precipitated it. It might be that even at this late date compromise could save the day … [but thus far] the only remedy which Jernigan has to offer is more of the same poison with which we are so mortally afflicted.” 29
Archibald’s Eulogy of Newel Perry
Bob Campbell provided a brief report on the life, death, and full stature of Dr. Newel Perry. Then the Free Press provided its own special eulogy written by A. L. Archibald, in which he cited his “special memories of the legendary Doctor Perry.” Archibald wanted desperately to “reveal on paper the eminence and the contribution and the very essence of this man who had been my cherished friend and my wisest counselor.” He recalled especially how Perry had “a lifetime habit of giving little heed to what he was told he could not do.” If someone said a blind person could not do this or that, wrote Archibald, Perry would ordinarily go out and try it “to see whether maybe they were wrong.” In recounting Perry’s achievements during his short time in New York, Archibald claimed that Perry first ventured into politics in 1907 when “he lobbied through both chambers and persuaded [New York] Governor Charles Evans Hughes to sign a bill providing the first appropriated Reader Funds for blind college students anywhere in the United States.” Perry, he said, had a remarkable ability to open minds: “His success in broadening the horizons of those who came under his attention and in invigorating them was unmatched.” Yet, his interest was not restricted to the young and gifted: “His understanding and his heart encompassed with deepening empathy the plight of blind people of all ages and in all situations. He constituted himself a one-man placement agency for the blind during time spared from his official duties. He wore out many pairs of shoes while trudging from employer to employer to gain acceptance for blind employees in expanding varieties of occupations.” Archibald’s own fondest memories were of days spent in “Doctor’s Kitchen Cabinet,” when “Perry’s boys” began to show up in significant positions and jobs around the state. He made it a point to assemble them informally “for an evening or a weekend during the 1920’s … [when] long hours were spent in earnest discussions of alternative possibilities for creating a better life for the blind.” Their greatest campaign and victory came in 1928. In that year “they rallied with Doctor at their head to circulate an initiative petition to amend the State Constitution. They undertook to secure … tens of thousands of required signatures. … Doctor himself spent every available hour plodding the streets with the petition in hand. His favorite strategem [sic] was to board a San Francisco ferry on weekends and spend whole days plying back and forth across the waters of the Bay, until after months of effort he was assured that a sufficient margin of valid signatures had been obtained. When the people of California voted overwhelmingly to authorize aid to the blind, Doctor was prepared to greet the State Legislature with the completed statute which he and his Kitchen Cabinet had carefully worked out.” Perry’s influence, however, was not confined to California. In the early 1920s, Archibald recalled, “he started the American Brotherhood for the Blind and its publication, the All Story Braille Magazine, which was circulated throughout the country … until 1957. It was Doctor’s idea that Braille reproduction of some of the best short stories which had appeared in ink-print would provide the sugar coating that would induce increasing numbers of capable persons to read and absorb the Legislative Supplement which he edited and included in the magazine. His search for leadership talent and interested people was nationwide and persevering.” A statewide organization of the blind became a reality in California in 1934 when, as Archibald put it, “Dr. Perry gathered around him from up and down the length of the state the cluster of adherents who had joined themselves to the principles and goals which had been his mark. Giant strides forward were taken over the years that followed. … With Doctor in the presiding chair, no subject was ever left until it was thoroughly understood by all participants, no question ever dropped until all differences of opinion and interest were adequately explored, and no proposal ever pushed through before a fellowship of common cause was realized. In his time the Council functioned to resolve conflicts, not to pursue them.” Archibald ended his tribute thus: “Dr. Perry’s life was so rich in meaningful activities and so well were his contributions done that a book could merely begin to unfold the tale. … Though standing hardly more than five foot five, he was nonetheless a giant among his generation. … Now he belongs to the ages but he has left behind a magnificent heritage. His was a life worth living, and from him blind men everywhere have gained a destiny.” 30
George Card Looks Back in Sorrow
A letter recently sent by George Card to all state and chapter presidents was then excerpted. The first excerpt described “the almost complete transformation of the Braille Monitor … since I ceased to be its Editor. … Most of its space is now (since mid-year to December 1960) filled with violent, partisan, political propaganda … used to further the ends of the Jernigan-tenBroek Axis.” The second dealt with the NFB’s loss of income. It was not, as alleged, due to the Free Press, “but because the present leadership has recklessly and ruthlessly chosen to destroy a large segment of the Federation so that it could retain control over the remnant. Jernigan and tenBroek applied the match which has set off the present conflagration and they cannot shift the blame to others.” The final excerpt presented Card’s self-defense against “Mr. Jernigan’s poison pen article” attacking him, especially the insinuation that he had misappropriated funds from the greeting card program. “He does not dare to make any charges involving my personal integrity but he tries hard to achieve the same thing by innuendo.” He then went into a lengthy analysis, pointing out the grounds for the discrepancies in the figures Jernigan used, and noting at the end that he and Darlene and all former employees in Madison had volunteered to take lie-detector tests, “but we have heard absolutely nothing about it since” the original insinuation. 31
Delbert Aman Proposes Constitutional Reforms
In the next article Delbert Aman offered his suggestions of what should be done: “The greatest single change that is needed is the placing of limits on terms of service and tenure of the executive officer of the organization. No less a person than George Washington recognized that no one is indispensable. He recognized that if a man remained in power too long, he would lose sight of the duties of his office, would instead bend his efforts toward remaining in office. By placing a mandatory tenure limit, we could insure that this unhappy situation would never again arise. Secondly, the financial structure of the NFB must undergo revision. …. Thirdly, the voting strength of affiliates should be re-examined. The present apportionment is inadequate and unfair. Limiting each affiliate to only one vote violates the basic concept of representative and democratic government. Affiliates with large memberships should be given increased voting strength. … [There should also be] regional representation on the executive committee … no longer will we face the unhealthy prospect of one man rule, purchase of votes, and rule by decree.” 32
The Continuing Issue of George Card
Meanwhile, as Card’s barnstorming tour continued, his classic travelogues reported on his many visits including the one to Oakland (“the second-best attended of any during my stay on the West Coast”), where one group “made up mostly of former Jernigan students” made the most noise. 33
Many of Card’s new colleagues were troubled by the ambiguities of his past record as an official of the NFB. On April 6, A. L. Archibald sent a lengthy (12 pages single-spaced) memorandum “proposing legal action by a group of state organizations to straighten out the mess in the national organization” and, while sending copies to everyone else, he made it clear that “I have an objection to Card’s playing a dominant role in undertaking recourse to the courts; for I believe that ugly situations in which he was closely involved will have to come to light. Card may, in fact, have to be pushed to reveal under subpoena some of the facts that he has been unwilling to disclose voluntarily.” 34
Georgia Federation Resists Conditions of Reinstatement
At the Georgia Federation’s quarterly convention on April 9, a resolution was adopted objecting to the conditions for reinstatement proposed in Miami the previous year as “unwarrantedly intrusive upon the autonomy of the GFB,” and called for unconditional reinstatement. Mimeographed copies of the resolution, signed by GFB President Walter R. McDonald, were given wide distribution before and during the Kansas City convention.
