Dr. Jim King was recognized by the South Dakota Optometric Society with its Distinguished Service Award, only the fourth person ever to receive the award. Clearly, people who receive these kinds of awards are leaders in our profession, but Dr. King’s breadth and depth of service to the profession was unique and inspiring. He has served as an Army optometry officer, been in private practice in South Dakota since 1958, was on the forefront of diagnostic and therapeutic privileges for South Dakota, served as President of the South Dakota Optometric Society, is a charter member and Fellow of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, chaired a local vision screening day for elementary school students for over 40 years, served as editor of the Focal Point newsletter for the South Dakota Optometric Society for 13 years, lectured extensively on children’s vision issues, won five national awards in the Optometric Editors’ Association International Journalism Contests, and helped form the South Dakota Association for Children with Learning Disabilities.
These were substantial accomplishments on their own, but Dr. King’s uniqueness was really highlighted by two other areas of accomplishment that go well beyond the traditional list of accomplishments used for folks receiving these kinds of awards. First, Dr. King was the “K” of the MKM Reading Systems and the MKM Monocular and Binocular Reading Test. As a child, he experienced many vision and reading problems personally. He remembered having problems keeping print in focus, reading in front of a group, and remembering how to spell words from one day to the next. Finally, in the sixth grade, with the help of his family optometrist, Dr. Stewart Kirkpatrick (BS’26), and a stereoscope, he experienced stereopsis for the first time. Perhaps those memories were the impetus for his research into the area of visual memory and reading. In the early 1960s, he was the primary author and developer of the MKM Reading Systems. Over 5,000 hours behind a portable Smith-Corona typewriter and the input of Dr. Leland Michael and assistant Arlene Moorhead resulted in methods of detecting, remediating, and sometimes preventing learning-related visual problems.
Second, his hobby of magic took him to places few optometrists have been. His father was a dentist and was the kind of guy who enjoyed practical jokes: joy buzzers, whoopee cushions, and the like. That influence and visits to the Palmer House Magic Shop in Chicago guided Dr. King to learn about magic, which had been his hobby since prior to his first magic show in the seventh grade. The hobby allowed him to meet all sorts of people, including Las Vegas showmen Siegfried and Roy. The manual dexterity of his left hand and a substantial amount of perseverance netted him an appearance with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” in 1985. Dr. King was able to move four pennies from the fingers of his left hand and stack all four on his thumb, using just his left hand. Additionally, he could contort his fingers in ways that defied reason and move the tendons on his hand as if they were the keys on a piano. He was a loyal Buckeye fan who rarely missed an alumni weekend with his wife, Margaret, and school chums Drs. Lowell Hone (BS‘55), Dick Ball (BS‘55), Will Stamp (BS‘55) and Don Lewis (BS‘54). Dr. King passed away in April of 2012.