GCB Digest Spring 2006 (Text Version)
The GCB Digest
A publication of the Georgia Council of the Blind,
An affiliate of the American Council of the Blind
An organization promoting a hand up, not a hand out!
President: Marsha Farrow
102 N. Elizabeth Street
Summerville, GA 30767
Toll Free: 877-667-6815
Editor: Ann Sims, 3361 Whitney Avenue
Hapeville, GA 30354, 404-767-1792
Assistant Editor: Jerrie Ricks
1307 Chester Place
McDonough, GA 30252
770-898-9036; E-Mail, email@example.com
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: By Marsha Farrow ------- 3
Convention News: by Linda Cox -------------------------- 5
GCB Awards Committees and Guidelines:
by Judy Presley ----------------------------------------- 8
Section 508, The Human Side:
By Rita Harrison --------------------------------------- 12
Dr. Robert J. Crouse: A Man of Vision
By Marsha Farrow ------------------------------------ 15
GCB Parliamentary Workshop:
By Adam Shapiro ------------------------------------- 18
Not Everyone Can See the Beauty:
By Ed Grisamore ------------------------------------- 20
GCB Youth Awareness Program:
by Betsy Grenevitch -------------------------------- 22
Chapter News: --------------------------------------------- 24
Announcements: ------------------------------------------ 25
Past Presidents of GCB:
Walter R. McDonald: by Adam Shapiro ------- 27
Jack Lewis: by Alice Ritchhart ------------------- 31
Johnny Wilson: by Alice Ritchhart -------------- 34
Jim Sparks: by Jim Sparks ----------------------- 36
Technology: Friend or Foe?
By Marsha Farrow
Spring is in the air! I sure hope you are enjoying this most beautiful time of the year when the creation around us bursts with new life. I wonder if any of you ever feel like me and are so thankful that some things remain unchanged. For instance I am so happy that butterflies and honey bees are free to fly about their world without entering any necessary pass-codes, showing ID, or paying to land or take off from a lovely rose or day lily. I am thrilled that the robin’s nest is still made of genuine straw and that the robin has not chosen plastic because it is cheaper and more available. I am grateful that the migrating geese can still fly for free and are not affected by airline and Greyhound prices. I feel very strongly that we in GCB can learn some important lessons from our winged and feathered friends. Truly the natural world demonstrates that some things never change nor should they!
The Georgia Council of the Blind has sustained 50 years of growth pangs and has birthed many strong leaders and many, many worker bees. Presently GCB has 337 members and is growing. Many of our members are very sophisticated computer users; some of our members are proficient braille users; some of our members are very skilled with slate and stylus; and some use bold line paper and a 20/20 Pen. Regardless of our means of communication, education, or life experience, we are first human beings with emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Our unique gifts, common bonds, and fearless drives have made GCB the greatest advocate for the blind in Georgia. Over the last 50 years we have accomplished countless goals that have touched the lives of so many individuals who had once felt lonely and alone in a world unprepared for vision loss. I hope our passion to make life better for people who have lost their vision never ever changes, but grows more intense with each passing year. Let’s each consider our personal mission and contribution to the goals of GCB.
Technology: is it our friend? Many of us enjoy and benefit from the advancements in technology of JAWS, ZoomText, Open Book and many other software programs. Moreover, we sit in front of our computers for hours at work and play. As we recognize the benefit of these amazing machines, we must remember that we also have battles with our “foe” as we fight for access in the areas of cell phones, point of entry machines, household appliances, and computer software compatibilities. “No blind left behind”. All of us want to impact our world in positive ways for the younger generations that are sure to follow. Unlike the butterflies, honey bees, and our feathered friends, our human replacements will be forced to utilize technology in their everyday lives and likely even more so than we can imagine.
GCB has seen many changes over the past 50 years and without a doubt will see many, many more changes. GCB must embrace these opportunities to impact the challenges of the future like the establishment of a Commission for the Blind. However, I pray that the ribbon of love, dedication, and kindness that wrapped itself around the hearts of the pioneers of GCB five decades ago will remain in place for the next 50 years and beyond!
Submitted by Linda Cox
The fiftieth Convention of the Georgia Council of the Blind is quickly approaching, and we look forward to seeing many of you for this very special event. We have many fun things planned and are expecting quite a few special guest to celebrate this milestone. Here is all the important information you need to know.
The convention will take place Thursday, August 3 to Sunday, August 6, 2006. The site of this year’s convention is the DeSoto Savannah Hilton, 15 East Liberty Street in downtown historic Savannah.
HOTEL REGISTRATION: To take advantage of the convention price of $111.88 per night (up to four persons per room), which includes the tax, make your reservations before July 15th. You may call 1-800-426-8483 and ask for “in house reservations.” Make sure you specify the Hilton Savannah DeSoto and that you are with GCB to get the correct room rate. There is a $10.00 per day parking fee.
