Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Florida History: Katy Rawls, Fort Lauderdale's 1936 Olympic medalist

By Jane Feehan

Fort Lauderdale High School graduate Katherine Rawls (1917-1982) swam and dove her way to celebrity at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin bringing home bronze and silver medals.

She brought world-wide attention to Fort Lauderdale, helping to underscore the relationship of the city to competition swimming. Rawls had already established herself before the Olympics, breaking a few world records at national and international championship events, including one, when she was 14, for the 300 meter individual medley. She won more than 30 national titles for swimming and diving throughout her career. In 1937, the Associated Press tapped Rawls as the “Number One Athlete of the Year” among female competitors.

A swimmer - and swimming instructor - throughout her life, Rawls also achieved distinction during World War II as a pilot. She was one of the original 25 women pilots selected for the U.S. Squadron of Women's Army Ferry Service, shuttling planes into combat zones.

Rawls joined the festivities when the International Swimming Hall of Fame opened in 1965 in Fort Lauderdale and was among its first inductees.

Weidling, Philip J. , Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966).

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Fort Lauderdale swimmers, Fort Lauderdale celebrities, Katy Rawls, Katherine Rawls

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