William Clinton

ccshof logo Inducted

William Clinton
Swimming • Kennett Square

It's impossible to calculate how many lengths William Clinton traveled during his near half century of competing in pools all across the country.

But the one thing is clear, swimming took Clinton very far indeed: to multiple state titles, to the Olympic Trials, to the Ivy League ... and now to the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame.

"When I heard about that, my first thought was: "why me?'" said Clinton, a Coatesville native who lived in West Chester for 37 years before spending the last nine years in a retirement community in Kennett Square.

"I was humbled to be considered and am honored to be inducted." Swimming at a very high level came shockingly quick for Clinton. He was a sophomore at Scott Senior High School in 1946 when he first discovered the sport, and he was almost immediately deemed a prodigy. Clinton won his first Pennsylvania scholastic titles in the 100-yard backstroke later that academic year.

He then repeated the feat in '48 before heading off to the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1948 in Detroit. "I was swimming for The Brighton Hotel Swim Club in Philadelphia at the time," Clinton recalled. "Unfortunately, I drove out to Detroit by car in a convertible and I caught a cold on the way out, so I wasn't in top shape."

Following a third state crown in the backstroke, Clinton spent one fruitful year at Mercersburg (Pa.) Academy, which resulted in a few more swimming titles and opened a door to Yale.

"I improved my grades at Mercersburg and that enabled me to qualify for admission to Yale," Clinton explained. "I knew Yale was a swimming power and I had always set my sights on going there. "When I was accepted, that was one of the highlights of my life."

Clinton was the national freshman record holder in the 100 backstroke and became an All-American in the event as a sophomore. His college career, however, took a three-year sabbatical when he joined the Army and was appointed to Armed Forces Swimming Team.

"Backstroke was always my strongest event until later on when butterfly was accepted as a separate stroke in 1953," Clinton said. "I was in the Army when I won the 100-meter butterfly. There were quite a few excellent swimmers in the Army at that time."

In 1956, Clinton returned to Yale and was a member of the NCAA National Champion 300-yard medley relay team, as well as All-American Honors in the butterfly.

"Going back to Yale was a real challenge as I had gotten married," Clinton pointed out. "But I was a better athlete as well as a scholar because I was more mature."

As a 26-year-old senior, Clinton was voted team captain, and went on to become an All American in two other events.

"It meant a lot to me because I was the oldest nominated captain they had ever had," he said. After getting his college degree, Clinton continued to swim competitively for another 35 years, where he won several age group national titles. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Coatesville Area High School Sports Hall of Fame.
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