GCB convention registration will begin at noon on Thursday, August 3, 2006, and we will be offering a trolley tour of the downtown historic district at 2:30. Plan to arrive early. Also plan to dress formally for the Saturday night banquet and dance. The program will be jam packed, so be ready to learn a lot, eat a lot, and have loads of fun. You will receive your registration packets at the end of May or first of June, and this year you will be able to register on line.
RAFFLE TICKETS: Please check with your chapter members and determine how many raffle tickets you want to sell. Remind your chapter members that the chapter that sells the winning ticket receives $100.00. Please call or email Linda Cox and let her know how many tickets your chapter wants to sell. When you arrive at the convention, all unsold tickets, stubs and monies will be turned in to the treasurer. Linda Cox can be reached at 770-972-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org
LOVING CUPS AND PRESIDENTS’ CERTIFICATES: The cost for each loving cup is $20.00. The cost for each president’s certificate is $5.00. You may award as many as you wish. Please be sure to check the spelling of the names of your recipients. Names and payment are due no later than June 1, 2006.
DOOR PRIZES: The contribution from each chapter is $25.00 for door prizes to be given out by Cora Camp during the convention.
HOSPITALITY: The contribution from each chapter for the hospitality room is $20.00. Donations of food or beverage items are greatly appreciated.
PAYMENT OF AWARDS, DOOR PRIZES, AND HOSPITALITY: This year you will need to only write one check! Please total your certificates and loving cups awards, and then add the $25.00 for door prizes and $20.00 for hospitality. Please include your list for the loving cups and certificates with your check, and it will be forwarded to the awards committee. Write one check made payable to GCB and send to:
850 Dogwood Road
Lawrenceville, GA 30044-7218
AUCTION: Each chapter is asked to provide at least five items for the auction. Try to make at least one of those items a “super item”. Last year we made over $1700.00! You may turn in your items when you arrive at the GCB registration desk. Questions regarding the auction can be directed to Carle Cox at 770-490-7629 or email@example.com
AWARDS: There are other awards given by GCB at each convention. Nominations for all awards shall be submitted in writing no later than June 15. Specific requirements and the Chair for each award will be listed below and will be available to review on the website
CONVENTION REGISTRATION: This year we will be offering registration on-line, by phone, or through the mail. We will also be able to accept credit cards. Complete details about registration will be sent out in May. Any questions about registration can be directed to Linda Cox at 770-972-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org . If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns please let us know. You may contact Alice Ritchhart or Peggy Chavis, co-chairs of the convention for 2006.
We look forward to seeing you in Savannah for some good old southern hospitality!
GCB Awards Committees and Guidelines
Awards Committee Chair
Judy Presley 706 878 2962
(June Willis Guiding Eyes Award)
Chair: Al Camp, 706-886-3894
6972 Alfred Camp Road
Toccoa, GA 30506
Ann Sims, 404-767-1792
Jerry Orr, 404-870-0210
(Rhoda Walker Award Committee)
Chair: Anne Wheeler, 770-786-5778
2199 Floyd Street
Covington, GA 30014
Heather Lopez, 706-739-1129 or 738-1129
Barbara Graham, 678-319-0450
(Walter R. McDonald Award Committee)
Chair: Valorie Thomas, 770-718-058
4307 Holly Springs Road
Gillsville, GA 30543
Kim Brewbaker, 912-228-1190 or 912-228-1190
Charles Stubblefield, 888-506-0609,
(Gerald Pye Community Service Award Committee)
Chair: Kaye Hall, 478-788-5277
5475 Bloomfield Road, Macon, 31206
Crawford Pike, 706-327-2058
Milton Brown, 478-962-3747
GCB Awards Guidelines
1. All awards committees shall be appointed at the January board meeting.
2. Nominations for all awards shall be submitted to the respective award committee chairpersons in writing (including e-mail) no later than June 15.
3. Nominations shall include the name of the candidate, plus the reason the candidate deserves the award
4. Each award committee chairperson shall read to his/her committee members all award nominations.
5. The decision for selecting the award recipient shall be made by all members of that committee.
6. Criteria for the Rhoda Walker Award, suggested by Rhoda's sister, Helen Wasileski: The recipient can be a blind or sighted individual. Services rendered must be of non-paying status. Services may be any endeavor in the field of teaching, service, and betterment of life for the blind. The recipient must provide public awareness through speaking, seminars, and/or demonstration. There must be involvement of the educational field/teaching braille. The recipient must push any innovation involving blindness or blind people.
7. The committee for selecting the recipient of the June Willis Guiding Eyes Award shall be legally blind.
8. The sighted recipient of the June Willis Guiding Eyes Award (who must be a GCB member) shall be known to GCB members through attendance at GCB state activities, and through his/her willing assistance and service to the blind and visually impaired.
