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Bill Porter - Watkins Company Salesman Born With Cerebral Palsy

Bill Porter was born with Cerebral Palsy. Despite that, he is a record setting salesperson with the Watkins Company and has been featured in a movie titled Door to Door and in a book.

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about bill porter

Born in San Francisco, Porter moved to Portland, Oregon with his mother at a young age. 

Although Bill was unable to gain employment due to his cerebral palsy, he refused to go on disability.

He eventually convinced the Watkins Company to give him a door-to-door salesman job, selling its products on a seven-mile route in the Portland area and eventually became the top seller for the company.

In 1995 The Oregonian ran a feature story about Porter in its newspaper.

The story of his optimistic determination made him the subject of media attention across the United States.

Bill  was featured in Reader's Digest, ABC's 20/20 and was the subject of a 2002 made-for-TV movie on TNT called Door, featuring William H. Macy, Kyra Sedgwick and Helen Mirren. 

In 2009 the Japanese TBS network aired a TV-movie loosely based on Bill Porter, also called Door To Door. It starred Ninomiya Kazunari and Rosa Kato as fictional versions of Porter and Brady.

Encouraged by his mother to pursue a sales career, he applied to the Fuller Brush Company but was turned away. The Watkins company turned him away, too, until Mr. Porter, in his first successful pitch, persuaded them to give him their most inhospitable territory in Portland.

He covered it by foot, taking the bus as close as he could get before disembarking to walk his route — eight to 10 miles daily. He had the use of only one hand; in it he carried a briefcase filled with pictures of his products. A traditional sample case would have been too heavy.

The movie “Door to Door,” which also starred Helen Mirren as Mr. Porter’s mother and Kyra Sedgwick as Ms. Brady, won six Emmys. They included an acting award for Mr. Macy; a screenwriting award for Mr. Macy and his co-writer, Steven Schachter; and the award for outstanding made-for-television movie.

The book is written by a woman who first worked for Bill as a typist and driver to deliver his orders and who later became a friend and co-speaker with him.

Through simple yet moving life lessons, Shelly Brady tells the story of Bill’s life and how she came to know him. The "ten things" include "Mothers Know Best," "Teamwork," "Persistence Pays Off," "Don’t Take No for an Answer," and "Know Your Limits But Reach Beyond Them."

Included in the book are photos of Bill growing up and a few samples of the letters and emails he receives from those who have heard his story.