Louis H. Rives, Jr.
Lou Rives (1919-1986) was born in Virginia and lost his sight at the age of two. He was brought up by his aunt in Norfolk where he attended the public schools. He received his baccalaureate and law degrees from the College of William and Mary. He and his wife Marcie moved to Arizona where he lived until his death in September of 1986.
In 1944 he became a member of the legal staff of the former Federal Security Agency for three years. He then transferred to the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration (VRA) where he held a variety of positions. While serving for a short time in the Dallas regional office, he demonstrated that the government could provide guidance to both public and private not-for-profit rehabilitation programs. He returned to Washington, DC to ultimately become VRA’s Chief of the Division of Services for the Blind. Mary Switzer, VRA administrator, brought Lou Rives into the national office because he was a proponent for change and believed that progress for blind persons could only come from cooperative efforts between the state agencies, private not-for-profit agencies and the Veterans Administration. Since he was committed to the premise that blind people deserved the highest caliber of service from well trained professionals, he was a strong advocate for allocating federal funds to support the training of mobility specialists. During the period 1963 to 1971, federal rehabilitation services funded 30 training and demonstration programs concerned with blindness, a tribute to the influence of Lou Rives.
In 1964, he became the chief of planning for all of VRA, which is known today as the Rehabilitation Services Administration. He went from the VRA to the Office of Civil Rights as chief of the Social Welfare and Related Programs Division and assistant director for State Agency Compliance. In this capacity he was committed to being a part of the process of implementing policies to end discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. Upon retirement from federal service, Lou became the Director of the Arkansas Division of Services for the Blind.
Lou Rives was a robust man with a commanding presence. He had a great sense of humor and an uncanny ability to be the life of any party. Yet, on the serious side, he provided wise counsel to all who would ask, and provided consistently sound assistance and encouragement to those who needed it. He was admired and respected by all who knew him.
Lou Rives served as international AAWB President in the mid 60’s and guided the organization to start chapters. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the American Foundation for the Blind. He received numerous awards including the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of HEW. In 1969 he was presented the Ambrose M. Shotwell Award for outstanding professional service to persons who are blind. During his retirement, he served as an influential member of the Board of Directors of the Arizona Foundation for Blind Children.
Photo: Louis Rives presents Alfred Allen Award to C. Warren Bledsoe, 1977.