Organization: The name of our company is Colquitt & Associates. We are members of the Phoenix Group which is dedicated to preserving memories by celebrating our heroes whose life’s songs are unsung.
What are your aquatic interests? Swimming: leisure, recreational, and competitive
Please describe your Aquatics Background? When did you start? My swimming started in Philadelphia, PA, where I learned to swim in a program that was developed by Temple University alumnus, Dr. John G. Keck and implemented by Mr. Royal F. Morris II. The program was run from The Temple Area Community Swimming Pool which was established by Dr. Keck in 1953. Mr. Morris was the first full time swim instructor for the Philadelphia School District. I learned to swim in the late 1950’s. Neither my mother nor father were swimmers. My brother Lee was a gymnast and a diver for his high school swim team. My mother was deathly afraid of the water and my father was very supportive by taking me to swim but he too never got into the water with me. My passion for swimming created the opportunity for me to develop my skills and I was invited to join Mr. Morris’ swim clinic, which was an after school practice session dedicated to competitive swim training. As part of this program I taught swimming on Saturday mornings to the handicapped population. I also became certified as a Red Cross junior and senior life guard at a very early age. I competed in the Philadelphia School Districts swimming program and I swam for my junior high school and high school. After graduation from Thomas Edison High School I attended Howard University in Washington, DC, where I swam four years under alternating coaching and training regiments. In my second year at Howard I became a certified Water Safety Instructor and I worked the summer months as a life guard and as a head life guard and swim instructor. After graduation from Howard University my focus shifted away from competitive aquatics. Because of a childhood dream stimulated by watching the TV show “Sea Hunt” I became certified as a SCUBA diver. As I was moving through careers I volunteered one summer to coach a YMCA summer swim team. I became actively involved and later became the head Swim Coach. I was actively involved in all aspects of their competitive program. I coached the age group team with swimmers from 6 to 19. I also coached their Special Olympics swim team, as well as their master’s program. One of my swimmers was confined to a wheel chair because of Spina Bifida. I coached her at the Y as well as with her wheel chair athletic team. I later became involved with another YMCA team and transitioned to a USA Swimming program. It was recently that my interest was rekindled due to my researching my mentors and their impact on my life. My love and passion for swimming became evident through my writing. As I researched my mentors I became acutely aware that there was little documentation recorded and organized on Black Swimmers. On continuing I determined that the only focus for African American swimming was in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale Florida. This collection was evolving and I wanted to add aspects of college swimming of the HBCUs and local municipal swimming where possible. I became focused on the project of researching and documenting Black swimming in general and African American Swimming specifically.
Additional involvements in aquatics: Other than swimming and SCUBA diving, I enjoy jet skiing, water skiing and have pursued interests wind surfing and Para Sailing. I also love going to water parks, embracing and celebrating my inner child. I also continue to share my love of swimming by teaching adults to swim. Presently, I am working with a friend, who has cerebral palsy and her husband to overcome her childhood fear of the water, which the result of her brothers torment to discourage her to not join them in their water adventures.
What are some other things you would like the members to know about you or your program(s)? In my opinion aquatics in general and African American Swimming specifically have fading interest as a result of low spirit and lack of exposure. Over the years the focus has been pointing to finance and a general lack of interest. The financial aspects will always ebb and flow but they will always yield to and accommodate strong expressive and passionate spirit. Our culture is inundated with numbers and empirical data. We are led to believe that money rules and it is all that counts. Nevertheless, if one chooses to look beyond the numbers it is evident that the intangibles of high spirit, dedication, passion and tenacity have been viable assets that have changed the flow of popular opinion. We have been lulled into a sense resignation and look to finances as our saving grace. We can design our future by embracing the intangibles. This can be accomplished by documenting our history and demonstrating that African Americans have been passionate about for aquatics. We can celebrate these athletes and their accomplishments in order to show that Black people can swim and possibly open the minds and imagination of our youth to explore the joys and wonders that the field of aquatics has to offer.