Congressman Eulogizes Perry
On April 12, two months after Newel Perry’s funeral, Congressman Jeffery Cohelan (D–Calif.) rose in the U.S. House of Representatives to eulogize Dr. Perry briefly, and then noted that “on March 25, 1961, a memorial convocation was held at the School for the Blind in Berkeley” at which Jacobus tenBroek delivered the main address, which “deserves the attention of Members of Congress and of all citizens concerned with welfare and the public good.” For this purpose he had it entered into the Congressional Record with the title “Newel Perry: Teacher of Youth and Leader of Men.” 35
The Continuing Search for a Solution
George Burck wrote George Card on April 14, making it clear that he thought Lugiano was “wishing for the moon” in thinking that tenBroek would seriously endorse the Minutemen; however, since Lugiano had sent out the announcement making Burck the chairman of the group even before they got together to discuss it, he reconciled himself to the task with some reluctance. “There is only one thing we may get out of this. If we get any response, we may be able to learn how people are thinking. In my opinion there is not the slightest chance of compromise with Dr. tenBroek.” As for Card’s own efforts, Burck was fully supportive: “My hat is off to you for the dedication and sacrifice you are making to save the NFB. I am sure there is no other person in the ranks of the organized blind (or anywhere else) who would sacrifice himself for a cause as you are doing. Your trip through the West was surely a grueling one. I sincerely hope it will prove to be worth the effort.” 36
Lugiano took the advice given him and broadened the original five Minutemen to eleven, including himself. Dean Sumner conveyed this information to McDaniel, and commented that if the committee did not function objectively, “I will no longer be a member.” 37
Burck confided to McDaniel that he was thus “chairman of a committee whose aims and purposes are not yet clear to me,” but that he was calling a meeting of the committee to formulate a “middle of the road document,” compromising “the firm positions taken on both sides of the present internal strife. … I am not at all sure that I am the right person to lead this vital attempt at reunification, but I will do my utmost to save our national organization.” 38
Ned Freeman Drafts Credo for the Organized Blind
Meantime, Ned Freeman put out an April 18 memo to the Provisional Committee because of having received “Archie’s lengthy document of April 6,” which proposed multiple lawsuits. “In addition to a suit to recover greeting card funds due the affiliates, Archie suggests the inclusion of actions to force the reinstatement of the affiliates illegally suspended, injunctions to restrain the administration from further suspensions or expulsions prior to a court decision in the matter, and demands for a full and complete financial accounting covering perhaps the past two or three years.” Freeman was concerned because only seven or eight months earlier, David Cobb had discouraged both Walter McDonald and Durward McDaniel from taking legal action because of the difficulty of preparing the burden of proof in the short time available. Had the situation changed in the interim? “I shall be very much interested in what you lawyers have to say and to recommend along this line.” 39
Now, however, Card was preparing a “manifesto” and Lugiano organizing the Minutemen. Freeman thought that the Provisional Committee should be involved in these discussions, so he himself drafted a statement for the rest of the committee to react to. It was intended only as “the minimum of reforms with which we could live in the NFB, then work for further revisions at Kansas City or later.” It was written in the form of a seven-part credo: We believe – a – That the interests of all blind persons demand that there be ONE STRONG REPRESENTATIVE national organization of the blind; b – That, to achieve this end, it is essential that the suspended states be reinstated without condition, the gag rule amendments adopted at Miami be repealed and certain other reforms within the NFB be instituted; c – That a truly representative elected Executive Board should be responsible for the interpretation of policy, the hiring and dismissal of staff personnel and the control of fiscal affairs; d – That constitutional limits should be placed on the number of terms any one person shall serve in the same office; e – That audit and budget committee members should be representatively elected and be responsible to the membership; f – That state and local organizations should finance and carry out their own programs without financial support or interference from the national organization; g – That the activities of this national organization should be restricted to NATIONAL ISSUES and to such matters as cannot be accomplished by state and local organizations acting alone, except where assistance is required. 40
On April 25, Mary Jane Hills wrote to tell the McDaniels that the Cards would be in Rochester, New York, a few days later. She also reported feeling flattered when Card told her that she had been considered as “a possible editor of the June issue of the Free Press. … I would have loved the challenge,” but could not possibly have accepted it. Once more she expressed her dislike for the idea of forming a new organization, “even though I would probably join it. If the blind people of the country are too stupid to save this one, I’m not at all certain they deserve another one.” 41
Alma Murphey, secretary of Lugiano’s Minutemen, wrote the letter calling for a meeting of the group in St. Louis on May 6. She took their role very seriously, observing that “never before has the NFB stood in such dire need of the kind of selfless, courageous leadership” that they must provide. “You represent the organization’s last hope of achieving ‘peace with dignity’ … and you dare not fail the nation’s blind people.” 42
To Sue or Not to Sue?