9. The Walter R. McDonald Award shall be presented to an outstanding visually impaired individual who has, through his/her leadership and service, contributed significantly to the betterment of the blind and visually impaired community, and who has demonstrated by deeds and achievements his/her dedication to the principles incident to blindness espoused and practiced by the late Walter R. McDonald. The recipient may or may not be a member of the Georgia Council of the Blind.
10. The recipient of The Gerald Pye Community Service Award must be an active legally blind member in good standing of GCB. He or she must have demonstrated superior service to his or her community in a number of ways that exemplify the work of Gerald Pye. The candidate must be nominated in writing by a GCB member who knows first hand of the candidate's community services. Examples of this service must be included in the written recommendation.
11. All GCB awards shall be presented periodically at a GCB state convention.
Please see the GCB Website for full information and for a scholarship application. All scholarship information must be in no later than June 15, 2006.
(Scholarship Awards Committee)
Chair: Debbie Williams, 770-443-8249
1477 Nebo Road, Dallas, GA 30157
Bill Holley, 706-652-2476
Granger Ricks, 770-898-9036
Tom Ridgeway, 478-474-3577
Bernace Murray, 770-981-7150
GGDU sponsors an award in the memory of Julie Aichroth. Although not a GCB award, it is given during the GCB state convention. The recipient of this award does not have to be visually impaired; nor use a dog guide; nor be a member of GGDU, GDUI, GCB, or ACB; but must be someone that has made an outstanding achievement or contribution to the visually impaired community, especially dog guide users.
The Julie Aichroth Award Committee
Chair: Dana Gantt: 678-423-9865
Stanley Lopez, Ann Sims
The Human Side
By Rita Harrison
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was published in the FDA spring newsletter.
There is more to Section 508 than the fact that it is the law. I would like to introduce you to the human side of Section 508, before and after.
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 agencies must give disabled employees and disabled members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others.
I am a program analyst for the Food and Drug Administration. I have worked for FDA since November 1987, and before that, for other federal agencies, beginning in 1980.
I have an eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). RP affects individuals in different ways. Some aren’t affected until well into adulthood, while others experience it early on. The disease deteriorates the retina and causes blindness in many people.
When I started with the federal government, I had nothing more than a movable copyholder and reading glasses available to help me do my work. This was before the time of the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Over the years, I became increasingly aware of the many difficulties faced by persons with disabilities. One of the greatest of these is using a computer, something many of us do each day as a critical part of our jobs.
Can you imagine looking at your computer screen and seeing nothing more than a square light? It may look white to you, or you might see some color. How would you access the information on the screen?
I must use speech software to read what is on the computer screen. Here are a few obstacles that I encounter on a regular basis using this software:
When you send me a scanned image file, I will be told that it’s an image file. Since an image is basically a picture, and screen reading software can’t read a picture, when I try to “read” the file, the screen reader software will say the word “blank”, or something similar, depending on the software being used.
When you send me pictures or graphics, I can’t see them, unless you add captions or tags to them, with a brief description of what it is.
Fully text files are completely accessible with screen reading software because the reader is hearing straight text. However, Microsoft PowerPoint can be extremely user-unfriendly, if it is not created correctly.
Perhaps an easier way to explain what works versus what does not work is to tell you that the more visually attractive you make your document, the more difficult it is for the screen reader to read it.
Each of us has a responsibility to become aware of not only the differences in the way we do certain things, but how we can make sure that we will be able to communicate with everyone, regardless of the scenario. For tips on making your documents universally accessible, visit HHS’ website www.usability.gov. FDA is committed to making sure all employees and customers have full access to information. In fact, a team is working together to ensure this across the agency.
I hope you now have a better understanding of the challenges facing the screen reader. Yes, Section 508 is a beneficial law, but we still have inaccessibility problems to deal with in performing our job tasks. You who use the computer to send us materials can make our jobs easier by being aware of our access needs.
Dr. Robert J. Crouse: A Man of Vision
By Marsha Farrow
Robert J. Crouse, Ed.D, present Executive Director of Blind and Low Vision Services of North Georgia will be retiring as of June 30, 2006 after forty years of service in vision rehabilitation. Dr. Crouse has worked for the last 30 years as administrator of three different nonprofit agencies serving the blind and visually impaired. He also served on the faculty of the University of Northern Colorado for four years and was a research specialist at the University of Nottingham, England, U.K. for 2 years. He served as principal of the National Mobility Centre while in England.
Dr. Crouse earned his B.S. and M.A. degrees from Western Michigan University in special education of the developmentally disabled and in blind rehabilitation, respectively. His doctorate was awarded by the University of Northern Colorado in vocational rehabilitation counseling. He has co-authored two chapters in Foundation of Orientation and Mobility and published two articles in professional journals.
