Braille Monitor                                                 November 2011

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John Nagle: Friend of the Blind

by Anna Kresmer

John Nagle and President JohnsonJohn Nagle shakes hands with then U.S. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (left) in 1963.
From the Editor: The following is another in our series of historical documents in the Jacobus tenBroek Library.

John F. Nagle served as chief of the NFB Washington office from 1960 to 1974. During this time he helped shape blindness-related legislation in many areas, including vocational rehabilitation, Social Security, education, vending opportunities, white cane safety, and the right to organize.

Born in Massachusetts in 1915 and blinded at the age of thirteen, Nagle graduated from the Perkins School for the Blind in 1934. After studying journalism for three years, he decided to attend law school and received his law degree from Northeastern University in 1942 and then a bachelor’s degree in public affairs from the American International College in 1946. Nagle practiced law for fourteen years in Springfield, Massachusetts, before going to Washington in 1958 to work for two years under John Taylor, his predecessor in the Washington office. In 1963 he was admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nagle was an ardent Federationist who served the organization in a number of roles, including recording secretary for the Greater Springfield Association of the Blind and member of the Massachusetts affiliate executive committee and later as president of the Massachusetts affiliate. He was also a member of the national NFB executive committee. In 1958 he married fellow Federationist Virginia Clark of Worcester, Massachusetts.

John Nagle died in 1976, but his work both in the Federation and with the Congress laid the foundation for future legislation for the blind. His accomplishments continue to benefit blind people across the United States today.

In 1962 at the NFB national convention in Detroit, Michigan, after only two years at the helm in Washington, D.C., he was honored by the NFB when the Convention unanimously passed this resolution honoring Nagle for his hard work. Resolution 62-04 reads as follows:

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind through its president and its officers, desires to express its deep appreciation, its sincere thanks, and everlasting gratitude to John Nagle, Chief of our Washington Office, for his dedicated services to the national organization and to the blind of our nation, and

WHEREAS, by his duty and service to our national organization, John Nagle participated in the Third Regional National Rehabilitation Association Convention, took part in a panel discussion on vocational rehabilitation, and presented testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee in support of HR-4222, the Administration's health-care bill introduced by Congressman Cecil R. King, of California, and

WHEREAS, the said John Nagle testified before the Senate District of Columbia Committee in support of proposals to allow blind voters the right to have persons of their own choosing assist them in the voting booth; presented testimony to the House Special Subcommittee on Education on bills concerned with amending the American Printing House Act; independent living rehabilitation; sheltered workshop; teachers of the deaf; and teachers of all disability categories, and

WHEREAS, John Nagle's N. F. B. Curtis Award address given at the banquet of our Kansas City Convention appeared in the Congressional Record with an introduction by Congressman William J. Green of Pennsylvania, and

WHEREAS, the said John Nagle presented a paper on the meaning of disability to the individual before the Conference for Coordinators for Employment of the Physically Handicapped, sponsored by the U.S. Civil Service Commission, copies of which were sent to all coordinators throughout the country, and

WHEREAS, the said John Nagle, by his untiring efforts and devotion to the cause of the National Federation of the Blind, has enhanced and advanced its legislative programs to protect and preserve the rights and privileges of our blind people already acquired and that may be acquired: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind, in Convention assembled, in Detroit, Michigan, July 4-7, 1962, hereby expresses its deep appreciation, its sincere thanks, and everlasting gratitude to John Nagle for his untiring efforts and deepest interest in promoting the social and economic welfare of the blind through legislation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as a token of esteem and respect, the name of John Nagle be inscribed in the records of the National Federation of the Blind, with the title of "Friend of the Blind."

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