Laura Welle resigned as MFB President at this convention, and I was elected to complete her unexpired term. It was at this time that I began to learn of the internal strife that was brewing in the National Federation, a controversy that was destined to take its toll in many ways on all who were involved during the next four to five years.
For at least the first 20 years of the MFB’s existence, the organization was plagued with very low finances. We were always trying to raise money and never had enough. That had its disadvantages; however, it also produced a healthy atmosphere. People belonged to the organization not for what they could get but for what they could give. Often members were reimbursed for only partial expenses when carrying out assignments, and state meetings were often held in homes of board members in the interest of economy.
Immediately after becoming President, I began issuing monthly news letters, which were sent to all affiliates in order to keep them informed and in touch. These newsletters were very helpful and solved the communication problem until the Missouri Chronicle began publication in February, 1960.
The Organizing Committee, chaired by Bill Jackson, began work soon after the convention, and four new affiliates were ready for admission at the 1958 convention. These were: the Ozark Association of the Blind (OAB) in St. Genevieve, the Hannibal Association of the Blind, the Bootheel Association of the Blind in Cape Girardeau, and the Tower Club in St. Louis. The Tower Club needed only minimal assistance from the State Organizing Committee. A few years after its admission, the Bootheel Association merged with the Ozark Association. The OAB and the Tower Club are very strong affiliates to this day, and the Hannibal Association was with us until recently. The Credit Union held its organizational meeting in May of 1958.
The 1958 convention, hosted by RITE, was attended by Dr. tenBroek, who delivered another splendid banquet address. This convention adopted a resolution that the MFB bid for the privilege of hosting the national convention to be held in 1961. The Ellis M. Forshee Award was presented for the first time, and was given to Congressman Thomas Curtis, who had been extremely helpful in working for the cause of the Missouri Aid to the Blind program in Congress. Mr. Ellis M. Forshee, for whom the award is named, was one of the UWB’s most outstanding workers. His work on the Blind Pension program and with the National Federation of the Blind established him as deserving of this honor. This convention elected me to a two-year term in my own right.
During my first two-year term, although always hampered by lack of funds, we made progress. At that time the Legislature held sessions every two years in the odd years. So the 1959 session marked our first contact with the legislators since our confrontation in 1957. Needless to say, our relations with the Director of the Department of Welfare and some legislators was somewhat strained. Therefore, our ambitious legislative program, approved by the 1958 convention, was not even introduced. Instead, we settled for a five dollar raise in Aid to the Blind and Blind Pension grants, bringing them up to $65.
Two new affiliates were ready to receive charters at our 1959 convention. This was due to the expert help from NFB staff member, Paul Kirton. The Randolph County Association of the Blind in Higbee and the Guild of Fulton were the new affiliates, but a few years later, the Guild of Fulton became the Mid-Missouri Association of the Blind, headquartered in Jefferson City. The 1959 convention was attended by Paul Kirton and John Taylor, both staff members of the National Federation. The banquet address was given by Mr. Taylor. At that time a certificate for Meritorious Service was presented to the Jenkins Music Company in recognition of its excellent record of employing the blind people. The convention also approved a proposal by the Executive Board that the MFB begin publication of a quarterly magazine, which became the Missouri Chronicle. I accepted the assignment as temporary editor.
The National Convention in Sante Fe, New Mexico in 1959 accepted the MFB as host for the 1961 convention to be held in Kansas City, Missouri. At this convention, the Missouri delegation only halfheartedly supported the NFB administration.
During 1960, the Missouri Chronicle began publication in February, May, August, and November. In the following year, the schedule was changed to the present one. A convention committee was appointed and plans got under way in earnest for the 1961 national convention.