In early May, Brad Burson wrote to McDaniel: “I’m fed up to here with the whole business and I just told [Bob] McMullen that if a suit has not been filed before the K.C. convention, I wouldn’t be there, election or no election.” He insisted McDaniel make up his mind and reply “by return air mail, or by wire or telephone. … If Oklahoma and Illinois commit themselves, the next best bets, as I see it, are Georgia and Louisiana. … Perhaps if we start the ball rolling, South Dakota will jump on the wagon. It is my plan of strategy to start a snowball rolling and it starts with you. If you say yes, we branch out from here; if you say no, that will probably be the end of it. Dave [Cobb] will draft a complaint and act as counsel. … Let’s quit this stupid nonsense about ‘reforming the NFB.’”43 Hoping against Hope McDaniel continued to hope that the NFB could reform itself. On May 2 he told George Burck, chairman of the Minutemen, that he was putting all else aside to get at “the crucial objective—reunification on terms liberal enough to permit all organizations to freely affiliate.” He did not want to do anything to provoke a split. He was ready to bet, however, that tenBroek would come to Kansas City with “something planned which will further divide the organization. … I am intensely interested in the success of your committee in reunifying the Federation. … I am willing to take my chances even in an organization of which tenBroek is president rather than to embark on the warpath of a competitive organization. The latter I shall do only if there is no alternative. 44 Marie Boring agreed to become editor of the Free Press. She told Floyd Qualls quite frankly that she had “real doubts about being able to acquaint myself with the editorial policy and of getting together enough material to get the June issue to Louisville early in June, but I will do what I can.” 45
George Card wrote to McDaniel about the March issue of the Free Press, which he had just found time to read. In general, he was “quite delighted with the issue … especially Earl’s second article and the two Newel Perry pieces. … For the first time, I could agree one hundred per cent with what Liggett wrote. I liked Ned Freeman’s article very much.” But he had two criticisms: First, he disagreed with “those who express such fervid approval of Cutsforth. … His philosophy is diametrically opposed to just about everything we have stood for in the Federation.” In this regard Card still agreed with tenBroek rather than with Howeiler, Scharry, or the others interested in the “new psychology.” Card’s second criticism voiced disagreement with Delbert Aman’s article: “I read it with absolute consternation. Why in the world can’t these Johnny-come-latelies realize that we are up against the hard facts of practical politics? … We can’t win without the votes of a good many small states. That article is well calculated to drive them from our standard. It must have made the Bearded Prophet very happy when he read it. … I can’t understand what the Editorial Committee were thinking of to let such a disastrous piece of political ineptitude get by. … Wyoming, Vermont, Utah and several other small states have been on our side and I can imagine the dismay with which this article will be read. It will very possibly undo everything I have been able to accomplish.” 46
Preparing a Full-Scale Lawsuit
Brad Burson had gone to Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Illinois Federation to see David Cobb about drafting a complaint “that might be filed in a District Court for the purpose of righting the various grievances of the NFB affiliates.” Cobb drafted a complaint and on May 12 sent copies to Burson, McDaniel, Liggett, Segura, Sumner, Boring, Robrahn, Freeman, and McDonald. The 7-page document contained 16 complaints and four demands for relief. The ninth complaint alleged that beginning at the 1960 Miami convention “defendant tenBroek … has illegally and in violation of Article VI of the Constitution taken various and sundry actions … to cause the membership of affiliates to be suspended or terminated by vote and without any publication, hearing or proof of charges” Seven organizations had been suspended: North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana, and Illinois. Complaints 11, 12, 13, and 14 alleged illegalities in the management and withholding of greeting card funds. Complaint 15 claimed that: “Commencing in or about 1958 or earlier, and continuing to the present date, the defendant tenBroek and the defendant NFB … have, from time to time, and by means of various subterfuges and deceits, without authority, illegally, and in violation of the Constitution … expended substantial sums of NFB funds to influence the election of affiliate officers … for the purpose of securing for the defendant tenBroek absolute control and dominance over the defendant NFB and over each of the affiliates.” The 16th complaint alleged that “from time to time, over the past several years” the defendants “expended NFB funds to pay salaries to NFB officers, contrary to the policies, representations and resolutions of the NFB and affiliates, and have secretly and fraudulently expended NFB funds for services, materials and properties for the benefit and enrichment of the defendant tenBroek.” This referred, ironically, to the first incident uncovered five years earlier when the Executive Board learned of the office building tenBroek had had constructed on his private property. The four demands for relief called for the following: (1) a complete accounting of NFB receipts and expenses for 1958, 1959, and 1960, “accurately disclosing the funds belonging to affiliates held by the NFB”; (2)an order reinstating the affiliates suspended in Miami; (3) a restraining order preventing the suspension of any other affiliates in Kansas City; and, (4)“an order removing the defendant tenBroek from the Office of President of the NFB.” 47
Rosario Epsora’s activity had been limited because of poor health, especially his second heart attack in April, but he wrote to McDaniel on May 23 to say that he approved of the appointment of Marie Boring as editor of the Free Press. “I am sure she will do a wonderful job and keep up the high standard set by Hollis and Earl. She is very capable.” 48
McDaniel wrote Card the same day: “We are aiming for a copy deadline of June 1. With Scharry in Louisville, we expect to be in the mail no later than June 15.” 49
Apparently, losing Scharry as editor of the Free Press because of his new job at the American Printing House had at least one advantage—he was now in a position to help speed up its publication. On June 5, 1961, McDaniel wrote Dean Sumner: “You can tell me your radical ideas for a new organization when we get together in the middle of June. I am not predicting, but if there is a new organization, it must be because the tenBroekites made it absolutely unavoidable.” 50
He wrote to Ufemon Segura on the same day, saying, “I predict that we will be asked several times at Kansas City to promise that there will never be another [issue of the] BFP in exchange for the lifting of suspensions.” 51
Although he did not reveal how he would respond to such an overture, he implied that he would accept it if proper guarantees of true reform were provided. By June 8, filing the complaint against tenBroek was more urgently considered. McDaniel sent a telegram to Cobb with copies to Burson, McDonald, and Segura: “Oklahoma will join Georgia, Louisiana, and Illinois suit against Federation and tenBroek for reinstatement, injunction, money and accounting. Authorize you to select counsel and proceed. Will want to approve final draft complaint. Will send suggestions soon.” 52
Cobb had already arranged to meet with San Francisco lawyer Gerald Marcus on June 15: “I believe we will be very fortunate if he will handle the matter for the affiliates.” 53
However, on June 11, the Illinois Federation of the Blind (IFB) notified McDaniel, without explanation, that it would not participate in such a legal action at this time. 54
Earl Scharry’s presence in Louisville did seem to make a difference in getting BFPA business done. Marie Boring wrote to him on June 23: “Thanks a lot for your part in getting out the Braille Free Press in unusually short order. Strangely enough, I have already received a good many letters commenting favorably on this issue.” 55
This eighth issue of the Free Press was the first not bearing the name of Hollis Liggett as editor.
