They said, “Too frail. Life expectancy uncertain.” But Bob Sampson persevered and changed history. This book reveals his life.
What If the Glass Breaks? is a project to fund publication of the story of disability-rights activist Bob Sampson. The book is being co-written by professional author Douglas Niles and Bob's daughter Patricia Sampson-Harkness, a retired special-needs teacher. It will be available in both print and ebook formats.
Bob was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age five and confined to a wheelchair by age eight, but that wasn't enough to hold him back. Growing up in the Chicago area during the Depression, he studied and worked hard, eventually earning a scholarship to law school. Before he could start classes, however, his scholarship was revoked because, he was told, "You can't practice law from a wheelchair!"
Once again Bob proved his doubters wrong, working a night job to pay for college. In this way he graduated from Loyola, then completed DePaul's three-year law course in two years, and passed the Illinois bar exam on his first attempt.
Bob went on to work for the city of Chicago, becoming a major influence in Mayor Daley's administration during the '50s and '60s. He also advised five U.S. presidents--Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter--on disability issues. In addition, he served as a vice president of United Airlines, where he acted as an important advocate for the disabled. Even before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Bob implemented many policies to ease travel challenges for the disabled.
This great man, who was told he would not likely survive beyond his teenage years, lived to be 81, married, fathered three children, enjoyed many years as a beloved grandfather and great-grandfather, and was a regular guest on his friend Jerry Lewis' legendary telethons.
Bob inspired countless people during his life. It is our goal to keep his story alive to inspire countless more.
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