Dr. Crouse has considerable experience in grant and contract administration in several areas. While at the University of Northern Colorado, he administered grants from the U.S. Office of Education to establish a training program for teachers of the visually impaired. In England, he was the chief operating officer for a grant from the Viscount-Nuffield Fund, a major U.K. foundation, to establish training programs at the National Mobility Centre. He has administered numerous grants in Maine and Georgia from the state vocational rehabilitation agencies to provide services to eligible vocational rehabilitation clients. While in Maine, he secured and administered contracts from the Defense Logistics Agency through the Javits-Wagner O’Day Act to produce items for the Navy and Army, including helmet retention straps, Navy neckerchiefs, flyers’ kit bags and currency bags for the Federal Reserve Board and Bureaus of Mint and Engraving. These experiences taught him to interpret and meet government specifications for product manufacturing, quality control, cost accounting and packaging and shipping specifications.
Dr. Crouse has been active in his field. He served on the National Advisory Council, Regional Rehabilitation Research and Training Center at Mississippi State University for 5 years. He is a member of the Georgia Blind Coalition and serves on its executive committee. He served on the board of directors of the National Industries for the Blind and the standards development committee of the National Accreditation Council (NAC). Dr. Crouse has served on 25 on-site review teams for agencies applying for accreditation or reaccreditation for NAC. Dr. Crouse has given numerous presentations to consumer groups and has spoken at professional conferences, civic clubs and United Way Campaign companies.
Dr. Crouse has been a member of LIONS International for over 20 years, and he is currently a member of the Marietta LIONS Club. He is active in LIONS District 18-A and supports its efforts in the area of sight conservation.
Dr. Crouse has been very dedicated in employing individuals who are blind, deaf-blind, and visually impaired as service providers. He recognized the talents and skills possessed by these individuals in the areas of instruction in computer skills, brailler repair, social work, low-vision education, and rehabilitation teaching. He has shown innovation in making the working environment accepting and supportive of his employees who have vision loss. His own dedication to orientation and mobility training is exemplified in the three current mobility instructors who work countless hours in thirty-two counties throughout North Georgia.
Dr. Crouse, a member of the Georgia Council of the Blind has attended many conventions during his years of service in Georgia. Although he will be enjoying his retirement by our next convention, we wish Dr. Crouse and his lovely wife Maxine much happiness and a wonderful retirement in Florida where DR. Crouse plans to spend much of his time on the golf course.
Thank you, Bob, for all your contributions for the betterment of the blind and visually impaired. You will be missed in Georgia!!!
GCB Parliamentary Workshop
By Adam Shapiro
Roberts’ Rules of Order was the subject of the workshop held at the winter board meeting of the Georgia Council of the Blind on January 21. This meeting took place at the Center for the Visually Impaired. I was one of the attendees.
The workshop was facilitated by Don Stephens. Stephens had his first experience with Roberts’ Rules in 1980 when he brought a group of high school students to a debating competition. After 30 years of teaching, he retired and became a certified parlimentarian. Now he hires out to organizations as a consultant. One of his clients is the American Council of the Blind.
The first thing we did was to take a true-false test showing how little we actually knew about Roberts’ Rules of Order. This may have come as a revelation to some, but it didn't surprise me. What I knew about this complicated subject came primarily from observation. A few years ago, I tried to read Roberts’ Rules of Order cover to cover. I could barely get past the Table of Contents.
Using imaginary examples, our facilitator took us through the entire meeting process. We learned how to take minutes, deliver reports, and make motions.
If Stephens were to give up his parlimentary career, he could easily become a stand-up comedian. His sense of humor made it possible for us to laugh while we learned.
Now that the workshop is over, the real challenge begins. We must apply what we have learned. What I have learned is that when Roberts’ Rules of Order is used correctly, we are demonstrating our commitment to the principles of democracy. We should never forget that it is our democracy that has made our organization unique. It has sustained us in the past. It will ensure us a successful future.
Not Everyone Can See the Beauty
By Ed Grisamore
Macon Telegraph and News Staff Writer
March 19, 2006
The window in her apartment catches the rays of morning sun, but Mary Wiley doesn't see the light. She steadily hangs a pink bow on her patio during the Cherry Blossom Festival, even though she has no clue what it looks like.
"I go out and feel it," she said.
As we reflect on the beauty of springtime in Macon--a season dropped straight out of heaven--we could easily take it for granted. Mary has never witnessed the cascade of loveliness on the Cherry Blossom trail through the Cherry and Oxford drives neighborhood. She has never seen pink poodles prancing down Mulberry Street or watched the firefighters flip pink pancakes at Central City Park. She has never had her breath stolen under the glow of hot-air balloons tethering against the night sky.
Mary has been blind since she was 8 months old. She is now 63 years old and lives alone. She has no concept of shapes, sizes and colors. Her only frame of reference for a Yoshino cherry tree is touching the petals with her fingers. If you woke up this morning, but the sun never did, at least you could claim to have witnessed one of the great visual wonders of our city. In her dark corner of the world, Mary has no concept of the 300,000 flowering cherries that grace our landscape.
"I've heard people talking about the festival, but it has never meant that much to me because I've never participated in it," she said. "I'm glad it makes other people happy, though."