The Braille Free Press, June 1961
Marie Boring, the new editor of the Braille Free Press, introduced herself to her readers with an overview of “the history, the purpose and the conduct” of the Braille Free Press Association. She conveyed her own sense of personal frustration when she had tried to do the right thing and been groundlessly vilified for it: “On September 12, 1958, Dr. tenBroek circulated a blistering personal attack on two members of the Executive Committee,” rather than deal with the issues that McDaniel and Boring had quite appropriately raised. The Monitor was used “to promote one and only one point of view,” that of the president, so the reform group felt that there should be “some means of balancing the propaganda … that members under attack should have some means of defending themselves. They felt that Federationists should be acquainted with the facts as the reformers saw them.” The sole purpose of the BFPA, she said, was to provide a magazine “through which members of the NFB could express themselves on any issues concerning the well-being of the Federation … to provide a voice to those who were denied the pages of the Federation publications. … Something must be done to stop the rash of character assassinations, but … no good purpose can be served by the increasingly negative and reactionary measures adopted at Boston, Santa Fe, and Miami. It seems to me fitting and proper that we adopt policies which will safeguard officers and members alike from circulated character assassinations.” Boring’s low-key, dignified appeal was different but every bit as effective as the forthright style of her predecessor, Hollis Liggett. What was most impressive was her generosity of spirit. Rather than accusing her attackers of malice, she suggested that it was an “over-sensitive attitude on the part of the present NFB administration [that] has largely been responsible for the reactionary convention decisions which have created the dilemma in which we find ourselves.” With this benign interpretation it was easy to see why she could hold out hope more than most others. “If we all "let him [who is] without sin cast the first stone," then I believe that our Kansas City convention will see us back on the road toward our place in the sun as a forceful organization." 56
Her idealism had somehow survived despite the disappointing conduct of the administration over the five years since the San Francisco convention. “Do We Have a Positive Program?” George Card wrote the second rather curious article in this June issue, combining an interpretation of the past and a projection of the future. In the historical section of the article, he made no mention at all of his own reversal of sides. Rather he wrote as though he had been a convinced McDanielite from day one. He also made no mention of the infamous “Card amendment” or the salary he had secretly received. Rather he described the stages of evolution that began to emerge among certain NFB members as if this had been a natural process: Several years ago a mere handful of Federationists began to say that our national organization was not really as democratic as it appeared on the surface. They told us that what seemed to be democratic majority control had actually become government by manipulation. They pointed out that … the President could and did use the funds of the Federation exactly as he saw fit and that he had thereby been able to build a self-perpetuating machine … through his power to appoint all key committees … [over which] he could and did exercise an iron control. At the last three national conventions this control from the top has been more and more obvious and the protesting minority has been joined by more and more conscientious Federationists. A good many had become aware of the high-pressure tactics used at Boston and a good many more were shocked by the barefaced purge rammed through … at Santa Fe, where those members of the Executive Committee who had dared to vote otherwise than as the President wanted were liquidated—not allowed even to complete the terms to which they had been elected. But it took the Gestapo methods so openly employed at Miami, the brazen disregard of parliamentary law and of every principle of fair play, and the callously vindictive behavior of the President … finally to open the eyes of a very considerable number of erstwhile tenBroek idolators. [Card makes no mention of himself as perhaps the most prominent.] … The Miami convention easily doubled the size of the minority— perhaps quadrupled it. Card had traveled across the country for ten months, telling the story over and over, and this is his condensed form of his version of events: “Kansas City will be our last chance to preserve the NFB from the destruction which threatens it. We of the Reform Party believe in the Federation, in its goals, its programs, its philosophy; we have never wavered in our loyalty. That loyalty, however, is to the Federation itself, not to those who have gained control of it. The present leadership is determined to drive out all those who dare to criticize or dissent. That leadership is perfectly willing to destroy the whole so as to keep control of a part. If, by means of threats, promises and high-pressure tactics, it can again muster a majority willing to sacrifice the welfare of their fellow blind at the altar of Jacobus tenBroek, the formation of a second national organization of the blind will be inevitable. Such a development would, in all likelihood, mean years of wasted effort, futility and frustration. We are a tiny minority as it is; to subdivide ourselves further will be little short of suicidal. The blind as a whole would be the real victims. At Kansas City … we must all stand and be counted. If we want a single, united, democratic organization to represent us and to battle for our less fortunate fellow-blind, then we must take certain steps!”
