The fifth child of Paul and Irene Bugg Best of Mackville began a tradition that would set a world record in deaf education.
Garland Best was deaf and his deafness had a tremendous affect on the family - all positive.
Garland was born Sept. 8, 1931, near Mackville. No one could have guessed how he would be the catalyst in making his siblings set a world record.
Garland was a normal baby until, as a toddler, he contacted scarlet fever and whooping cough together. This deadly combination left Garland hard of hearing. He had a relatively normal childhood; with eight siblings he was not catered to and learned to handle his deafness with grace and humor.
When Garland became school age, his parents took him to Danville to attend Kentucky School for the Deaf. Later, they moved their family to 206 Maple Ave., to be closer to the school. Garland graduated from KSD in 1951.
However, Garland was not able to pursue a college degree. Algebra was not taught at KSD at that time, so Kentucky graduates could not pass the Gallaudet College entrance exam.
To compensate, Garland’s parents paid for him to attend Kendall Green, a high school for the deaf located on Gallaudet’s campus for an extra year of high school. Garland was a talented basketball player and played on the Kendall Green team. This enabled him to meet deaf teenagers from across the northeast as he traveled with the team playing basketball against other schools for the deaf.
After graduation, he returned to Kentucky and married his high school sweetheart Frances Mitchell. He retired from the Courier Journal after 44 years and continues to live in Louisville.
Garland’s parents emphasized education and encouraged their children to learn as much as they possibly could. After Luda, their eldest daughter, graduated in 1944 from Mackville High School, she graduated in 1947 from Centre College.
Because of her brother, she realized the need for educators of the deaf. She applied for and accepted a Fellowship to Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University) in Washington, D.C.
She graduated in 1948 from Gallaudet with a masters degree in education of the deaf. Luda Best Sowell taught deaf students in South Carolina and California for more than 40 years before retiring in 1988.
The next daughter, Agnes, graduated from Danville High School in 1947 and graduated in 1951 from Georgetown College. She also received a fellowship to attend Gallaudet College receiving her masters degree in 1952. Agnes Best White returned to live in Perryville, teaching primary level children at Kentucky School for the Deaf for 33 years until her retirement in 1985.
Agnes’ daughter, Lynn White Womack, graduated from Gallaudet in 1977 and taught at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf for several years.
Polly Best Jensen graduated in 1950 from Danville High School, graduated in 1954 from Georgetown College and following the now “Best Tradition” received her masters degree in 1955 from Gallaudet. She began her teaching career at South Dakota School for the Deaf in Sioux Falls, S.D. After following her husband’s medical career in the Navy for several years, they returned to Louisville where she taught at Tingley School for the Deaf until her retirement in 1975 to raise her family.
Younger sister Norma Best graduated in 1952 from Danville High School and in 1955 from Georgetown College. She broke family tradition, teaching high school physical education in Bateville, Ind., for one year before becoming the fourth daughter to attend Gallaudet College, graduating with a masters degree in deaf education in 1957. She taught at Kentucky School for the Deaf and California School for the Deaf until she retired in 1997.
Garland’s influence did not stop there. Both of his daughters have degrees in the education of the hearing impaired. Janet Best Arnold graduated in 1975 from Southern High School in Louisville, and in1979 from Eastern Kentucky University with a bachelor of science in elementary education and special education. She received a masters degree in deaf education from Gallaudet College in 1981.
Janet returned to Kentucky and taught the hearing impaired in Greater Clark County Schools in Jeffersonville, Ind., (Louisville metro area).
Karen Best Axe graduated in 1978 from Thomas Jefferson High School, Louisville. In 1991, she received her bachelors degree in deaf Education from EKU and in 1993, a master's degree in deaf education from EKU. She currently teaches deaf students in Kentucky’s Grant County School system.
Garland’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Arnold Steinert graduated in 2006 from Male High School, Louisville, and in 2010 from Eastern Kentucky University with a bachelors degree in deaf education with a minor in American Sign Language. She currently teaches in the Shelby County school system in Kentucky.
Editor's Note: Information for this article was provided by Agnes Best White's daughter, Lynn W. Womack of Atlanta, Ga.