by Zena Pearcy
From the Editor: It is always hard when we lose a beloved Federationist but even harder when the loss is unexpected. Tommy Craig was a two-time state president in Texas. He was hit by a car, and although his injuries were significant, they were not thought to be life-threatening. Here is what Zena Pearcy has to say about the life of our former brother and Federationist:
Thomas Edward Craig was born in Arkansas on January 12, 1955, but as he would tell anyone who would listen, “There are two kinds of people…Texans and people who want to be Texans.” Tommy got to Texas as soon as he could and never left. He had a passion for life and fierce loyalty to people, animals, places, music, and technological products.
His father was a deputy sheriff in Ashdown, Arkansas. Tommy had fond memories of riding in the patrol car and turning the siren on and off. His dad died of brain cancer when Tommy was eight years old. His mother died from a fall on a staircase when Tommy was eleven. He then moved to Houston to live with an aunt, uncle, and cousin.
Tommy attended the Arkansas School for the Blind, the Texas School for the Blind, and graduated high school in Houston at a public school. He attended college classes at Stephen F. Austin and UT Austin. Forever curious and always learning something new, Tommy enjoyed the Boy Scout program for many years. He became an Advance Amateur Radio operator and assisted many young people in getting licensed as HAM radio operators.
Tommy met his wife-to-be, Margaret “Cokie” Dennison, at a convention of the National Federation of the Blind in the late 1970s. They married in 1986. Together Tommy and Cokie raised Siberian Huskies and adopted rescued Greyhounds. They have been active delegates several times to the Democratic conventions in Texas. Both have been leaders in the National Federation of the Blind of Texas.
Fascinated by technology from the beginning, he recognized the importance of home computers shortly after Apple invented its first computer. Through the years he was fiercely loyal to the Apple brand. He had almost every product they made and made sure friends had them, too. He served on the board of the Austin Capitol Macintosh Users Group for several years.
Tommy worked in the field of adaptive equipment for blind people. He traveled the United States selling adaptive devices such as Braille displays, speech-enabled computers, and Braille embossers. He trained many people to use this equipment. Among his clients were people like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.
His involvement with the National Federation of the Blind began in the mid-1970s, when he joined the Austin Chapter. He soon became a leader in both his local chapter and within the state affiliate. He served as a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas Board of Directors beginning in the late 1970s, and he became president of the affiliate in 1992. He served in that position until 2000, and he served again from 2002 to 2011.
During his tenure as a member of the board, he and Jeff Pearcy served as the leaders of our legislative committee, and under his direction we were able to pass powerful legislation regarding Braille, fair insurance rates, and more. He was probably most proud of his efforts to pass our landmark Braille bill, which was the first in the nation to require on-time delivery of Braille textbooks for blind students, and his effort to secure adequate funding for NFB-NEWSLINE® still makes it possible for us to carry out programs for blind youth, blind seniors, and any Texan who loves to access information.
Those of us left behind mourn the loss of our friend. His passing was sudden and unexpected on August 24. He was planning his rehabilitation from his many injuries from being struck by a car. In his usual “take charge” attitude, Tommy was already setting goals for himself to beat the time limits his doctors reported for normal recovery. He chose his rehabilitation placement based on reports that he could have his dogs visit him there at the facility and that there would be plenty of visits from therapy dogs and horses! His zeal for life held out through his very last moments! We might say “Rest in Peace,” but Tommy probably has other ideas for his future. He is probably romping with all his beloved animals and visiting friends and family who went on before him!
Our dear friend truly lived the Federation philosophy. He was independent, he worked hard, and he lived the life he wanted to live every day.