George Card’s “Manifesto”
Card then produced three programmatic pages of what he thought needed to be done, dividing them into five parts: (A) A fresh start: “[It is time to] wipe out the hasty and ill-considered action into which the delegates were bludgeoned at Miami.” The six suspended states, he urged, must be welcomed home and the “preposterous conditions” for reinstatement forgotten. (B)Election of committees: Card pointed to the Budget Subcommittee, chaired successively by Kenneth Jernigan and Russell Kletzing. “Both have stated that ‘the President’s hands should not be tied’ by real budgetary controls. Walter McDonald believed that a budget should really mean something and should not be tinkered with. When he was overruled he got out, and the loss has been ours, for he is one of the ablest and most distinguished men we have ever had in our Federation.” (C)Staff: “The loyalty of the staff should be to the Federation first, last and all the time. … The President has gone so far as to demand from at least one former staff member that he turn over his personal private correspondence.” (D) No more secret contracts: “Although wholly lacking in business experience himself, [the President] took the matter [of the greeting card project] out of the hands of the Finance Director, went into a huddle with Mr. Bernard Gerchen, and came up with a new contract which not even the Executive Committee has ever been allowed to read.” (E) Limitation of terms: “Dr. tenBroek has succeeded in building a selfperpetuating machine. … He has already held power for 21 years and has gradually assumed a more and more possessive attitude. … He can no longer distinguish between what is good for the Federation and what is good for the retention of his power. … He tells us that ‘the function of a leader is to lead.’ What some of us object to is being led by the nose.” Card then summarized: “At Kansas City we shall be at the crossroads and we must make a final choice. Let us choose the road that we can travel along together! Let us have an end of suspensions and of autocratic one-man rule, and then let us have an end of bitterness and recriminations. Let us, in a word, recapture our Federation and give it back to the membership. And then let us go forward once again toward the goals for which we organized.” 57
However one finally evaluates George Card, he definitely fit the classic mold of the “true believer,” 58 a religious convert turned zealous missionary, willing to spend himself without reserve to evangelize others in the cause he had first opposed, then had come to believe in with an all-consuming passion.
Convention Update and Other Reports
Since there was no Monitor to do the job (it was not being published at this time), this June issue of the Free Press picked up the slack and printed the basic information about the upcoming Kansas City convention and its schedule. It also reprinted tenBroek’s Legislative Bulletin of March 27, outlining the array of bills to be dealt with by the 87th Congress during the next two years, and it reprinted resolutions that had been passed by the Oklahoma Federation and the Ohio Council. Frank Lugiano briefly reported about the Minutemen and their meeting of May 6, but revealed nothing of what they decided. They were apparently determined to remain entirely neutral until they could get their moment in the sun at the convention itself. 59
Viewpoints of Other Affiliates and Officers
Lelia Jensen Proctor from Montana asserted in the next piece, titled “The End or the Beginning of an Organization,” that “we have had no desire to become embroiled in what sometimes has seemed to be a battle of personalities rather than a genuine cause. … I would express appreciation for the silence emanating from Des Moines this winter and spring. If the December Monitor was a sample of what we could expect had funds been available … then we should be thankful for small favors. It was a disgrace and I am ashamed to identify myself with an organization that prints such material in its official organ.” 60
Then came a piece by Fred Krepela of Oregon who reflected on the need for some kind of “third force” to break the stalemate and foster reunification of the two conflicting parties. The danger he foresaw, however, was that such a group of “neutrals” might become a third faction, making divisions worse. His plan for avoiding this had been in circulation since May, but was here given wider exposure in the June Free Press. Krepela shared the conviction that “a single national organization composed of all the state affiliates can much more effectively and efficiently promote our programs than could several splinter type organizations.” He suggested a committee of 13 members: “From the NFB—tenBroek, Jernigan, Taylor, Kletzing; From the Opposition—Card, McDaniel, Boring and Burson …,” four neutral members, and a neutral chairman. They would use a “select- accept-reject” system to choose a slate of officers, presenting and scratching names until they could come up with an administration “which all concerned would actively and sincerely back.” 61
It was an intriguing but naive idea, since those holding power had shown they would never agree to divest themselves of any of that power and recognize the “opposition” as having any sort of legitimacy or right to exist. Also in the June issue was a letter from William Klontz, president of the Iowa Association of the Blind, supporting tenBroek and Jernigan, published almost as comic relief, since Klontz saw the civil war of the blind in terms of the black-and-white ideology of the Cold War going on between the United States and the USSR. He had originally sent his letter to George Card, who had passed it on, saying, “I think the idiotic letter of Bill Klontz ought to be published in the next Free Press. It is so absurd that I think it will help us.” 62
Klontz was convinced that “there can be no reuniting of the old Federation. If your faction of traitors win we get out. If we win your faction must get out. … I am not going to argue or fight. I know my mind and that is that. You want Minority Rule. That is Communistic Dictatorship. We want Majority Rule, that is American Democracy. You have chosen. I have also chosen. We have nothing in common. … All long drawn-out talk is foolish. … I have no fellowship with those who prove to be disloyal to the cause to which I am committed. Dr. tenBroek has not changed. Only jealousy and greed have prompted your outfit. I want none of it.” 63
The next article, in stark contrast, was by George Howeiler making his third consecutive appearance, speculating this time on “Attitudes in Respect to Blindness.” The whole realm of the “psychology of blindness,” he said, was enjoying broader popular attention due to the appearance of works like those of Cutsforth and Carroll. Howeiler was pleased with this development, convinced that greater attention and study were desperately needed: “This is a sighted world in which we live and move, and to be bereft of the very sense that makes it such is generally regarded as a trauma of the first magnitude. For the ordinary sighted person to contemplate being so bereft is to contemplate perpetual darkness. For him actually to experience it is nothing short of disaster. Blindness is generally regarded as an abnormal condition, and the responses to it are frequently negative and irrational. As a consequence, a satisfactory adjustment to it is often delayed, sometimes unattained.” Howeiler told the story of John and Richard, two highly gifted blind men who registered vastly different reactions to their condition: “The one essentially positive, the other essentially negative. … By their very nature, the one attracts, the other repels.” His chief interest was to determine whether a reason for these very different responses could be identified. “How do we learn to accept our blindness, to recognize it for the frustrating nuisance it is? … Ask me just as well how to measure courage. … Ask me how one casts the straightjacket of ignorance, prejudice, suspicion and dread to one side to don the mantle of reason and enlightenment. Ask me why John succeeded where Richard failed, and I shall probably tell you that I do not know, except that one had a different attitude toward his blindness. … Agencies would do well to research this specific area of human behavior much more intensively and extensively than they have in the past.” 64