She grew up in Sparta. She was adopted by Sam and Mary Wiley when she was 5 weeks old. Retina blastoma, a form of eye cancer, robbed her of her sight. She moved to Macon in 1948 to attend the Georgia Academy for the Blind, where she learned to read braille. She moved back to Sparta in the seventh grade and attended public school. She rode the school bus with the other students, was mainstreamed in the same class and graduated in 1960.
For several years, she worked as a stenographer at The Medical Center of Central Georgia. She now spends her time listening to library books on tape and playing the piano and accordion for social functions and nursing homes. Sometimes, she tunes in to hear the local TV news and to what "Judge Judy" has to say.
She uses "echo location" by snapping her fingers to navigate her way around a room. She "sees" her friends by the sound of their voices. She rarely forgets a voice. The friend's voice that has been with her the longest is Esther Boyer, who now lives in Macon but remembers when Mary was a young girl in Sparta.
“I've always admired her," Boyer said. "She has the ability to cope. She has never known sight, so she doesn't miss it."
You probably know folks like Mary, and might even wonder what you can do for them. I told Mary that I was going to call her one day next week and take her down to Third Street Park. There, we will stand in line for some cherry ice cream beneath the beautiful canopy of blossoms. I will do my best to try and describe the surroundings to her.
The best way to enjoy the festival is to share it with someone else.
GCB Youth Awareness Program
Submitted by Betsy Grenevitch
Again this year, we are excited to hold our Youth Awareness Program at the GCB state convention in Savannah, August 3-6. There will be free transportation to and from the convention and chaperones provided. The two winners from last year and up to eight new Yappers are invited to join the activities.
GCB is sponsoring a raffle to raise money for the youth program as well as for the individual chapter members who sell the tickets. The tickets are for $1.00. The chapter will receive $.50, and the youth program will receive $.50 for each ticket sold. There will be a number of prizes to win at the time of the drawing during the state convention, and you do not have to be present to win. To obtain tickets for your chapter, contact Brian Leighton, at email@example.com.
The topic for the speech this year was chosen by one of the winners from last year, Larky Peterson. The topic is How to Make Your Own Decisions. There will only be one winner this year so the competition will be equal no matter if the youth is sighted or visually impaired.
At the state convention, the Yappers will have two sessions for their group. The first one will teach them how to assert themselves. The second session will be visually impaired members of GCB sharing with the Yappers their various professions.
Between now and June 15, chapter members will choose the Yappers by listening to their prepared speeches which are to be a minimum of three minutes but no longer than five minutes. . The speeches do not include the introduction about themselves and their eye condition if there is one. The eight chosen Yappers will be invited to the convention where they will give their speeches again and have judges choose one winner.
If you are a youth, or you know of a youth, who would be interested in participating in our Youth Awareness Program, please contact me at the address below and I will get you in touch with the appropriate chapter. Deadline for the try-outs is June 15, 2006.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Carolyn Carr reports that the Macon Chapter is busy this year with good programs and exciting fundraisers. In January, Ed Grisamore, staff writer for the Macon Telegraph and News, was the guest speaker. He informed the group of his enjoyment in writing articles about several blind folks in the Macon area including Ben Manley, Ron Weeks, and Paul Brown. He also wrote about Mary Wiley in this issue of The GCB Digest.
Another program was a surprise retirement party at the February meeting for Kaye Hall who had been with Belks Department Store for 30 years. Kaye is the chapter’s fundraiser chairperson and always does a splendid job. She was in charge of the Belks’ Charity Days at the end of March involving the chapter members to raise money for their various projects.
The chapter will again have its June picnic at the Academy for the Blind.
East Georgia Chapter:
The chapter has enjoyed some interesting programs this year. Lynn Miller, diabetes coordinator at the Center for the Visually Impaired, brought a very informative presentation in February, and in April the group planned another yard sale on Saturday, April 29. This is always a big event and very successful fundraising effort.
Stephens County Chapter:
The Gospel and Bluegrass Festival in February was another huge success, with the chapter members raising over $1,000.00 for the GCB scholarship program. They were hoping that Wal-Mart would match that amount.
South Metro Council:
The highlight for this spring is the Mayfest to be held on Saturday, May 20, at the Center for the Visually Impaired, from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. There will be food, entertainment, an auction, and a raffle. Come and join this annual fundraiser for scholarships, the Braille club, youth, and more.
The Nomination Committee would like to request the participation of the GCB membership in selecting a slate of officers to be placed in nomination for the 2006 election. Please contact any of the following members to place a suggestion.
Judy Presley: 706-878-2962,
Carolyn Carr: 478-745-5854
Stanley Lopez: 706-210-4350,
Bill Holley: 706-215-0328
Jimmie Burkes: 706-568-4386,
GCB Car and Vehicle Donation Info:
DONATE YOUR CAR! Donate Your Vehicle! Get a Tax Deduction! Fair market value per IRS!
