The Arc of Tennessee ®
The Arc Tennessee History
To view our PowerPoint slideshow of historical pictures from our 2012 60th anniversary celebration dinner click HERE.
The Arc Tennessee (current name) was first organized in July 1952 when sixty-five parents met in Nashville, Tennessee at George Peabody College. Bylaws were adopted and on December 19, 1952 the association was chartered as a non-profit corporation under Tennessee Law.
Mr. Charles Zellner, who was from Memphis, was elected as the first President of the Tennessee Association for Retarded Children. The association has had several different names over the years as the parents realized that as their children became adults the name was not appropriate. For many years the state association was known as TARC.
The Arc of the United States (current name) was organized in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1950 as the National Association of Parents and Friends of Mentally Retarded Children. An historical account of this meeting by an anonymous author indicated that everybody ran out of breath with this name. As a result, in 1952 the name was changed to National Association for Retarded Children and was known as NARC. The NARC Charter was filed and recorded on March 27, 1953 in the State of Tennessee, corporation record book Miscellaneous A-21, page 344 and duly executed by the Secretary of State, Nashville on that date. The Arc of the United States remained a Tennessee Corporation until 2000.
The Arc Tennessee became a state chapter member of The Arc of The United States in 1958. As one of the early members of the association remarked as to the time and place of the beginning of the movement is like trying to isolate the first blade of grass to grow.
The Arc is truly a grass roots movement. Members are comprised of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, family members, friends and professionals in the disability field. For many years philosophical debates concerning people with intellectual disabilities, devaluation, legal rights and reform took place across the country. There were debates concerning normalization vs. isolation; person centered vs. system centered; supports vs. programs; community vs. institution, etc. For twenty-five years members of The Arc worked with local school districts, state legislatures, and the United States Congress to convince them that children with intellectual disabilities had a right to a public education. In 1975 Public Law 94-142 (now known as IDEA) guaranteed “a free public education to all.”
Parents and other members of the movement fought for civil rights, funding and supports for persons with intellectual disabilities of all ages which would allow them to live, learn, work and play with other members of the community who did not have disabilities.
The Arc Tennessee Executive Directors:
The Arc Tennessee had its first office in 1960 in two rooms of the basement in the Stahlman Building. Mike Kurek states in his book “As I Remember It” that the rooms had been occupied by magazine salesmen and needed much work. Not wanting to overlook a gift horse, the President and Vice President of the Davidson County Chapter purchased two gallons of paint and one Sunday morning we had a paint party for three. The Arc Tennessee has had several locations in Nashville since 1960.
Teeny Jones was hired by the first executive director, Don Wells, as the first employee, on a part-time basis in 1960. After two months he asked Mrs. Jones to work full time. Teeny began a career with The Arc Tennessee that lasted over twenty-five years. She has told the story many times about how in 1975 the current state president at the time, C. R. Lay, asked her to meet with Mr. Roger Blue and see what she thought about the new Executive Director. Mr. Blue was doing a workshop at a motel near the airport. Teeny saw Mr. Blue in the hallway and she asked him where they could meet. He said “in the bar.” I looked puzzled since I had never been in a bar and neither had the officer of The Arc Board that was with me. When we met later “in the bar,” I think Mr. Blue was a little embarrassed. But, we got along all right. From that first meeting to the end of her 25 years she continued to call her boss “Mr. Blue.” They had great respect for each other.
Roger Blue became Executive Director in 1975 and served until his untimely death December 1, 1997. Roger was exceptionally skillful in working with and for persons with intellectual disabilities and other disabilities, their parents, guardians and other family members. Legislators of the State of Tennessee depended on Roger Blue to interpret and assist in drafting legislation which would impact the disability community. Mr. Blue was not only a professional in the field, he also served as a volunteer, a guardian, board member and consultant to other non-profit corporations.
The Arc Tennessee Presidents:
Each President, executive director, dedicated employees, and volunteers brought their individual strengths and skills to the Association. The past 60 years have not been easy. The administrations faced financial limitations, representatives in the legislature had to be cultured, new departments within the state and federal government had to be formed and attitudes had to be changed. The work goes on!
In 2006 the Board of Directors voted to discontinue the use of the words "mental retardation" in all materials and publications.
Significant Contributions of The 20th Century – A Project of The National Historic Preservation Trust on Intellectual disabilities
The 20th Century Project, articles by Margaret Gould and Quincy Abbott
As I Remember It, by Michael H. Kurek