David Krause closed out the issue by telling “The Story behind the Randolph-Sheppard Act,” thereby observing the 25th anniversary of the vending stand program. Krause had “the privilege and pleasure of knowing the man most responsible for the Act, Leonard A. Robinson,” a blind lawyer from Cleveland who, beginning in 1931, “almost single-handedly drafted, and brought about the passage of this legislation,” which President Franklin D.Roosevelt signed on June 20, 1936. One of the crucial events in Robinson’s crusade was his attendance at the Lions International Convention in St. Louis in the summer of 1934, where he met a Lion who was in the U.S. Congress, Rep. Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, who took a special interest in Robinson’s project. The rest, as they say, is history. 65
“Ominous” Developments On June 22
Fred Krepela reported to Card and McDaniel on the Western Regional meeting of seven NFB affiliates, which was attended by Dr. tenBroek: “My plan [for a ‘third force’] was discussed for a short while, but Dr. tenBroek said it would not work, because it would only delay the issue and then both sides would again strive for power.” 66
Card wrote to McDaniel upon receiving Krepela’s letter, and said he found it “ominous” while also acknowledging that he was “very much on tenterhooks since our last telephone conversation. You said … the San Francisco lawyer was declining to call tenBroek unless he could actually file the suit at this time. This is our trump card—our ace in the hole—and it would be tragic if we could not now make some effective use of it.” 67
At the end he also mentioned having just heard that Emil Arndt had resigned as NFB treasurer. Ned Freeman reserved the Tower Room of the Aladdin Hotel in Kansas City for a meeting of the Provisional Committee of Suspended States on Monday, July 3, beginning at 9 a.m., and ordered lunch for “between 20 and 30 persons.” 68
The hope was that, unlike Miami, whatever strategy and tactics the NFB administration decided on in Kansas City could be quickly met with an appropriate counterstrategy. The ball was indeed still in the NFB administration’s court, but this time some of the best players were already assembled and determined to go into action, if reversal of the suspensions was not forthcoming. Meantime Dean Sumner informed McDaniel about an exchange of telegrams between tenBroek and himself. Dr. tenBroek had offered the South Dakota state organization “an opportunity for a fair hearing before the executive committee,” and if accepted, “you will be scheduled for appearance July 3rd.” 69
The crucial week was at hand and tension grew as different rumors circulated. One was a report that the chancellor of the University of California, after becoming aware of the negative stories in the Oakland Tribune, had met with tenBroek and “told him this sort of thing would have to stop.” This rumor was accompanied by a similar one, claiming that the university administration was pressuring tenBroek to resign as NFB president. 70
1961: The 20th NFB Convention – Kansas City, Missouri
The convention was held July 4–7 in the Muehlbach Hotel in Kansas City. “From the beginning … it was evident that the keen factional rivalry which has been in evidence for some time would continue throughout the sessions.” 71
Dispute over the North Dakota Delegate
The first dispute of the first day was over the seating of the North Dakota delegate. Before the convention opened, tenBroek had met with the delegation and informed its members that Rudolph Bjornseth, not Lloyd Robertson, was to be their delegate. To the consternation of many, he ruled that Robertson’s election was invalid because George Card’s wife Darlene, who was not a North Dakota resident, had voted. Lloyd’s wife, Doranna Robertson, pointed out that the affiliate welcomed into its membership residents of any state, and Darlene and George had both paid membership dues. But Bjornseth was nonetheless decreed the delegate, and North Dakota was thus “stolen” from the list of those who had assured George Card they would vote for unconditional reinstatement of the suspended affiliates.
Dr. tenBroek’s Surprising Resignation Speech
It was clear that there was so much sentiment for unconditional reinstatement of the suspended affiliates that the administration might be outvoted. So the strategy devised was one of making a preemptive strike. Using all his oratorical skill, tenBroek delivered a surprising resignation speech of the oddest kind right at the very start of the convention: 72
Friends, I play the role of Mark Antony. I come to bury Caesar. Whatever others say about my megalomania, I do not come to praise him. I do not defend or commemorate my administration. Today, in a few moments, I shall turn over the gavel to the first vice president, John Taylor. When I do, my resignation shall be complete and effective. … Doing this I do not try to bring down the temple around my ears. I seek only to leave it, or, if you will, to escape from it. Why should I resign, and why should I do it now? Coming at the beginning of the convention, you shall have ample opportunity to select my successor before you have finished your work here. You will also be free to make whatever decisions you see fit with respect to the kind of organization you want to have. Basically, the atmosphere in the federation is so poisoned, feelings are so strong, recriminations are so bitter and widespread. These things are so much with us that carrying on the work of the organization is very unpleasant and disagreeable. I’ve reached the point where I ask why should I endure it? Whether I’m here or not, you’ll still have to decide what sort of organization you wish to have; you’ll still have to decide whether you’re going to have standards of membership or whether members can retain their association and still undermine and disrupt the organization. … You will still have to decide whether you want to hamstring your principle officers, whether the convention will be the ruling policy-determining body or the executive committee; whether funds will be raised nationally and by what method or locally, and if locally, whether any of them shall be fed into the national federation, whether you want localitis as the governing principle in the governing organization, or national strength; whether the state affiliates will have a check over all the activities of the national organization, whether the staff, if you have any, will control the elected officers or the elected officers will control the staff; whether this representative organization will in effect become an agency. … Whether I’m here or not, in my view you must still face these issues in a strong and resolute way. You should expel the suspended states if they’re not willing to submit to conditions of membership. You should require adherence to such conditions by all affiliates. You should safeguard the principle of representation. You should insist on your democracy, where the majority can rule and leadership can lead. Anarchy is not a principle of government or of progress. Above all, do not sell your inheritance and your future by surrendering to those minorities who would ruin you or rule you. The majority must preserve its will against force, the kind of force represented by the Free Press Association, the kind of force that has reduced the NFB to the deplorable state of a corporate shell. … Let the federation begin a new life. Caesar is dead. Let the assassins who did the deed, Cassius and the rest, now follow out the logic of their own roles and remove themselves from the political scene. Matson described this as “a symbolic thunderclap … [that] served to inspirit the convention to the task of putting its house in order.”73
It was rather a last-ditch gamble, banking on a sympathy vote and a few strong-arm tactics to hang on to power. It worked, but just barely and at great cost. When George Card tried to challenge tenBroek’s allegations, acting president John Taylor denied him the microphone. When a request was made to have the report of Frank Lugiano’s Minutemen presented, Taylor again turned it down. This time, however, Bud Orrell managed to be recognized and immediately turned the microphone over to George Burck, chairman of Lugiano’s Study Committee. Many of the delegates, however, had already had more than enough, and in the midst of the chaos “the report fell on deaf ears. ”74
