TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF THE DEAF
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An Historical Sketch of TAD

Much of the early history of the efforts of the D/deaf in Texas to become organized is scanty, legendary or unknown at this stage. The earliest known association was the Blue Bonnet Association of the Deaf, which came into existence in the year 1886, a mere 10 years after Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull and his braves defeated General Custer, and during the heyday of Buffalo Bill Cody even two years before our state capitol was completed.

The location of the Blue Bonnet Association's first convention has not been verified at this time, but it is believed to have been held in the small community between Hillsboro and Corsicana known as Blooming Grove, Texas, where the Texas state flower, the bluebonnet, grows profusely. After organizing there in 1886, five other conventions were held among 1886 and 1898: in Corsicana in 1889, again in Blooming Grove in the year 1891 and 1892, and twice in Waco in the years of 1896 and 1871. Thereafter conventions have been held in nearly every major city in Texas.

An Historical Sketch of TADThe first TAD convention held at Blooming Grove in 1886. Photo donated by Harvey Welch.

There is glaring blank period of 20 years from 1889 to 1909 for which records are not available a this time. It is difficult to picture a lack of activity for such a long duration; yet it is hoped that further research will provide information about this seeming dormancy. It was not until 1909 that better records were kept and preserved.

Unfortunately there is no record of who the original elected officers of the Blue Bonnet Association were; however, the name of Jeff Funderbuck is listed as president for the year 1891. Other presiding officers from 1909 to 1919, prior to the emergency of the Texas Association of the Deaf, along with the elected officers since 1919, and the location of the various conventions sites, are listed elsewhere.

There are no records showing when the Blue Bonnet Association became the Texas Deaf Mutes Association, or later when it became the Lone Star Association of the Deaf. Some old-timers say that the latter two associations were in existence at the same time and had met together in a joint convention, where they decided to merge into one association to better serve the needs of the D/deaf. hence, the Texas Association of the Deaf came into existence.

In 1932, the Texas Association of the Deaf was chartered under the laws of Texas as a corporate body. Thought it may not have been the first association of the deaf in Texas, its basic concepts and founding ideals do date back to 1886 and its history of advocacy on behalf of the rights of the deaf has resulted in some secular accomplishments which have helped the deaf in Texas become better recognized and appreciated as useful and productive citizens.

Perhaps the era among 1935 and 1965 was the most important of TAD's history. During that period the Association successfully fought the efforts of a politically-appointed superintendent to convert the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) into a pure oral school, which would have been contrary to the then-accepted practices in the education of the deaf in the United States. Another victory for TAD was its long and successful campaign to have the school removed from under jurisdiction of a board whose responsibilities were primarily in the field of elementary services and placed it under the state department of education (Texas Education Agency) where it is now recognized as an educational institution in every sense of the word, and under a qualified educator of the deaf.

Other important and successful campaign by TAD from 1935 to 1989 include the following:

  • Prevented a plan to sell TSD's present historical site in Austin and have the school relocated outside Austin.

  • Fought in the early 1950's for and secured a 2.5 million-dollar building program for TSD to replace the antiquated fire-trap buildings and make the school one of the most modern in America.

  • Took part in creating the County-Wide Day School system, which later became the Regional Schools for the Deaf under Senate Bill 803.

  • Helped organize the Texas Society of Interpreters for the Deaf and secure its legal recognition. This has become an important factor in the lives of the D/deaf in Texas.

  • Responsible foe the famous "Deaf Package of Bills," which in part resulted in the creation of the Texas Commission for the Deaf and other benefits during the legislative session of 1967.

  • Instrumental in organizing the Parent-Professional Section, which has become an affiliate of our state association.

  • Created and sponsored the TSD Chapter of the Junior National Association of the Deaf in 1964 to give the deaf young training in leadership and responsibility. Then the Chapter hosted the national JR-NAD convention in Austin in 1969.

  • Sponsored a bill during the 66th Legislature in 1979 to reorganize the Texas Commission of the Deaf and also fully supported the activities of the "1880 Committee" which made 10 recommendations that eventually become law to benefits all of the deaf citizens of Texas.

  • Helped with the establishment of Southwest College for the Deaf in Big Spring in 1980 and also endorsed the college's first director who was deaf.

  • Helped created TSD as an independent school district in 1981.

  • Spearheaded a successful statewide campaign to restore the Texas Commission of the Deaf after it was voted to be abolished by a legislative committee in 1985.

  • Celebrated its four-day centennial convention in 1985 in Austin.

  • Sponsored in collaboration with National Academic of Gallaudet University the fourth Symposium on Deafness 'Sympo 86' in Austin in March 1986.

  • Waged a successful statewide campaign to reverse the recommendations by Sunset Commission staff to combine the Texas Commission of the Deaf with another state agency.

  • Ten issues prioritized at the Fifth Symposium on Deafness in 1988 were enacted by the Texas Legislature in 1989. They include the creation of the Texas Relay Service.

The TAD is proud of its historic accomplishments in the past, and recognizes those pioneers who improved the quality of life for D/deaf and hard of hearing Texans.