Born Arthur Douglas Adamson in England on
February 23, 1905, Art’s illustrious amateur swimming career began
after his family moved to New Zealand. As a teen, he set long-standing
swimming records in the 100-yard (0:57.20), 100-meter (1:03.40), and
220-yard freestyle distances. His polo career also began in New Zealand,
where he played for the Witemata (Auckland) and Pirates (Napier) clubs
and in his free time became a renowned deep-sea diver and a champion
open water swimmer.
Adamson is remembered as a gruff, demanding coach by the athletes under his tutelage, one who might throw a chair into the pool at them in practice in order to spur them onto faster swimming. Yet he was also an ethical and caring coach, who would arrive at an athlete’s dorm to check on him when a practice was missed due to illness. He inspired with his committed work ethic of 12-hour days, and expected all his athletes to be as committed as he was. His Texas A&M “Tankers” swim team took this to heart, winning Southwest Conference championships and leading the conference in many individual events. They also achieved an impressive dominance of water polo at the national level.
Art possessed a zeal for competition that was evident every time he stepped up on the deck of a swimming pool. During practice he was always seen on the deck - even in old age - in his swimsuit and terry-cloth robe, ready to dive in the pool and challenge his swimmers to a sprint race. Adamson was willing to help anybody learn to swim, and his coaching peers were often amazed at his ability to reshape an inexperienced swimmer into a top-performing athlete.
After initiating a student/faculty swim instruction program in which a swim test was required for graduates, Adamson began to teach the faculty’s family members to swim. These efforts branched out into a very large public summertime swimming program. More than 15,000 children from the Brazos Valley would eventually learn basic swimming skills under Art’s instruction. In 1941 he was instrumental in creating the College Station Parks and Recreation Department. His swim lesson program blossomed into a summer league team and an A.A.U. year-round swim team. Competing against large city teams, Art’s A.A.U. team had tremendous success.
Adamson, who continued teaching swimming at the university until 1970, was involved with his recreational and his A.A.U. swim teams until 1971. The longest-tenured coach in the history of the university, Texas A&M designated him Professor Emeritus in 1970. Further accolades were showered on Adamson by his former swimmers, coaching peers, and the city of College Station. Ending an amazing dynasty, Arthur Douglas Adamson died on March 27, 1972, and was survived by his wife of 44 years, Nora, his son, Van, and four grandchildren.
Sourced from “ART ADAMSON: AN AQUATIC LEGEND” complied by Sara-Jane A. Miles Jordan October 18, 2004.