The impact of tenBroek’s delivery of his own funeral oration was that four state delegations previously pledged to unconditional reinstatement were persuaded to switch. The crucial motion to reinstate was thereupon voted down, 24–17. The 17 affiliates whose delegations resisted the president’s emotional onslaught and voted not to dismember the organization were Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Had North Dakota and Alabama not been “stolen” and had the still “suspended” states of South Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Georgia been allowed to exercise their legal rights, the vote would have gone the other way. It was a victory, an extremely narrow one, for the faltering administration, but by any account it was a truly tragic ending to the tenBroek era. 75
In the elections that followed, all but one of the prepared slate were elected. The exception was Frank Lugiano, not on the prepared slate but elected to the Executive Committee by a vote of 22 to 21. Otherwise, it was John Taylor as president, Perry Sundquist as first vice president, Franklin van Vliet as treasurer, and Harold Reagan of Kentucky and T. F. Moody of Texas as the two other newcomers to the board. 76
One of the surprises was that Clyde Ross of Ohio ran for president against Taylor and then for first vice president against Sundquist. Even though he lost both times, it was a clear case of another longtime tenBroek supporter jumping ship and campaigning for the lost cause of reform. George Card gave this assessment of what had happened: “Now the top two positions in the NFB are held by agency employees. Perry Sundquist is not even legally blind. From the time John Taylor took the gavel it was clearly apparent that Kenneth Jernigan is now the real President of the NFB. Taylor made no decisions on his own. Jernigan pulled the wires and pushed the buttons. He has now been able to eliminate everyone in the NFB who stood in his way—the latest victim being tenBroek himself, although he doesn’t yet realize it.” 77
The End of the Affair
The last major action before the convention was the adoption of the seven conditions of reinstatement of suspended affiliates. Once these were formally put in place, the game was over. Reunification was metaphysically impossible because of condition 4, whereby an affiliate was prohibited from “attacking” any NFB members or officers. This ingenious mechanism guaranteed the administration henceforth a perennial majority, since it could define the slightest criticism of any kind as an “attack” and thereby disqualify offending affiliates until it was assured of “victory” along the same lines as the one just achieved. The administration need never again worry about not winning an election because this device for expelling all dissenters was a foolproof way to remain in power indefinitely. No reform measures were even conceivable except what those holding power might decide to grant for their own purposes. This was the point of no return, which McDaniel and Card and Boring and Liggett and Hills and so many other loyal Federationists had devoutly hoped would never arrive. Earlier, autocratic actions taken by the administration had been criticized precisely because they were in violation of the principles of a democratic organization, and thus were appropriately protested. But now it was a question of autocratic principles being officially installed to replace the democratic ones on the books, totally transforming the NFB into a very different kind of organization from what it had originally been. Thus, the reform-minded realized, they could no longer avoid a parting of the ways: “The time has come when we must form a second national organization of the blind. We have reached this decision with the deepest reluctance but it has finally been forced on us.” 78
Before following McDaniel and the others to the nearby Aladdin Hotel to start a new national organization, there was one more item of business, which would have a great bearing on the future. It was obvious that not all who had disagreed had walked out of the convention, so the NFB administration was faced with the messy problem of how to clean out the remaining “traitors” who were in actual or potential violation of the freshly adopted conditions. It fell to Russell Kletzing to prepare an Executive Committee resolution, which was adopted July 7. It named 15 known violators: California, North Dakota, Kansas, Maryland, Illinois, Tennessee, Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. Among the violations, the most serious were “supplying officers, members, and known supporters of the Free Press Association and the Braille Free Press; … providing financial contributions to the BFPA or to George Card in his year-long campaign of disruption, vilification, and character assassination; … attack upon the Federation’s legislative programs … made before members of Congress and of state legislatures; … [and] attacks upon the officers and programs of the NFB outside the NFB.” The resolution went on to require violators “to show cause why their charter should not be declared forfeit.” They could do this only by “resolution or other action of a regular or special convention of the affiliate, said assurances to be sent to the Executive Committee on or before November 1, 1961. If cause is not shown by that date, the Executive Committee shall declare the affiliate’s charter forfeit at its November meeting.” 79
Many Federationists simply could not believe that such wholesale amputation of affiliates and dismembering of the organization was being seriously proposed. In forwarding the resolution to the McDaniels a few days later, Marie Boring wryly remarked, “Looks as though I was wrong in my estimation of the intelligence of the Jernigan machine. The ACB should grow by leaps and bounds as a result of such excesses.” 80
What was left of the greatly reduced organization that tenBroek had spent so much of his life and energy building was taken over by Kenneth Jernigan in Kansas City and endowed with a different nature and spirit. Matson is not far off the mark in describing the result as “a leaner movement with a sharper edge, a tougher hide, and a fiercer will. At times— on the march, in the streets, on the picket lines—it took on the appearance of an army.” 81
And, as is self-evident, the adoption of a military organizational model is exactly what happened. The military is inherently run from the top down with no toleration of dissent or deviation in the line of command. There are no democratic armies. Once this basic transformation was in effect, Jernigan was ruthlessly consistent in expelling people who had ideas different from his. Dr. tenBroek was less at home with the military mind-set, and this was part of his problem. When he looked back in 1962, he chose a medical rather than a military analogy to explain what had happened to “his” NFB. It had become sick, he said, stricken with a life-threatening disease—“the virus of creeping anarchy—the blight of disunity and discord which gnaws at the vitals of a stricken movement.” A physician may end up amputating limbs as an absolutely last resort to save the organism, but this is certainly the medical exception. Such a solution was contrary to most of tenBroek’s better instincts. As he saw it, the Federation was ideally meant to be “a living proof of the collective rationality and responsibility of blind men and women—of their capacity to think and move and speak for themselves, to be self-activated, self-disciplined, and self-governing.” 82
Such a vision is patently incompatible with a hard-line military approach, so he certainly had to be in mental turmoil. These two models have different priorities always in tension. It is easier for an organization to succumb to the neatness of oneman rule than to have to endure the messiness of the democratic process, where many people must be allowed to speak and be listened to. The two groups in Kansas City hotels on that July day in 1961 were on opposite sides of the street in more ways than one. The divergent priorities of the two very different models took them in opposite directions.
