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Sir Arthur Pearson, GBE

Blinded World War I soldiers learning mat weaving at St. Dunistans started by Aurthur Perason.

Blinded World War I soldiers learning mat-weaving at St. Dunistans Home started by Aurthur Pearson.

Arthur Pearson was a man of accomplishment, but also a man of service despite a lifelong problem of fading eyesight and eventual blindness. He was born in 1866 to a father who was the Rector of a centuries-old Church of England parish church and a mother who was the granddaughter of hymn-writer and religious poet Henry Francis Lyte, the writer of the well-loved hymn “Abide With Me”.

Pearson became a journalist at 18, and the publisher of a periodical journal with a quarter of a million subscribers at 24. He continued to establish and acquire newspapers and magazines, and his greatest accomplishment as a publisher was the founding of the Daily Express newspaper, which is still operating.

Pearson was also a philanthropist, establishing a fund to help disadvantaged city children have a holiday in the country. The fund continues today as the Pearson’s Holiday Fund.

In 1908, Pearson had surgery for glaucoma, but continued to lose his sight. It became evident he would no longer be able to keep up with the career he had chosen. He divested his newspaper interests and began serving the blind. He wrote a Braille dictionary and became President of the National Institution for the Blind in 1914.

One day early in World War I, Pearson received an urgent summons from a nearby military hospital. He was asked to help a greatly depressed young soldier who had just learned the blindness from his war injury was permanent. He saw in this soldier a need which he decided to help meet for the remainder of his years. Pearson founded St. Dunstan’s Home for soldiers who had been blinded in the war, providing vocational training to allow these former soldiers to lead productive lives. Each man at St. Dunstan’s learned Braille and a trade that would offer him a sense of dignity and worth.

Pearson also played a role in the early days of the scouting movement. He was a close friend of Sir Lord Baden-Powell and published The Scout magazine. When Baden-Powell learned of his friend’s determination to print publications in Braille for the blind, he called on Scouts to do a “good turn”, helping Pearson raise the money needed.

For his efforts in service to the blind, Pearson was given a Baronetcy (becoming Sir Pearson), and the Order of the British Empire. When he died in 1921, all England mourned and members of the Cabinet, the British and Norwegian royal families, and a number of institutes for the blind sent representatives to his funeral.

Arthur Pearson faced enormous challenges which he chose to rise above to bring comfort to others. Perhaps he heard from his parents from an early age the words of II Corinthians 1:3b-4:

“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

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