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The Dawn Of The National Foundation For Infantile Paralysis

Creator: n/a
Date: January 30, 1938
Publication: The President's Birthday Magazine
Publisher: National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis
Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library


ON September 23, 1937, President Roosevelt made the following announcement:


"I have been very much concerned over the epidemics of infantile paralysis which have been prevalent in many cities in different parts of the country. I have had reports from many areas in which this disease is again spreading its destruction. And once again there is brought forcibly to my mind the constantly increasing accumulation of ruined lives -- which must continue unless this disease can be brought under control and its after-effects properly treated.


"My own personal experience in the work that we have been doing at the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation for over ten years leads me to the very definite conclusion that the best results in attempting to eradicate this disease cannot be secured by approaching the problem through any single one of its aspects, whether that be preventive studies in the laboratory, emergency work during epidemics, or after-treatment. For over ten years at the Foundation at Warm Springs, Georgia, we have devoted our effort almost entirely to the study of improved treatment of the aftereffects of the illness. During these years other agencies, which we have from time to time assisted, have devoted their energies to other phases of the fight. I firmly believe that the time has now arrived when the whole attack on this plague should be led and directed, though not controlled, by one national body. And it is for this purpose that a new National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis is being created.


"As I have said, the general purpose of the new Foundation will be to lead, direct and unify the fight on every phase of this sickness. It will make every effort to ensure that every responsible research agency in this country is adequately financed to carry on investigations into the cause of infantile paralysis and the methods by which it may be prevented. It will endeavor to eliminate much of the needless aftereffect of this disease -- wreckage caused by the failure to make early and accurate diagnosis of its presence. We all know that improper care during the acute stage of the disease, and the use of antiquated treatment, or downright neglect of any treatment, are the cause of thousands of crippled, twisted, powerless bodies now. Much can be done along these lines right now. The new Foundation will carry on a broad-gauged educational campaign, prepared under expert medical supervision, and this will be placed within the reach of the doctors and the hospitals of the country. The practising physician is in reality the front line fighter of the sickness, and there is much existing valuable knowledge that should be disseminated to him.


"And then there is also the tremendous problem as to what is to be done with those hundreds of thousands already ruined by the aftereffects of this affliction. To investigate, to study, to develop every medical possibility of enabling those so afflicted to become economically independent in their local communities will be one of the chief aims of the new Foundation.


"Those who today are fortunate in being in full possession of their muscular power naturally do not understand what it means to a human being paralyzed by this disease to have that powerlessness lifted even to a small degree. It means the difference between a human being dependent on others, and an individual who can be wholly independent. The public has little conception of the patience and time and expense necessary to accomplish such results. But the results are of the utmost importance to the individual.


"The work of the new organization must start immediately. It cannot be delayed. Its activities will include among many others those of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, of which I have been president since its inception. I shall continue as president of that Foundation. But, in fairness to my official responsibilities, I cannot at this time take a very active part in the much broader work that will be carried out by the new Foundation, and I therefore do not feel that I should now hold any official position in it. However, because I am wholeheartedly in this cause, I have enlisted the sincere interest of several representative and outstanding individuals who are willing to initiate and carry on the work of the new Foundation."


In December President Roosevelt selected thirty-four trustees to take over administration of The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Announcing the creation of the Foundation, the President, on October 18 last, wrote Basil O'Connor of New York, treasurer of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation:


"I have your letter with respect to using again my birthday in 1938 in the cause of infantile paralysis.


"As you know, I am very much interested in the steps that are being taken to perfect the organization of the new National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis about which I made a public announcement on September 23rd of this year.


"As I said in that statement, it is the desire of everyone interested in this cause that the work of the new Foundation be carried forward as expeditiously as possible. Nevertheless we all realize that plans of such importance and magnitude must at the same time be worked out carefully and soundly, and that undue haste may be as fatal to the cause as delay. To pick the personnel of the new Foundation wisely and to project its purposes properly must of necessity consume some time.


"Against this is the fact, as I stated on September 23rd, that it is my opinion that all fund-raising should be under the control and supervision of the new Foundation, including the activity for raising money in connection with the celebration of my birthday in January, 1938. Heretofore we have for one reason or another, over which no one had control, always been crowded for time in which to make arrangements for properly permitting the public to participate in those occasions for the benefit of the cause of infantile paralysis. You have advised me that if the plans for that event in 1938 are delayed until the perfection of the organization of the new Foundation, we will again find ourselves handicapped by lack of time in making the proper arrangements for the 1938 birthday celebration.


"In these circumstances, and in view of the fact that the past birthday celebrations have to a very large extent been organized and supervised by individuals officially connected with Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, I feel that we should not take any chance of delay, particularly in view of the much larger work to be done by the new Foundation. I therefore wish that, as an officer of Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, you would undertake to define and carry out plans for the 1938 celebration. The funds received from that occasion will, of course, go to the new Foundation, and when its organization is complete it will take over the supervision of that event as well as any other fund-raising activity.


Very sincerely yours, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT."


The list of thirty-four trustees chosen for the National Foundation represent outstanding national leaders in many phases of human activity in the United States. They represent practically every section of United States.


The densely populated New York area will be represented by Keith Morgan, chairman of the Committee for the Celebration of the President's Birthday; Basil O'Connor, former law partner of the President; Cornelius N. Bliss, John S. Burke, Carle C. Conway, Marshall Field, James V. Forrestal, S. Parker Gilbert, W. Averell Harriman, Jeremiah Milbank, Thomas E. Murray, Jr., Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., Thomas J. Watson, and Clarence M. Woolley.


A trustee from the Nation's capital, who for years has been active in the campaign against infantile paralysis, is Commissioner George E. Allen, lawyer, hotel man and municipal executive. Another trustee from Washington is Robert V. Fleming, President of the Riggs National Bank, and a well-known banker and financier.


George F. Rand, of Marine Trust Co., will assist the campaign from Buffalo, while John R. Macomber, corporation official and trustee of a number of social institutions, will be in charge of "polio" activities in Boston. Swinging down through the East and South, we find Robert H. Colley, of Philadelphia, and Robert E. McMath, of the Bethlehem Steel Co., Bethlehem, Pa.; S. Clay Williams, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company of Winston-Salem, N. C., and Robert W. Woodruff, President of the Coca-Cola Co., of Atlanta, Ga.


In the Middle West the Foundation trustees include such business leaders as Walter J. Cummings and Walter P. Murphy of Chicago; automobile manufacturers Edsel Ford of Dearborn, Mich., and Frederic J. Fisher, of Detroit; Elton Hoyt, II, of Cleveland, and James F. Bell, well-known Minneapolis milling executive. Carroll B. Merriam, banker, aids in the attack on infantile paralysis in Kansas, while Harvey C. Couch and William Clayton are assisting in Arkansas and Texas, respectively.


That leaves only the Far West which will be represented by Charles E. Perkins, author and corporation official of Santa Barbara, Cal., and William F. Humphrey, of San Francisco, President of Tide Water Associated Oil Co., and director of many other corporations. Leighton McCarthy, President of Canada Life Assurance Co., of Toronto, Can., is the only trustee outside the country and he lives just across Lake Ontario.


All of these men are prominent in the world of business and stand out as leaders in their respective enterprises. They are men of character, ability and initiative. All are familiar with social affairs and they have extensive executive experience.


The Board of Trustees was selected in such a manner that every section of the United States is represented in The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Through coordination and cooperation, this Foundation will fight infantile paralysis on a national scale, in the most effective manner that money and science can provide.