We Do All Paperwork, free Pick-up, running or Not! Some restrictions apply.
Enabling individuals with visual impairments to reach full potential… To Donate call:
Dont be hassled selling a used car – if you itemize, you may be ahead with a tax deduction along with helping a charity. Live operators take your call every day
Please notify Linda Cox at email@example.com if you have any changes in your address, telephone number, e-mail, preferences for format, or anything else for the records.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The remainder of this issue is devoted to articles from some of our past presidents who have shared their memories and accomplishments in GCB. This is in celebration of our 50th anniversary. The next issue will provide the other presidents not included here.
GCB Past Presidents
Walter R. McDonald:
A Man with a Service-Driven LIFE
By Adam Shapiro
Blinded at 13, Walter McDonald received a law degree at 22 from the University of Georgia. At 25, he was elected to the state legislature. At 31, the voters sent him to the Public Service Commission. He stayed in that capacity for an unprecedented 48 years. He was a member of the Decatur LIONS Club and he founded Community Services for the Blind in the early 1960's. This agency later became Atlanta Area Services for the Blind and even later became the Center for the Visually Impaired.
When the Georgia Federation of the Blind held its first organizing meeting in late February, 1956, Mr. Mac was one of 44 charter members. He was elected president at the organization's first convention in the summer of that year.
In the summer of 1957, McDonald was elected to the executive committee of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). GFB had become an affiliate of the Federation when it was organized the previous year.
McDonald became a part of the national leadership just in time to be caught in the middle of an internal conflict that almost destroyed the NFB and changed the organized blind movement forever. The responsibility for the so-called "civil war" can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Federation's first president, Dr. Jacobeus ten Broek. Ten Broek had five college degrees in law and political science. His speeches and writings dealt with constitutional law, the welfare system, and the blind. He spoke and wrote on behalf of those who were denied civil liberties, and he championed the rights of the disadvantaged. His tragic flaw was that he craved power. He seemed to believe that the Federation was his to do with as he wished and one of the things that he wished to do was to spend money without the approval of the executive committee.
Ten Broek's control over the purse was not the only reason for the conflict. It is being discussed in detail here because this was McDonald's chief concern during his time as a national leader. When the executive committee met in the fall of 1957, Durwood McDaniel of Oklahoma and Marie Boring of North Carolina proposed that a subcommittee be formed that would create a budget that would be approved by the executive body. Although McDonald privately thought that this was a good idea, he went along with the majority of the committee and voted it down.
By 1958, a reform movement had been established inside the NFB as a concession to the dissenting voices, the president formed a subcommittee on budget and finance, headed by Kenneth Jernigan. McDonald was also appointed.
Jernigan had been a teacher at the Tennessee School for the Blind and the president of NFB's affiliate in that state when he came to the national leadership in 1952. It wasn't long before he became the most important member of the president's inner circle. McDonald and Jernigan had known each other since 1956 when the Tennessean had supported Mr. Mac for president of the GFB. Now the two men were on a collision course. Obviously speaking for the president, Jernigan resisted the implementation of bookkeeping procedures that had been recommended by a St. Louis accounting firm and approved by the Executive Committee. Bank statements were hard to get, and the two that Mac saw were difficult to comprehend. It became obvious that the Federation had been broke since the summer of 1958. The president had to take out a loan so that the organization could function.
NFB's chief fund-raising method was the selling of unordered greeting cards through the mail. The American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB) looked down on this method, and the post office had received complaints. The affiliates were to receive a portion of the proceeds at convention time. Shortly before the 1959 convention, ten Broek announced that the disbursement would be delayed. Someone had to tell the membership that there was no share there. Clearly, ten Broek and Jernigan were not about to do so. Mr. Mac was angry, and it is easy to understand why. Walter R. McDonald was a man of thrift, as his friend, Jack Lewis, has pointed out. He had invested well and when he died, the value of his real estate was in the six-figure range. Mr. Mac had gone along with the administration for the sake of peace but he did not believe in peace at any price. He resigned from his national responsibilities.
Now the administration had something to worry about. Mr. Mac's resignation had given the reform movement much needed credibility. If he had gone to the convention and told his story to the entire membership, things might have been worse for ten Broek and Jernigan.
Ten Broek urged McDonald to stay on the executive committee and so did the reformers. Mr. Mac said no to both sides. He felt that his usefulness on the national level had ended.
At the next GFB convention, the membership passed a resolution stating that it would not take greeting-card money. At the 1960 national convention, the administration loyalists suspended six affiliates including Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Maryland, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. The GFB responded with a contribution to the reform group of $300.
In 1961, ten Broek resigned in the middle of his term. The opposition walked out of the national convention and, at a neighboring hotel, formed the American Councel of the blind (ACB). Their first president was Ned E. Freeman, a pharmacist from Conyers, Georgia. The four-year drama was over.
