COMMODORE WILBERT E. LONGFELLOW
1982 INDUCTION TO THE RHODE ISLAND AQUATIC HALL OF FAME
Wilbert E. Longfellow was a writer for the Providence News and Providence Journal in the early 1900’s. Many of his news stories were tragic accounts of drownings, which prompted him to become interested in organizing and offering his services to the United States Volunteer Life Saving Corps, with headquarters in New York. In 1905, in recognition of his service, Longfellow was awarded the title of “Commodore” by the Volunteer Lifesaving Corps. He was given a grant of $2000 to purchase equipment for staging lifesaving demonstrations throughout Rhode Island. In 1907, Commodore Longfellow was stricken with Tuberculosis, leaving him with a spinal problem, which caused his retirement from the newspaper. However although partially disabled, in 1910 the U.S. Volunteer Lifesaving Corps appointed him to a salaried post in charge of its lifesaving program. He proceeded with an ambitious program along the east coast, and formulated a nationwide plan with his lifesaving program, but it was turned down by the volunteer organization. In frustration, Longfellow presented his plan in 1912 to the present-day Red Cross water safety program. Cmdr. Longfellow was appointed Water Safety Director for the Red Cross in 1914, and he had much success, giving talks and demonstrations to Red Cross personnel throughout the country. The Red Cross recognized the value of his program, adding specialized members to their staff dealing with aquatics and water safety. Water Safety and Lifesaving has risen to one of the most important areas of the National Red Cross program, thanks to Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow.