Jack Cody (USA)
Honor Coach (1970)
FOR THE RECORD: Coach of both Olympic medal winning divers and swimmers at the Multnomah Club in Portland, Oregon from 1920-1948; His swimmers and divers won 3 National Team Titles, 42 individual championships, and 16 relay championships.
As with so many great swimming coaches, Jack Cody began as a diver and his first successes were as a coach of divers.
Cody’s career at the Multnomah Club in Portland, Oregon, began and ended with champions. Cody’s divers and swimmers helped make Multnomah world famous as an athletic club. Soon after he came to the club in 1913, he coached Constance Meyer to national recognition as a diver. A few years later, two MAC divers were competing in the 1920 Olympic Games, Thelma Payne placing third and Louis “Hap” Kuehn winning the gold medal in men’s fancy diving. Though many other Cody-trained swimmers and divers scored in local and regional events in the next 20 years, Cody’s greatest fame developed in the 10 years from 1939 through 1949 when a speedy troupe of girls wearing the winged “M” became known as the “Cody Kids”.
Beginning with national AAU Senior Championships in 1939, when Nancy Merki, then 13 years of age, won her first of three high-point titles, the Cody Kids were in the nation’s sports headlines for 10 years. Nancy, Brenda Helser, Suzanne Zimmerman, Joyce Macrae and Mary Anne Hansen were the nucleus of a team that won national team titles three times, 42 individual championships, and 16 relay championship, many of these setting American records. This was an era before the increase in national championship events, before age-group and Junior Olympic programs.
The war years prevented these girls from participating at their peak in Olympic Games. Brenda and Joyce were named to the 1940 Olympic team, for Games not held. Again in 1944 many of the Cody Kids would have made the Olympic team. By 1948, though “old women” to the current swimmers, Nancy and Suzanne made the U.S. team for the Games in London and Suzanne was silver medalist in the backstroke. Brenda, then living in California and representing Los Angeles Athletic Club, swam on the Olympic championship winning relay team.
A reflection of the Cody talent for coaching might be seen in his swimmers’ versatility. Nancy Merki, for example, swam and won at every distance from sprint to mile and every stroke.
An editorial in the Portland Oregonian at the time Cody retired as MAC coach pointed to his “rare blend of requisite qualities — plus that rather mystical something else — which makes a good swimming coach.”
After retiring from Multnomah in 1949, Jack moved to Los Angeles where he continued some teaching and coaching for several years. He died on April 11, 1963, at the age of 78.
Editorial comment in the Oregon Journal after his death observed that “Cody and his Kids made Oregon swimming conscious in a day when there were no high school or grade school swimming teams.”
Greatest tribute is evident at Multnomah where thousands of successful adults still identify themselves as “Cody Kids” because they learned to swim in Cody classes, though far from becoming competitive swimmers themselves.