The campaign to reform the NFB had left some of the dissenters psychologically bruised and skeptical. It wasn't until 1964 that Georgia became the ninth ACB affiliate. It did not change its name to the Georgia Council of the Blind until 1982.
When the members of the Georgia Federation of the Blind gathered in Atlanta for their 1964 convention, they learned that their founding president, Walter Raleigh McDonald, would not seek another term. McDonald was in his early 70's by this time and he had been in public life for most of his adult years. After new officers were elected, a sad, but grateful membership rewarded the man they called Mr. Mac with a standing ovation and the title of president emeritus.
Throughout his career of service to the blind, Walter Raleigh McDonald had courage, conviction, and integrity. He showed that politics is not a dirty word and that public service is a noble calling. The standard that he set was high, as former GCB president Jack Lewis has rightfully observed. This is as it should be. It is a standard to which all GCB members should be willing to aspire. We owe our fellow blind no less.
Jack Lewis, GCB President, 1969-1972 and
By Alice Ritchhart
Jack Lewis served two different terms as president of the Georgia Council of the Blind. His first term of presidency was from 1969 to 1972 when he stepped into the office after the death of President Freeman. During his first term as president, Jack states that he feels he helped the organization by increasing its membership. One of the chapters that was formed was the Rome chapter which has now been reorganized under the current president as the Floyd County Chapter.
Jack also stated that during his first time as president, he helped the blind in Georgia by advocating for the workers at the Georgia Industries for the Blind concerning working conditions at that facility. He and GCB were successful in getting Governor Jimmy Carter to form a blue ribbon task force to look into conditions at the Industries, and to make recommendations. At the time, many of the people working at the industries felt their needs were ignored by the Vocational Rehabilitation Center. There was not even a rehabilitation counselor at the facilities. As a result of the task force, a counselor was placed at the Industries, and a rehabilitation office was built directly on the premises.
Jack’s second term as president was from 1998-2002. It was during this presidency that Jack helped the Georgia Council of the Blind to grow financially through implementing the used car donation fund-raising project. The proceeds from this endeavor are being used to support the scholarship program of GCB.
It was during his second term that we saw 3 new chapters formed: Columbus, Gainesville, and East Georgia. All three of these chapters are thriving, and in fact, the East Georgia Chapter has grown to be our largest state chapter.
Past president Lewis says he feels his most successful accomplishment was in bringing together the NFB of Georgia with the Georgia Council of the blind to help improve services for the blind in our state. It was with the former NFB of Georgia president, MacArthur Jarrett, that the Georgia Coalition came into being, and both groups still have a good working relationship today in Georgia.
Jack Lewis served in the Georgia Council of the Blind as vice president and also as the editor of The GCB Digest, a publication of the state organization. On the national level, he served as a board member representing Georgia on the American Council of the Blind. He also served on the Board of Publication’s and in the early 90’s, chaired the scholarship committee as a part of his continued outstanding leadership in our national organization.
Jack is a retired Professor from Anderson College in Anderson, Indiana where he lived 20 years prior to returning to Savannah. He has been married to Carolyn Lewis for the past 35 years. The couple have two sons and a daughter whom he believes represent his greatest accomplishment.
Today Jack remains very active in the Savannah Council of the Blind which he helped to organize. He is a member of Georgia Guide Dog Users and has enjoyed his own Guide Dog for the past two years. He is very active in Savannah as a board member of L.I.F.E. the independent living center. He has been newly appointed to the board of directors for the Savannah Association for the Blind.
Jack Lewis is a good role model for our future Presidents. He proves that you don’t have to just get old, you just keep getting better. Let’s all hope that we, too, will be as young and active when we reach Jack’s age of 74 years!
Johnny Wilson: GCB President 1972-1976
By Alice Ritchhart
Johnny Wilson was president of the Georgia Council of the Blind from 1972 to 1976. Before becoming president, Johnny served as president of the Atlanta affiliate, and was on the board of directors for GCB. When asked what he thought his greatest accomplishment was during his presidency, Johnny said it was the fact that he was able to bring blind people in the state of Georgia together for fellowship. He began an aggressive membership drive as president of his local affiliate. He stated that he encouraged membership by providing a supper meal as a part of the meeting and also by making sure that people who wanted to attend had transportation for getting there and back home. when Johnny became president of the state, he followed this same philosophy. He was successful in getting one of the college sororities to provide rides for members and in involving family members for transportation purposes as well. The state membership grew from approximately 150 to over 400 during his time in office.
To encourage participation of membership in significant activities, Johnny chartered buses to provide transportation to the national conventions and other events. He, himself, refused to accept money for private transportation and joined the others on the chartered bus.
While president, Johnny and the Council helped to start the camp for blind children in Georgia. This camp was held at Camp Will-A-Way near Winder and was a tremendous success for several years. For the adults, the Council under his presidency began an adult literacy program which involved classes in braille, chair caning, handwriting, and basic remedial education.
