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AN EARLY HISTORY

20 Years of Exciting Memories
by Buck Dawson, Executive Director (Emeritus)

YESTERDAY, TODAY and TOMORROW
at
THE SWIMMING HALL OF FAME

In 1968, after more than 100 countries voted it 
"Internacional" at the FINA congress meeting at the 
Olympics in Mexico City, the Hall of Fame museum
building was dedicated in Fort Lauderdale by FINA
Secretary Harold Henning.  This was 2 years after a million
dollar pool began the progression toward a full hall of fame
complex.

At a nationally televised Grand Opening International
Meet in December 1965, the stars of the 1964 Olympics met 
the first group of honorees: Duke Kahanamoku, Johnny
Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe, Adolph Kiefer and 22 others
(see honoree section this site) during "halftime" induction
ceremonies.  Some 4500 swim buffs, civic leaders and
celebrities from all fields of sport showed up for this
opening, including Rocky Marciano, Ted Williams, Sam
Snead, Julius Boros and "Jack Armstrong, the All
American Boy," (former Olympic diver Wally Colbath).

(One of this 1st honoree group was the late Max Ritter,
Olympic swimmer, a founder of FINA and later its
president.  Ritter was for many years chairman of the AAU
Hall of Fame Committee that initiated the idea of building
this 1st Hall of Fame in a strictly amateur sport.)

In Fort Lauderdale, a great deal had to be done before 
the present location was approved, construction begun and
control of the international operations turned over to a
newly formed Swimming Hall of Fame, Inc., a chartered
non-profit corporation.  The city would retain ownership of
the buildings and grounds.  The privately funded
corporation would run the museum, library and
auditorium, select the honorees, attract major aquatic
events and set a long range goal of "every child a swimmer"
in the United States and the World.  "You can't find a
better sport to save your life," said Corporation Vice
President Ben York, summing up the broad all-aquatic
definition this hall of fame would give to the term
"swimming".  A 50-plus Board of Directors was presided
over by Indiana University's Dr. James (Doc.) Counsilman
(1964 U.S. Olympic Swim Coach).  The board included
working leaders from every national or international
swimming oriented organization wishing to belong.

For some 25 years before the Hall of Fame was started, 
the Fort Lauderdale Swim Forum, led by coaches Ed 
Kennedy, Matt Mann, Al Neuschaefer, Bill Merriam and
many others had talked with Fort Lauderdale's civic
aquatic leaders Al Gordon, August Burghard, "Pop"
Leavitt, Tom Lamar, G.H. Martin and Mal Carlisle about
a Hall of Fame for swimming.  For this reason the Forum's
Christmas Swim Clinic was a natural for the Hall of Fame's
first honoree ceremonies and nationally televised swim 
meets.  Almost 2,000 swimmers and coaches traveled south 
for the Forum in the first years it moved from Old Casino
Pool to the new Hall of Fame 10 lane, 50 meter pool 
complex on a peninsula just behind the old pool.

The Hall of Fame began and ended its first 10 years under
two mayors named Young.  Republican Cy Young's
administration allocated $195,000 in city funds toward the
Hall of Fame Museum building.  With the corporation
adding another $80,000 (including a $50,000 donation from
swimmer John duPont) the building shell was completed.  
The Detroit Athletic Club donated $25,000 to furnish the
new auditorium in 1968.  Six years and a couple of hundred
thousand dollars later the building furnishings, museum
exhibits, library and auditorium had been completed with
swim-minded Democratic Mayor Virginia Young now in
office.  Between Youngs, the young hall of fame tried to
support itself with every charity fund raising scheme
imaginable.  Tax deductible memberships were sold to
swim-minded people everywhere but such donations never 
quite met the building needs and the bank balance seldom
was more than a month ahead of the modest office payroll.

All this changed when two Canadian Coaches, Howard
Firby and Nick Thierry suggested a grass roots fund raising
plan called Swim-a-Thon.  Swim-a-thon solved 3 major
fund raising needs of swimming: the financial needs of the
local swim teams raising the money, the foreign travel
funds that provide our swimmers with world class
experience, and the Hall of Fame.

So the Hall of Fame has gone from a dream to a reality in
10 years with an endowment now growing toward a 
financial future when expenses can be met with income
from interest.  Almost everyone in swimming has had a part
in making this Hall of Fame possible and plausible.

The natural questions are: "Now that we have arrived,
what goals remain?  What will the Hall of Fame do for
swimming in the next ten years?"



© 1996 International Swimming Hall of Fame
One Hall of Fame Drive Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316
VOICE: (954)462-6536 FAX : (954)522-4521