Absolutely Incredible! Letitia Sweitzer On Harry Briggs On WOWSA Live

Absolutely Incredible! Letitia Sweitzer On Harry Briggs On WOWSA Live

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Dr. Harry H. Briggs, originally from Massachusetts, was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1997 as an Honor Swimmer and is a member of the 24-hour Club. He was a political science instructor whose nickname is The Paddlin’ Professor, serving in the U.S. Marines during World War II battles in Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa. In addition to his swimming, he climbed the Matterhorn, worked as a sportswriter and sportscaster, traveled to Cuba and interviewed luminaries such as Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams and Muhammad Ali.

His life is a subject of a biography called Absolutely! written by his niece Letitia Sweitzer M.Ed.

Dr. Harry Briggs at the age of 91 after his crossing of Kincaid Lake in Louisiana

Ned Denison and Dr. Sweitzer talked about his life and many accomplishments in today’s WOWSA Live and an interview with Dr. Sweitzer. During the interview, they talked about the following:

  • Dr. Briggs was the first to swim from Corsica to Sardinia in 1955.
  • Dr. Briggs was the first to complete a swim across Lake Erie from Sandusky, Ohio, USA to Point Pelee, Ontario, Canada in 1957 in 35 hours 55 minutes.
  • Dr. Briggs became the first person to swim 58 km across Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, USA where his escort boat did not know his whereabouts for four hours when he simply swam back and forth.
  • Dr. Briggs completed 43 marathon swims over the course of his career including a swim in Tampa Bay.
  • At the age of 76, he swam 16 km across Lake Sunapee as a fundraiser and continued to do fundraising open water swims into his 90s.
  • His life is a subject of a biography called Absolutely! written by his niece Letitia Sweitzer M.Ed. She says that he was proudest when the conditions were the toughest and he never acknowledged that he was getting older and slower as he aged.
  • He appeared on the Ed Sullivan television show and in Sports Illustrated in the 1950s.
  • In 1998 on his 77th birthday, he spent 14 hours crossing Tampa Bay, swimming seven miles against the current.
  • He made his annual two-mile swim on his 91st birthday across Kincaid Lake near Alexandria, Louisiana on May 17th 2012 as a a scholarship fund raiser for Northwestern State University. At the time, he said, “It’s a pleasure to teach at 90 and to swim at 91. To associate with young people and explain how our government works is a great privilege for me.”

In 2011, he said in an interview, “There are two reasons to do it, and the first is selfish. I want to see if I can still do it. People get older and too often, lose the desire to challenge themselves. Secondly, but more important, it’s a chance to help young people achieve their dreams.

I do have demons that enter my mind and tell me that I can’t do it. You just have to drive them out. It’s really in the mind. It’s a great feeling when you walk out of the water and know you can still do it. And, what’s two miles?”

John Muenzer, who replicated his swim across Lake Erie, recalls his predecessor in the open water, “I laughed and cried as I read his story. Harry’s journey starts with his rambunctious years in his mid 20’s to the Pacific Theater, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, numerous businesses, educator and loving husband. No matter what obstacles Dr. Briggs faced, he willed himself to never accept failure. Truly a unique individual and one that’s accomplished a great deal in his lifetime.”

To order Dr. Briggs’ 197-page biography, published in 2012, visit here.

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Steven Munatones