In 1831 a runaway slave from Kentucky, Tice Davids, dove into the Ohio River with his owner in hot pursuit. Tice swam for his life across the great river while the other man sought out a boat to row after him. Tice disappeared from view and his owner whose comments were reported in a local newspaper that Davids must have got where he was going on “an underground railroad,” assuming Davids had drowned. Davids, however, made it to Ripley, Ohio and freedom.
Peter Jackson, St. Croix, USVI, won several swimming championships in Australia and taught swimming at the famed Cavill Swimming School in Sydney, before winning the “Colored” boxing champion of the world in San Francisco, in1883. The “white” champion, John L. Sullivan, refused to cross the color line, denying Jackson the opportunity to unite the two titles, but most experts agreed Jackson was the better fighter. “If God wanted me to fight Jackson,” said Sullivan, “he would have made him a white man.” Another black swimmer, Jack Johnson, would become the first “colored” boxer to win the world boxing championship for all races, in 1908.
Charles Jackson French, 23, a “Negro mess attendant” from Foreman, Arkansas, was commended by Admiral William Halsey, Jr. and awarded the Navy Medal in 1943 for swimming 6 – 8 hours in shark invested waters, towing a raft filled with 15 wounded (white) sailors to safety, after their ship was sunk by the Japanese off the Solomon Islands. The raft was drifting toward Japanese occupied territory and if it had washed ashore, the sailors would have either been taken prisoners of war or killed. The raft was eventually rescued at sea by an American craft. “His conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service.”
Andrew Young, Howard University, 1952-56. Dr. Young was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1976. He was also mayor of Atlanta. Swimming’s highest honor goes to a former competitive swimmer who has achieved national or international recognition in government, business, science, entertainment education or the arts.
Nate Clark, Ohio State sophomore from Pittsburgh, finished fifth in the in the 200 yard butterfly at the 1962 NCAA Championships.
Fred Evans, Washington D.C. and Chicago State, won the 100-yard breaststroke at the 1976 NAIA National Swimming Championships.
Holland's Enith Brigitha placed third at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the 100 free (56.65) behind East Germany's Kornelia Ender (55.65 WR) and Petra Priemer (56.49). We now know that both East Germans were doped.
Chris Silva, Los Angeles, CA and UCLA, was a member of the World University Games in Edmonton, Canada, in 1982. The charismatic Silva was elected team captain. Chris was an employee of ISHOF at the time of his tragic death in an auto accident in Fort Lauderdale in 1991.
Charles Chapman, of Buffalo, NY, 1981. The first to swim the Channel was English sailor, Mathew Webb, in 1875.
Sybil Smith, Boston University, 1988, 100 yard backstroke.
Anthony Nesty, Suriname and the University of Florida, won the 100 fly at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He also became the first swimmer of African descent to win an individual World Championship.
Anthony Nesty, Suriname and the University of Florida, won the 100 butterfly three times, 1990 – 92 and the 200 meter butterfly in 1992.
Sabir Muhammad, Atlanta and Stanford University, 1997, 100 meter butterfly (short course meters).
Alison Terry, San Diego, CA, 1999, Pan American Games.
Anthony Ervin, University of California and Phoenix Swim Club, in 2000. He was also the first to medal, winning gold in the 50 free and silver in the 400 free relay at the Sydney Games.
Maritza Correia, Tampa, FL and the University of Georgia, won both the 50 yard freestyle and 100 yard freestyle at the 2002 NCAA Championships.
At the 2002 NCAA Championships, Maritza Correia broke two American and NCAA records. In the 50, she broke the record held by 4 time Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken and in the 100, she broke the record held by Jenny Thompson, the most decorated American swimmer in Olympic history.
Maritza Correia, 2004. She is also the first to win an Olympic medal, winning silver in the 400 free relay.
Actually there were two. Genai Kerr, a goalkeeper from San Diego and UC Irvine, and Omar Amr, an attacker from Irvine and UC Irvine, were both members of the 2004 team that competed in Athens.
Cullen Jones, of Newark, N.J. and North Carolina State, was a member of the US team that set a world record in the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay in 2006.