The purpose of the Arizona Council of the Blind (AzCB) is to promote the rights and capabilities of blind and visually impaired people.
The Arizona Council of the Blind was founded in 1971, by a gentleman named John Vanlandingham. The following is an account by long-time AZCB member Bob Williams: John was “… a prominent Phoenix attorney, who also served in the State Legislature and as a Superior Court judge. He also happened to be totally blind. …
“I first met John when I came to Arizona in 1964 as Director of the Phoenix Center for the Blind. He had been appointed to the Superior Court bench by then Governor Sam Goddard and needed his judge’s manual transcribed into Braille. Fortunately, I was able to get this done, thanks to a friend of mine back in New York where I had worked for several years. Then in 1970, two blind participants at the Center for the Blind, the late Bert and Harlene Stone, attended the annual convention of the American Council of the Blind, where they met Reese Robrahn, a blind attorney from Kansas. He asked if they knew an old buddy of his from the Kansas School for the Blind named John Vanlandingham. Of course they knew John, and Robrahn made them promise to deliver a message: ‘Tell John that his old schoolmate Reese wants him to start a state Chapter of the ACB in Arizona!’ They delivered the message, and John, characteristically, wasted no time in getting started. Until then, John had had little contact with the so-called “organized blind movement”, but Bert and Harlene helped him utilize the long established Maricopa Club of the Blind as a starting point for expansion statewide. His contacts from earlier days proved very helpful in this regard, and in 1971 they were able to organize a state affiliate of the ACB, to be known as the Arizona Council of the Blind. … Not being satisfied with this major accomplishment, however, the following year John used his knowledge as an attorney to establish the AZCB Federal Credit Union to meet an urgent need among many blind Arizonans to obtain small loans they could not get anywhere else. Then a couple of years later, John was made aware of another unmet need – many employable, homebound blind persons, who wanted to work, but had no way of getting to a job. With the help of the State agency for the blind, to bring together several necessary components, he was able to establish the AZCB Home Industries program taking raw materials to blind persons in their homes and picking up the finished products. This enterprise has since been taken over by Cactus Industries, who were better able to handle the increasingly complex challenges in this type of community service. [Cactus Industries became Arizona Industries for the Blind (AIB), under the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Rehabilitation Services Administration AZDES/(RSA). Eventually AIB became an independent nonprofit.]
“… the AZCB Credit Union has found it necessary to merge with First Credit Union, due to the impossibility of meeting new federal requirements occasioned by the so-called “war on terrorism”. So the truly remaining organization of the three founded by John Vanlandingham is the AZCB itself, but his legacy to the blind of Arizona speaks for itself as a testimony to him. On behalf of all blind Arizonans, past. present, and future, may I say simply, “Thank you, John!” – Bob Williams
We are grateful for Bob’s first-hand story of the founding and evolution of AZCB. He himself served on the AZCB Board of Directors, and his wife Fay helped with events such as State conventions and holiday gatherings.
Other noteworthy AZCB members
Ruth and Edwin Druding opened their home in Glendale for holiday gatherings. Edwin edited our newsletter, ForeSight, and recorded the audio version. … Dick Bailey served as chaplain for many years, giving the benediction at meetings and other events. … Sharon and Tom Booker, of Green Valley, were stalwart members of the Southern Arizona chapter. … Barbara McDonald served on the State Board of Directors and led the Phoenix-area chapter for many years. She recruited Gail Wilt, who followed in her footsteps. Barbara attended as many national conventions as she could. Her name and bio are on ACB’s Angel Wall.
Frank and Janet Kells, Dan Martinez, Sharon Carpenter, Hal and Arie Newsom, Ron and Lisa Brooks, Karen Hughes, Carlos Paraskevas, Jeff Bishop, John McCann, George Martinez, Lindsey McHugh, Chris Desborough, and many others have played significant rolls in the evolution of the Arizona Council of the Blind.
Today, AZCB has chapters in Central Arizona (Phoenix area), Southern Arizona (Tucson area), and Verde Valley and is a thriving organization.