Raymond Webb Thompson – Honor Athlete

1931 National Record 50 yard Free/23.1
1932 I.S.A. Meet First Place 100 yard Free/52.8 Second Place Dual Meet Scoring

Captain Raymond Thompson, USN Retired, is without a doubt the greatest Spring Freestyle swimmer to date from Maryland. A graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic, Ray was the local schoolboy champion under the coaching of J. Harold Parran. In his Plebe year, 1930 at Annapolis, Ray was undefeated in both the 50 and the 100. In 1931, Ray broke the National Record at 23.1 in the 50 Free. Ray also defeated George Kojac in the 100 Free in a dual meet, a swimmer who with Johnny Weissmuller defined swimming at the time. That year l931, Ray was first in Ed Kennedy’s NCAA all-American selections. In l932, Ray won the I.S.A. meet in the 100 and was second in the East in Dual Meet Scoring. Ray’s best and average Dual Meet times in the 50 were the fastest in college in the history of collegiate swimming. In Ray’s Senior Year Ray was undefeated in the 50 and won the I.S.A. in the 100 also in 52.8. Ray’s fine year was rewarded with a cover photo for the 1934 NCAA Swimming Guide.

In the 1932 Olympic Swimming Tryouts at Coney Island Park Pool in Cincinnati, Ohio, Ray placed second in the 100 meter Freestyle. Unfortunately for him neither the 50 Free nor the 400 Free Relay were Olympic Events yet. Ray traveled to the fabulous Los Angeles Olympic Stadium along with such great as Buster Crabbe, Eleanor Holm and Jack Medica.

At the Games Ray placed second in the semi-finals at 59.3, a best time. In the finals observers recall that Ray was leading at the 100 yard mark but that last ten yards was too far and Ray faded to sixth only .7 out of a bronze with the Japanese winning First and Second. The winner: Yasuji Miyazaki. Ray recalls, “The Japanese Team swept every swimming event except one, the 400 meter won by Buster Crabbe.”

Captain Thompson’s swimming experience began when “somebody pushed me off a pier into the Severn River where my grandfather had a house.” His naval career continued on the USS Washington at Guadalcanal where he was awarded the Legion of Merit. Ray’s experience accompanying FDR on a South American fishing trip in 1936 is a fond memory. Ray retired from the Navy in l963 and later worked for NASA on the Apollo Program. Ray served for many years as President of the Naval Academy Class of 1933. He passed away February 14, 1999.