Editor’s note: Main Street Nashville reprints some of the best front pages from the Nashville Banner, an afternoon newspaper that published from 1876 to 1998. The pages are courtesy of the Nashville Public Library, Nashville Banner Collection.
80 YEARS AGO IN THE
The Davidson County PTA’s vote to request that schools close for at least two weeks to halt polio led the front page of the Sept. 24, 1941, Banner.
The vote came shortly before Nashville’s 17th infantile paralysis case was reported to the city health department. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, polio, or poliomyelitis, is caused by the poliovirus, which spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis.)
County health director Dr. John J. Lentz — for whom the Lentz Public Health Center is named — said, “I feel that action of some sort will be taken on the matter,” but he declined to say more before a meeting of school and health officials scheduled for that evening.
Meanwhile, a ban on public gatherings in Chattanooga because of the infantile paralysis epidemic expired the night before. The health director there had ordered churches, theaters and public meetings closed.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health’s website, the largest outbreak of acute poliomyelitis ever in Tennessee occurred in 1941 — 522 cases in the summer and fall.
In 1963, thousands in Tennessee participated in the Sabin Oral Sundays program, in which residents went to schools and other locations to receive sugar cubes saturated with Sabin vaccine to prevent polio.
Three years later, for the first time in the recorded history of the state, there were no cases of polio.