Shelf by Shelf

By on

By Marie Barnard

The young boy stood outside the door with much trepidation. This might be the magic
 door. All he had to do was turn the handle, open the door, and walk in. A whole new
world could be waiting for him on the other side. 

He was in the fourth grade at Manchester Elementary School located in Kansas City,
MO. The boy was sixth in birth order in a family of nine children, eight boys, and one
girl. The great depression, a ten-year long economic nightmare, was ending. Times were
desperate, and his family, like many others was the poorest of the poor. There were no
books, newspapers; not any kind of reading material in his home. 

There were rumors that anyone, even a kid like him, could enter this door and take books
home. He wasn't sure he believed the rumors. It seemed too good to be true. The door
was continually on his mind. Then one day, he gathered his courage, turned the handle,
opened the door and stepped inside. Above the door hung a sign that read "Branch
Public Library". 

A friendly face greeted him and asked, "Can I help you?" The boy blurted out; "1 want to
take a book home, can 1?" The nice lady assured him he could indeed take a book home.
The excitement was too much for him and he could not remember the questions she
asked him. She had him fill out some paperwork, sign something, and then said, "What
book would you like"? Before she could change her mind, he rushed to the nearest shelf,
grabbed the first book on the end, and brought it back to the kind lady. She issued him the
book, along with a library card, and told him his only obligation was to bring the book
back on the due date. 

He read that book in record time and became a regular at the library for the next three
years. He read all of the books on that shelf and then moved to shelf-by-shelf reading.
Reading book after book made him realize there were many things he could accomplish. 

It was not unusual for family members to quit school at age sixteen and go to work. He
stayed in school and graduated from high school, He worked odd jobs during afternoons,
evenings, and weekends to earn his share of money to contribute to family finances. 

His service to his country includes a tour of duty in the United States Navy. 

He graduated with a BSEE from CAL, Berkeley and did graduate work in Engineering at
Stanford and Law at Boalt Hall, Berkeley. 

A successful business and professional career includes serving on the Board of Directors
of several for-profit corporations. He served as Chairman of three and President of four. He
has had direct management responsibility for up to eight thousand employees. 

He served his country with two presidential appointments. The first appointment, in the Nixon administration as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Science and Technology. His second appointment was to become the first Chairman/CEO of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) perhaps the most powerful federal regulatory agency ever created. His appointment to head the CPSC caused no great expectations. He confounded the skeptics
by taking on the job of protecting the public against dangerous merchandise with
surprising vigor and independence. While running the commission, he brought an easy,
informal style to product safety. 

He served on the Board of Directors of eight non-profit corporations. Four of those
corporations are national in scope. The one that is probably best known is Underwriter's
Laboratories (UL). 

The non-profit Board that he is most proud of being a part of is the Friends of the
Library. This great group of volunteers is totally dedicated to supporting the public
library system. They are busy doing behind the scene work to keep the public library
system open. This gives every child the opportunity to pursue a love of reading. 

Richard Simpson is the name of the young man in this story. 

He is the brightest man I know. 

He is my brother. 

I am extremely proud of him and his accomplishments, not to mention raising five
children. The gifts given to him have been appreciated and used wisely. 

His thirst to learn new knowledge has kept him an avid reader over the years-still
reading one or two books a week. 

Richard attributes most of the success that he has attained to the start given him by a
branch public library, shelf-by-shelf, many years ago.