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America’s human life preserver

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As a cub reporter covering the Rhode Island waterfront, Wilbert Longfellow noticed a ridiculous number of people drowning, so he began studying up on water safety. 

Then he used his job at the paper to publicize water rescues and lifesaving techniques.

Next, he jumped in the water himself to teach swimming, lifesaving and water safety.

From his best students, he chose a volunteer lifeguard corps that he dispatched to guard beaches. He kept expanding his network and securing state funds for lifesaving gear and persuading local pools and beaches to start staffing lifeguards.

Within a few years, Rhode Island’s drowning rate was cut in half.

Longfellow next took his crusade nationwide through the Red Cross in 1914, crisscrossing the country spreading swim lessons.

By his death in 1947, the average drowning rate in America had been cut in half, to five people per 100,000.

— Adapted from “His Aim? Keep ’Em All Afloat,” Lisa Schmeiser, Investor’s Business Daily.

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