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OF THE BLIND
This paper is a review of the early years of the Missouri Federation of the Blind (now the Missouri Council of the Blind) and has been written upon request of the President of the Missouri Council because many newer members have expressed interest in facts surrounding the beginning of our state organization. It is gratifying to know that our younger members desire this information, and I hope the following will be helpful.
At a spring convention in 1956, the Missouri Federation of the Blind was founded. There was in existence prior to that time a loosely knit group of local clubs known as the Missouri Council of the Blind. Those organizations were The Allied Workers of the Blind, Kansas City; the Joplin Service Club, Joplin; the Springfield Service Club, Springfield; and the United Workers for the Blind, St. Louis. Those clubs, together with two recently organized groups, the Pony Express Association, St. Joseph; and Real Independence through Employment, Inc. (RITE) St. Louis, made up the Missouri Federation of the Blind. At the above-mentioned convention, the name, The Missouri Federation of the Blind (MFB) was adopted and a new Constitution was approved. The Convention was attended by Kenneth Jernigan, member of the Executive Committee of the National Federation of the Blind, and it elected Laura Welle as MFB’s first president.
Much work had been done in Missouri prior to 1956, primarily by the United Workers for the Blind (UWB). We all know about that organization’s work with the Blind Pension program, but in addition to that, it was one of the seven organizations that founded the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, and served as the Missouri affiliate of the NFB until 1956. After the Missouri Federation was organized, the UWB turned over the mailing list for its well established fund raising project, known as the White Cane Drive, to the new state organization. The MFB also assumed responsibility for the very important legislative program which had been conducted by the UWB until this time. At the convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the Missouri Federation received its charter as an affiliate of that organization.
Let me explain here the arrangement for division of receipts from the fundraising projects of the state and national organizations. The above-mentioned White Cane Drive was a fund raising program that was conducted by affiliates of the National Federation throughout the country and consisted of the circulation of direct mail appeals for funds sent to a select mailing list. The proceeds of this program were divided 40 percent to the National Federation and 60 percent to the Missouri Federation. Upon becoming an affiliate of the National Federation, the Missouri Federation became a recipient of a share of the Greeting Card Program receipts, the fundraising project of the National Federation. According to this arrangement, half of the receipts were deposited in the treasury of the National Federation and the other half was divided evenly among all the state affiliates of the NFB.
Although the affiliates of the newly formed state organization were not very adept at working together, nevertheless, when serious trouble threatened the blind people of Missouri, the MFB was equal to the task and scored a success that is serving the Aid to the Blind and Blind Pension recipients well to this day. The “trouble” was in the form of a bill introduced into the 1957 session of the State Legislature by Missouri Department of Welfare, which would, if adopted, have abolished our treasured two-part Blind Pension program and put Missouri’s aid recipients on a means test as stringent as any in the country. Our beloved friend, John Busch joined us in this battle in the legislature, and I am sure that he is one of the reasons for our success. With his help and by our efforts at being convincing at House and Senate hearings, our bombarding the legislators with letters, and our good newspaper coverage throughout the state, House Bill 62 was defeated. House Bill 62 is a number that will never be forgotten by those who were on hand at that time. Looking back, I marvel that we could have been victorious over a man as powerful in the State Legislature as was the Director of the Department of Welfare.
Unfortunately, we paid a high price for that victory, because in the fall of 1957 a million dollars was transferred out of the Blind Pension fund and given to the Public School fund as is permitted by Article 38, Section 3 of the Missouri Constitution. Of course, we were grieved over that loss. However, the survival of our Aid to the Blind and Blind Pension programs to this date attests to the magnitude of our work in the Legislature during that 1957 session.
In 1957, it became desirable to change convention time from the spring to the fall. So in that year we held two conventions, one in the spring in Springfield, and one in the fall in St. Joseph. The main feature of the Springfield convention was a stimulating banquet address by Durward K. McDaniel, board member of the National Federation of the Blind. He discussed the advantages of establishing a statewide credit union for the blind, and less than a year later with his help and help from the Missouri Credit Union League the Missouri Federation of the Blind Credit Union was formed. It is now known as the Missouri Council of the Blind Credit Union and is still serving the blind people of Missouri as one of the Council’s most valuable programs.