John William McCleary was born in Baltimore, grew up in the 1600 block of Linden Ave. in Bolton Hill and attended Robert E. Lee School No. 49. He was a 1921 graduate of City College.
Mr. McCleary was the son of Dr. Standish McCleary, team physician to the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s, when John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler and other future Hall of Famers played at Union Park.
Mr. McCleary began his long association with scholastic athletics while an undergraduate at the Johns Hopkins University, where he majored in history and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1926; a masters from University of Wisconsin in 1930, and a doctorate from Hopkins in 1947.
Some of his earliest swimming experiences were at an outdoor pool at the old Lakewood Swimming Pool in the 2500 block of N. Charles St. Beginning in 1934, he launched a coaching career in swimming at the Gibson Island Club, later returning to Lakewood from 1942 until 1950. After that club closed, he coached the Knights of Columbus Lakers Swim Team and, later, the KC Orchards Swim Team, beginning in 1948 which produced Olympic-class swimmers; an association which would continue until 1992. His involvement in swimming included refereeing for the Maryland Officials Club from the 1930’s through the late 1980’s.
Mr. McCleary left Baltimore in 1926 to teach at several private schools, beginning with the Norfolk Academy in Virginia, Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh and St. John’s College in Annapolis. He returned in 1941 and taught at the Calvert School until 1947. He coached tennis at what is now Towson University from 1947 until 1988. Mr. McCleary was inducted into the Towson State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Maryland Swimming Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 1942, he married Blanche Person Anderson, head of girls’ athletics at the Calvert School for more than 25 years. She died in 1994. Mr. McCleary passed away on March 25, 1999.