Latham Breunig’s outburst ruined his leadership career
Dr Latham Breunig, an ardent oralist, was well respected for
much of his career – at work as statistician with Lilly & Co
and for his leadership with deaf organizations – TDI, Inc and
AgBell. All of a sudden, in the summer of 1978, he made an
unfortunate remark, in which he admitted, was off-script and
off-the-cuff. Latham knew little sign language, as his wife
was a graduate of Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind.
And while he understood the signs spoken by others, he did
not like to use it. As a keynote speaker at the 1978
convention of AgBell, he blurted out this unfortunate
comment – that deaf people that use sign language have the
mentality level of a monkey. This comment quickly spread
across USA, and infuriated deaf leaders, both ASL and oral.
It was so bad that George Fellendorf, the AgBell president,
wrote a letter to Frederick C. Schreiber, NAD executive
director, apologizing to the NAD, on behalf of AgBell.
Since then Breunig was ostracized for the rest of his life.