Several weeks ago I wrote a Sports Gourmet column about former Clinton High School swimming coach Howard Judd. While working on that column I talked to, and heard from, several of his championship swimmers. You can perhaps see the effect the coach had on his swimmers by their thoughts and comments.
"What I remember about Howard Judd was his ability to spot kids with potential going down the wrong path in life,” Clinton realtor Dan Jefferies said. "Howard would nurture a relationship of trust with them and ultimately convince them to “go out” for swimming. He would take those kids and work with them and soon you would see an improvement in their self-esteem.
"His kids would improve their swimming skills and would do almost anything to satisfy coach Judd and his rigorous workouts," Jefferies said. "The dedication to excel for Howard was unbelievable, and that is how he would build championship teams year after year.
“After high school, Howard had college swimming contacts all over the country, and he would make sure there was scholarship money available for his swimmers. Many kids from Clinton High ended up in college, which likely never would have been considered had it not been for Howard Judd. I saw this year after year. Kids that never would have gone to college got the opportunity because of Howard Judd.
“I am sure Howard had the opportunity to go on to coach in college and make more money, but he loved his job, he loved his swimmers and he loved Clinton. He truly was a great man who changed many lives of the kids he coached here. All of us who swam for him, think and talk of him often.”
Ron McDevitt, Clinton High class of 1958, said: "Howard Judd's impact goes well beyond the state (swimming) titles and number of All-Americans his teams produced. He developed boys into men, helped those young men achieve college scholarships and in turn become contributors to their communities.
"A large portion of the scholarship swimmers couldn't afford college and would never have had a chance for a degree without Howard pushing them to success," McDevitt said. "Hundreds of Clinton kids learned to swim in the lessons given by Howard during the summer at the Clinton pool. Who knows how many might have become victims of the river except for their ability to swim. Howard"s imprint on Clinton is huge and I am (proud that) I had the opportunity to know him, swim for him and duck hunt with him. He is missed.”
One of Judd's more than many four-year starters and winners of four swimming letters was Russell McCreery, now of Seattle.
“The Seals (team name before River Kings) won 14 of 15 in 1944, their only loss to defending state champion Des Moines Roosevelt,” McCreery said. "That year we were third in state behind Roosevelt and Des Moines North.
“Mr. Judd was absolutely a good coach and a very nice guy who demanded respect. One of the window sills on the south side of the wall (in the old school pool) had a window sill that went up 15 or 20 feet. We would climb up the sill on plants growing on the sill and dive back over the wall. He did not like that at all, fearing one of us might not make it back into the pool. With no quiet words he explained that (diving back) was not allowable.”
National High School champion Gary Morris said: “Howard was special to me and most everyone he associated with. Stories of his life and coaching (are so many) you could more than fill a copy of The Herald with them. Clinton, Iowa, was lucky to have Howard select our small town for he and (his wife) Elsie to make their home and raise their family.
“I have been associated with many college swimming coaches in the country, including those from Yale, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Stanford and others who consulted with him about stroke training, etc.," Morris said. "He was so advanced with his training methods that brought knowledge of the River Kings’ success to be known in the swimming world.
“We were a unique group as swimming was for the richer class and we were definitely not in that class,” Morris said. “He was consistent with discipline and a work ethic that I am sure carried over in his swimmers after their swimming careers. Howard was the first to have swimmers lift weights.”
The former River King ace said: “I remember getting to Iowa and the philosophy back then was that lifting made your muscles more dense and you would loose buoyancy. Swimming World came out with an article about Al Wiggins from Ohio State lifting weights. Most Clinton swimmers started when they were 12 years old. He (coach Judd) would help us make bar bells from coffee cans and broom sticks.
“If you remember the swimsuits were a heavy over-the-shoulder-suit that managed to really drag, Speedo came out with the small regular-type suit. Most of us could not afford this luxury so he (Judd) had our mothers dye underwear black and sew a draw string in so it looked like a Speedo,” he said.
When it was time to pick a college to go to, Morris had many choices but selected Iowa because the heart of the University of Iowa’s swim team were Clintonians.
“I went to Iowa because I went to be with others like Dick Lake, Bub Higgins, Jim McCoullogh, Jake Quick, Kenny Miner, Joel Jones, Herman Dierks and Keith Zastrow,” Morris said.
Raymond (Bud) Kearney, who now lives in Los Angeles, said, “My first encounter with Howard Judd was in August 1958 at the City Swimming Championships in old Riverfront pool. After I had just broken the city record in the 25-yard freestyle for 11-year-olds, a man’s voice on the PA said, ‘Have that boy come to the drinking fountain.’ ”
Kearney said, “A tough-looking ‘old’ man told me, ‘I want you to come to the pool tomorrow and be on the swim team.’ Later when I learned about Howard’s success as a coach I was totally intimidated about going to practice. Over the next six years I grew to appreciate what this man meant to everyone he touched. He was always pushing young kids to become men.
“He paced the pool during workouts yelling at his swimmers, ‘Beat So-and-So.’ Many of us believed him and became conference and state champions. Thanks to his encouragement, many also went to college on swimming scholarships and became successful adults. If it weren’t for Howard’s extra efforts, many lives would not have turned out so well,” Kearney said.
“I was one of the smallest kids in my class and a year younger than most, so I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my athletic ability. Howard forged me into a double state champion who set two state records and won a full swimming scholarship to the University of Iowa. There, I earned a degree in Civil Engineering, which led to my career with the City of Los Angeles.
“Although Howard was tough as nails, he also knew how to get our attention,” Kearney said. “Whether it was an unforgettable and unprintable gritty quote, a silly looking outfit or an oversized wild tie, Howard was a master motivator. Thank God he was in Clinton during my formative years.”
Clinton City Council member Michael J. Kearney said: “Reflecting on my memories of Howard Judd, I first think of the admiration that Howard enjoyed in the community because of the number of state championships he had won. Coach Judd had quite a string before I was a student at Clinton High.
“During my time at Clinton High his teams won every year. I came to realize that there was a lot more to Howard than winning championships. The man had an instinctive grasp of psychology. We normally had our first meet against Oak Park (Ill.), a meet we usually won and felt pretty good about. The following week we had our meet against New Trier (another Illinois team) and learned what it was like to be handed our heads.”
Kearney said: “Most importantly, I credit Howard for developing a lifelong appreciation for swimming with many of his athletes. Many sports are given up once the student graduates from school. Today, more than 50 years after we swam for Howard, a number of his swimmers are still competing in master's events and doing it for ourselves, rather than championships. For this I say, ‘Thank you Howard.’ ”