In January 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) – the forerunner of the March of Dimes. Its mission was “to lead, direct, and unify the fight” against paralytic poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio. To head the organization, Roosevelt had only one man in mind, his friend and former law partner Basil O’Connor. “I was never a public do-gooder and had no aspirations of that kind,” O’Connor later said. “But I started enjoying...

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