Much of the early history of the efforts of the 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.
The 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 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 specular 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 and important factor
in the lives of the 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
- 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 hearing-impaired.
- 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
- Sponsored in collaboration with National Academic of Gallaudet
University the fourth Symposium on Deafness 'Sympo 86' in Austin in
- 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 Deaf and
Hard of Hearing Texans.