<Because Newell Banks nearly went blind when he was 15 years old he did not become an electrical engineer, as he fondly wished, but became champion checker player of the continent, and beat the man who claimed the championship of the world at the game.
"You wouldn't think it, but I have only about one third of the natural vision now, and my left eye has only about 19 percent," he told an Enquirer and News representative who met him when he arrived in town Friday afternoon for his match here Friday night.
He can see well enough at a short distance for ordinary purposes, but is able to read very little, the fine print being too great a strain.
And that is why, finding early he could beat everybody he met at checkers, he was almost forced into the game for a livelihood. His natural ability at chess appears to be equal, but he has not given sufficient time to it to seek the championship, though he has often made better records on his tours than the best of them.
There is no recognized champion of the world in checkers, says Mr. Banks. In 1916 he played Alfred Jordan champion of Great Britain, who claimed the championship of the world. The match was at Los Angeles, where Banks beat Jordan three games to two, with 35 drawn.
Two years ago he lost to Stewart of Scotland two games to one, under conditions particularly trying to him, when the buildings were not heated, though the weather was cold, and he was suffering from a case of chronic rheumatism, contracted in the war, which visits him always in cold, damp weather.
Mr. Banks helped build Camp Custer, being in the office of the superintendent of construction, and afterwards spent a few months in camp before going overseas.
After the armistice he served for a long time in demolition work in France, doing the work of a major, when he superintended the destruction of all the ammunition "dumps" around Verdun and other parts of the war zone.>