Chairman Fleming. The American Red Cross is the one organization to which we all turn in time of disaster. After the devastating tornadoes that swept portions of Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri this spring and at the Texas City calamity in April, it was the Red Cross that was first on the scene to hold out a helping hand to the afflicted. In reality that was the helping hand of all the American people, for the Red Cross is a democratic organization supported by all the people and serving all the people in time of need.
The executive vice chairman of the Red Cross is a native of Boston and has a distinguished record in social work. Principally, however, he has made the Red Cross service his career, and it was he who handled the negotiations that brought the Red Cross into Holland to succor the afflicted at the German invasion of 1939.
Mr. James T. Nicholson. [Applause.]
Mr. James T. Nicholson. Mr. Chairman, ladies, and gentlemen, the dean of a well-known women’s college, realizing that he could not do anything about the smoking on the part of the girls, addressed them one morning and said, “I am not going to sermonize or moralize about smoking, but I want to tell you that you neither smoke as ladies or gentlemen,” and I suspect that in what he said a lot could be made to apply to most of us.
It happens that my father was a firefighter in a volunteer fire department many years ago. He took his job very seriously, and he instilled in me certain habits with respect to fire prevention that still control certain of my actions. I paid the penalty somewhat the other day, because just after a 15-cent shine, as habit, I threw my butt onto the sidewalk and then proceeded to step on it and grind it out, only to find that I had stepped into a mud puddle. But my discomfiture was not as great as the experienced from the glares of the butt snipers in Frankfurt a year ago with General Bull and in Cairo, Egypt, particularly.
I am indeed glad to bring you a message from the American National Red Cross and to assure you of wholehearted Red Cross support in the Nationwide fight to prevent destruction of lives and property by fire.
Many may not realize it but, from its inception, the American Red Cross has been a fighter for the prevention of fires and of fire hazards and with considerable cause. Sixty-six years ago, in 1881, the newly organized American Red Cross numbering only 250 members answered its first disaster call – a call to take help to homeless sufferers in the great forest fires that were sweeping Michigan. Word came to the small Red Cross group that thousands were fleeing before the flames; that many were dying in the ashes of their hard-earned homes.
That was the first test – a test by fire – of the ingenuity and purpose inherent in the hearts of those first American Red Cross disaster workers. Sixty-six years ago, communications and transportation, as I need not point out, were not as fast as they are today – yet many boxes of supplies, nearly $4,000 in cash, as well as volunteer help was rushed to the Michigan area.
That was the organization’s baptism in disaster work.