The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is saddened to learn of the death of Lawrence R. Newman, 86, the 26th president of the NAD, 1986-1990, and a retired educator and author.
Larry Newman briefly attended PS 47 in Manhattan when he was seven, then spent three years at the Lexington School for the Deaf, followed by Fanwood from which he graduated in 1943. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1948 from Gallaudet College, followed by an M.A. in English Literature from Catholic University of America. In 1978, Gallaudet awarded him an honorary doctor of letters degree.
Newman’s involvement with the NAD came about through the influence of mentors like Robert M Greenmun, secretary of the NAD under President Byron B. Burnes, whose advocacy articles and tales of NAD anecdotes piqued his interest. He attended NAD fundraising rallies and eventually became quite good in those endeavors, having learned from David Peikoff and Lawrence Yolles, both prominent deaf leaders. He began writing regularly for the Deaf American, a NAD publication, and one of the only national publications focusing on the rights of deaf people and sign language. “I felt like a lonely activist in the wilds of oral proponents, one of whom called my articles ‘virulent,’” he said in the chapter he wrote in his biography and term as NAD president in Sands of Time: NAD Presidents 1880-2003, which he authored.
“One of the most exciting times of my life was when I served for two terms as president of the NAD,” he wrote. Three highlights mark his term: the Deaf President Now action, the convening and report of the Commission on Education of the Deaf, and his order to begin plans for a nationwide protest march against the interpretation of Least Restrictive Environment in PL 94-142 (now called IDEA). Larry also was a leader in the protest against CBS in the early 1980’s for lack of captioning as well as a nationwide protest before legislative bodies and special education administrators centered on the threat to residential schools. As a board member, Newman was outspoken about the use of protests and marches to inform the public about grievances within the deaf community.
“Larry will be remembered as a fierce advocate for deaf children and their right to be educated in American Sign Language,” said Bobbie Beth Scoggins, NAD president. “He left giant footsteps to fill and a wonderful legacy to all who follow his lead.”
He is the author of two books, Sands of Time: NAD Presidents 1880-2003, published by the NAD, and I Fill this Small Space: The Writings of a Deaf Activist, published by Gallaudet University Press.
Dr. Newman is survived by his wife Betty of 61 years, three daughters, two sons, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.