Johnny and his wife, Wynona opened the first thrift store here in Georgia in 1979. He hoped the monies raised could be used to start a center for retired blind people but said it was difficult to get other blind individuals interested in coming to help run the store. In 1985 they closed the store. The money from the sale was divided in two ways: Part of the proceeds was given to GARRS (the Georgia Radio Reading Service) to purchase units for blind Georgians. The remaining proceeds were provided to GCB to be used for the development of other GCB programs.
While volunteering his time in the Georgia Council running the Thrift Store, Johnny served on the Blue Ribbon Task Force examining conditions at the Industries for the Blind and making recommendations to Governor Carter for improvements. At the same time, he attended law school and received a law degree from Emory University Law School. He owned and operated a piano tuning and repair service for many years, and then worked as a vender in the Business Enterprise Program from which he retired 5 years ago.
Johnny now enjoys retirement with his wife of 33 years traveling and staying in touch with good friends from his school days. He and Wynona are the proud parents of two children.
We are grateful to Johnny Wilson for his tireless efforts and accomplishments during the time of his presidency of GCB. He leaves a legacy of challenge and success!
The Sparks’ Years: 1991 – 1995
By Jim Sparks
I was asked to look back for history’s sake at my term of office as president of the Georgia Council of the Blind. I will share some highlights and some lowlights. I will preface it all by saying it was a real honor to be given the opportunity to serve. I was also very lucky to have a nice slate of officers to serve with me. Only two members of the executive committee are still living. They are Tim Kelly who served as second vice president and Sarah Smith who served as treasurer. The ones serving with me who have passed over were John Brockington, Eddie Butler, and Janet Clary. John Brockington served as state convention chairman the last three years of my presidency. Eddie Butler was a very easy going guy who was able to keep us on mission and not at each others’ throats all the time. Janet Clary served as secretary. Janet operated her office with a gusto that kept all of us on our toes, especially me. I encouraged the executive committee to give me feedback--and believe you me, Janet took full advantage of the opportunity.
Then state representative, and soon to become governor, Roy Barnes, attended our January 1991 board meeting. He installed our state officers.
However, our most unusual visitors were two Cobb County policemen. A driver for one of our board members was involved in a fender bender accident on the way to the meeting. They left the accident scene without satisfying the driver of the other car who swore out a warrant for the arrest of our board member’s driver. He was arrested and taken to jail. I went to the jail after the board meeting and was able to get him released on bail. Unfortunately, the job did not include any get-out-of-jail-free cards.
The next assignment I remember was going to Charlotte, North Carolina, to speak before the Accessibility Board concerning detectable warnings. They were in the process of writing the national regulations for implementing the Americans With Disabilities Law. At this time the NFB was saying that nothing was needed for individuals who are blind. Their affiliate president from South Carolina was there and testified before the panel with the message that all blind people needed was training with a long, white cane. He related that items sticking out on the sidewalk were not a problem to blind people because they could determine that it was there due to a change in atmospheric pressure. I testified that I represented a large contingency from Georgia who were not quite that well adapted. In fact, many of us have bruise marks on our legs and other parts of our anatomy to prove it. When all the speakers who had registered to speak had finished, there were still five minutes allotted and he, being the first speaker of the hearing, was given the time. He refuted what I had reported and said he did not in any way appreciate the comments from the babbling blind idiot from Georgia. The chair of the committee stopped him and reprimanded him for making such a derogatory comment. I was asked by a reporter how it felt to be referred to as a babbling blind idiot, and I responded that it did not phase me very much; my daddy always said that you could tell a donkey by its bray.
Another unusual thing happened to a black blind man in South Georgia. The individual became very upset with one of the city officials of his town and wrote and circulated a petition to remove the person from office. When the petitions were submitted by the blind man they were rejected on the basis that he could not have visually observed the signatures since he was blind. I thought this was ludicrous and said so in a phone interview on the Neal Bortz Show of WSB radio. The Atlanta Journal picked up the story the next day and the headline read, Blind Leader calls Judge’s Ruling Ludicrous. The American Civil Liberties wound up taking the man’s case and winning it. It was one of the few times that I agreed with the ACLU.
We had several of our members to die during my term, and I was honored to conduct several funerals for both members and family of Members.
We had some real good state conventions. John Brockington did a super job coordinating them.
The June Willis Guiding Eyes Award was started during my term of office. I was very proud of this coming into being. June Willis, in my opinion, has done more to help the blind of Georgia and our nation than any one else I know.
I must give credit to Mr. Gerald Pye for his willingness to mentor me during my term. Gerald gave me some good advice through the years. I listened to much of it, and I should have listened better. Mr. Pye always had the best interest of GCB at heart.
We all have special people that we have a heart-felt appreciation for. My favorite two are Al and Cora Camp. They gave me lodging in their home when I would visit their chapter meetings. This included some of the finest meals one could ever have dreamed of. They both meant so much to our organization, and they still do.
Thanks for the memories.