Irving Davids/Captain Roger W. Wheeler Memorial Award

1972 William Forrest “Buck” Dawson

1920 – 2008


Known as "Mr. Swimming Hall of Fame," it was Buck's (ISHOF 1986, IMSHOF 1993)  tireless efforts that established the International Swimming Hall of Fame's presence in Fort Lauderdale, helping give rise to what many view as Fort Lauderdale—Swimming Capital of the World. For a person who could not swim, Buck did more for swimming than any non-swimmer in the world. He was a promoter, author, historian, fundraiser and prankster.


He was chosen as the International Swimming Hall of Fame's first executive director in 1963. Dawson made the Hall grow from an idea to a shoebox collection and ultimately a multi-million dollar operation as the showcase and archives of swimming.  Buck was a tireless, smiling, globetrotting ambassador of swimming,


Dawson created the Annual Fort Lauderdale Rough Water Swim, now the longest-running ocean mile swim on the eastern coast of the United States. At one time or another, he brought the U.S. National Championships of swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo to Fort Lauderdale. It was Dawson who gave the now Fort Lauderdale-based American Swimming Coaches Association roots in 1971 when he and International Swimming Hall of Fame staff assumed administrative duties for ASCA.


He was the first president of the International Sports Heritage Association, now a 136 member organization of Sports Halls of Fame which he founded under the name of International Association of Sports Museums and Halls of Fame. Under Dawson's leadership, ISHOF became the world's first "International" Hall of Fame when it was recognized by the 96 member FINA Congress (the world's governing body of swimming) in 1968.


As swimming's walking encyclopedia, he was respected in his field not only for his knowledge, but his zest for life, his search for new facts, memorabilia, new ways to teach children to swim and keep the sport alive and growing. Dawson was the common denominator that tied the past to the present.


He wrote hundreds of short stories and authored or co-authored over 18 books on a full range of subjects from swimming, volcanoes and the environment, the American Civil War and World War II. For Swimmers, Weissmuller to Spitz—An Era to Remember (Swimming Hall of Famers from 1965-1987), Age Group Swimming and Diving For Teacher and Pupil (with wife RoseMary), Million Dollar Mermaids—America's Love Affair With Its First Women Swimmers, and Gold Medal Pools (features the world’s most beautiful pools).


For his service in the Army in World War II, he is a recipient of 17 decorations including the Bronze Star and French Medal of Honor. He spent his last Army year in Walter Reed Hospital recovering from multiple injuries suffered in a jeep accident. He was discharged from the hospital wearing a black eye patch over his left eye, a patch which became his identification mark for the rest of his life.


His 1955 marriage to RoseMary Mann Corson was his invitation to join the Mann family camps. Ak-o-Mak (for girls) and Chikopi (for boys), the world's first competitive swimming camps located in Ontario, Canada, were founded by RoseMary's father, Michigan and Olympic swimming coach Matt Mann in 1920. Dawson was the campfire entertainment, sports teacher and instigator while RoseMary was the swimming coach, disciplinarian and philosopher—a perfect combination of talent.


Dawson's interest in lake swimming led to his training swimmers for marathon swimming races and included Fort Lauderdale's Diana Nyad as well as Marty Sinn, Susie Thrasher, Jocelyn Muir and more, taking them on crossings of the English Channel, Lake Ontario and other bodies of water. The camp girls and boys competed in the U.S. Long Distance Championship Three and Four Mile Swims, each summer. With Rosemary, he helped organize the Ann Arbor, Michigan, Swim Club in the late 1950's, one of the country's first swimming clubs for women. He was Chair of Michigan Women's AAU Swimming for eight years and served three terms on the United States Olympic Swimming Committee. He shared responsibility with RoseMary in starting National Collegiate Swimming for women and reviving National Women's Water Polo in the early 1960's.


In 1972 he was presented the Irving Davids / Captain Roger W. Wheeler Memorial Award for Meritorious Service to Long Distance Swimming.

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