||Charles “Tuna” Chapman
First African-American to Swim across the English Channel
Charlie 'the Tuna' Chapman learned to swim at the YMCA in Buffalo, New York. As a high school student he read in a book, the 50-Meter Jungle, where Olympic swimming coach Sherm Chavoor predicted that one-day there would be an African American Mark Spitz. Chapman wrote Chavoor, who was Spitz’ coach, “I’m your man.” At Chavoor’s invitation, Tuna relocated to California to train with the Arden Hills Swim Club. While Chapman never made it to the Olympics, he made history on August 24th, 1981, when he became the first African American to Swim Across the English Channel. In 1997, he was the first to complete the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. Hailing from San Francisco, he previously swam from Alcatraz to Aquatic Park using only the butterfly. Ten years later, he circled Alcatraz, again only swimming ‘fly.
A born-again Christian, Chapman thanked the Holy Spirit for guiding him. Chapman's circumnavigation of Manhattan came a year after Los Angeles Dodgers vice president commented that blacks weren't buoyant enough to succeed as swimmers (he was later fired for his remarks). Chapman countered that he was like "Jackie Robinson paving the way, except I'll be wearing a little bathing suit."