The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

By Scott M. Cutlip | Go to book overview

Chapter 18
Carl Byoir: Years of Success and Storm

BYOIR SETS PATTERN FOR TODAY'S MAJOR HEALTH DRIVES

A rare combination of personalities and events converged at precisely the right moment in history to launch the successful crusade against crippling poliomyelitis. But more than prevention of polio was found in the process. Successful nationwide fund-raising patterns were developed that have been utilized by those battling cancer, heart disease, muscular dystrophy, and a host of other still unconquered diseases. High-pressure publicity and skilled organization methods are used to get millions of volunteers to solicit gifts from as many as 80 million Americans in a single drive. A blending of the talents and energies of shrewd, persuasive Carl Byoir, doughty, tough- minded Henry L. Doherty, super salesman Keith Morgan, and last but far from least, bold, thick-skinned Basil O'Connor in exploiting the magic name of Franklin D. Roosevelt built a National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis that "stood beyond all challenge as the most successful voluntary health organization on earth."

On a hot August day in 1921 on Campbello Island, New Brunswick, a happy, healthy Franklin Delano Roosevelt was vacationing with his family. The 39-year-old former Assistant Secretary of the Navy had left a steaming, humid Washington, DC, in July, not knowing that he carried with him the deadly virus of polio. FDR had been shunted to the political sidelines by the defeat of the Democratic presidential ticket of James. M. Cox and FDR in the 1920 election. Roosevelt was stricken with infantile paralysis, as polio was called in those days; he escaped death by a narrow margin. He was

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