Those who had held out desperately for reform and reunification saw their hopes dashed and their alternatives narrowed to two: (1) Either accept the “seven conditions” and go along with a crippled, much diminished organization now saddled with an undemocratic process by which a small group could keep control forever by eliminating anyone at any time for the least dissent or criticism; or (2) launch a new national organization, with all the perils of such a venture, but also with the promise of being structured according to the best democratic principles, as had been under discussion for two years in the Braille Free Press. The Walkout It was thus with a high sense of purpose that, as George Card put it, “some of the best brains of the Federation” left the Muehlbach Hotel and crossed over to the Aladdin Hotel, where they took part in three organizing sessions in the Tower Room on July 6 and 7. Only two states—Georgia and Oklahoma—had preauthorization from their members to join, if a new national organization emerged, so at first the American Council of the Blind was made up of individual memberships. McDaniel’s recollection was that “there were fifty-nine charter members recorded,” 83 and Loretta Freeman’s minutes reported that “a total of 83 persons representing 21 states and the District of Columbia attended these sessions.” 84
Of course, it must be kept in mind that these sessions were taking place simultaneously with the extraordinary actions across the street in the Muehlbach, where a national organization was in the process of identifying a large part of its membership for outright expulsion. McDaniel was always of the opinion that “most of those who did vote to adopt the tenBroek proposals … did not realize how these decisions would be implemented. … I am convinced that many … would not have gone along with the demands that affiliates restrict the rights of their officers and members and actually expel certain members as conditions of continued affiliation.” When the Kletzing “love letters,” calling by name for certain people to be sacrificed, were mailed, “fifteen affiliates refused to accept them. They left the Federation, taking with them about 40 per cent of the national membership.” 85
This is why and how the American Council of the Blind was formed as a virtual necessity at the time, for people who still wanted to have a “national” organization representative of blind people who preferred a democratic ethos. It also goes far in explaining why the full story is never openly acknowledged in NFB accounts. 86
Thursday afternoon, July 6, on a motion made by Durward McDaniel, the group in the Aladdin Hotel unanimously voted “to form themselves into a new national organization of the Blind.” At the time this was done there were 36 persons present and voting. Ned Freeman was then elected to serve as temporary chair, and motions were made and endorsed to set up the following committees: Constitution and By-Laws – Delbert Aman (chair), Floyd Qualls, Juliet Bindt, Marie Boring, and Norma Wagner Statement of Purpose – Brad Burson (chair), Durward McDaniel, and Ed Boring Nominating – Dave Krause, Darlene Card, and Don Cameron, with others to be added as available and needed Finance – Dean Sumner (chair), George Card, F. W. Orrell, Florence Verken, and Jesse Anderson. All of the committees were instructed to meet that evening and report to the group at the 12:30 p.m. meeting on Friday, July 7, which they did. One interesting straw vote was requested by Juliet Bindt to see how those present felt about fund-raising with unordered merchandise. Only 2 were in favor, 6 opposed, while 16 abstained. It was obviously too early to deal further with this sensitive question of how the organization was going to finance itself. The Nominating Committee then presented its slate, and Delbert Aman conducted the elections. Three names were put forward for president: Freeman, McDaniel, and Sumner, but McDaniel withdrew and Ned Freeman was elected. The candidates for first vice president were Krause, Robrahn, and Sumner, and Sumner was elected. For second vice president it was Krause and Robrahn, and Krause was elected. Alma Murphey was unopposed and unanimously elected secretary. Anderson and Segura were the candidates for treasurer, and Segura won. The eight places on the board were then voted on, with Robrahn, Drake, Anderson, Marie Boring, Card, Nichols, McDaniel, and Bindt being elected.
The first official meeting was chaired by the new president that evening, and dealt with much of the “housework” that needed to be done in starting up an action-oriented organization. When Freeman asked for suggested names, no fewer than ten were offered, until Durward McDaniel moved that it be called the “American Council of the Blind.” At that point the group unanimously endorsed the name. President Freeman appointed a Legislative Committee with McDaniel as chair and Scharry, Krause, and Archibald as members. In the financial area, it was agreed that charter membership was open to any interested person “upon contribution of not less than $5.” The treasury stood at $241 from “contributions and pledges,” and the committee reported simply that “several money-raising projects were under consideration.”
At some point this same evening a called meeting of the Braille Free Press Association was also held in the Tower Room, with Floyd Qualls presiding. The BFPA voted to transfer to the new national organization “the right to use the name Braille Free Press” and also to transfer “any assets— and liabilities—of the BFPA.” Qualls was roundly thanked for his diligent work and he in turn “paid tribute to Hollis Liggett, June Goldsmith, Aileen McDaniel, Marie Boring, Earl Scharry, and all the others who had contributed much to the outstanding work of the BFPA.” 87
Finally, it was agreed that the new ACB board should call a national convention, to be held no later than September 15, 1962, and that a proposed constitution should be circulated to the membership prior to that time so that it could be adopted at the convention.
The July 9, 1961, New York Times carried an Associated Press news release from Kansas City with the headline “New Organization for Blind.” It simply said that: “A new organization to promote the well-being of blind persons in this country has been formed by representatives of twenty-one states and the District of Columbia. Mrs. Juliet Bindt of Berkeley, California, in announcing today the formation of the American Council of the Blind, said by-laws had been drawn up to govern the group until a permanent constitution could be adopted.” 88
Few readers could have known of the blood, sweat, and tears that lay behind those two sentences.
To learn more about the American Council of the Blind and its history, you can purchase the book, People of Vision, through the ACB website.