Archie Harris

Inducted June 2007
The best measure of success is often said to be the impact one has on other people. Archie impacted the lives of so many that to try and measure would require hours of the biggest computer to calculate.
Archie dedicated his life to education through the seemingly simple activity of swimming.


For over 50 years, he taught children and adults as a college professor and men's swimming coach, age group coach, YMCA swimming official, and primary force behind the Crippled Children's Lake Bloomington Camp. He touched the lives of swimmers, students, and parents in the Bloomington-Normal area.


Archie grew up in Virginia, Minn. He was state swimming champion in two events and a High School All-American in 1939, the year Virginia High School won the state championship. His times in the late 30's and early 40's would have qualified him to represent the country and compete at the 1942 Olympics except for World War II.


After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard during the war, he entered Gustavus Adolphus College and was conference swimming champion and record holder in four events, and team captain in 1949. He is a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.


Graduating with a degree in education, Archie worked several years in swimming and aquatic programs in Monmouth, IL. Then, in 1957 Archie moved his family to Normal, IL where he joined the Illinois State Normal University physical education department as teacher and men's swimming coach. He continued his education by obtaining a Master's Degree from the University of Iowa.


Archie was instrumental in organizing the College Swimming Coaches Forum headquartered at the Swimming Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex in Fort Lauderdale, FL. During semester breaks the forum attracts thousands of college swimmers and hundreds of teams for intense practice and expert coaching.


Among the highlights of his college coaching career was his oversight of the construction of Horton Pool in 1963, where two National NCAA College Division championships were held. Even 50 years later, Horton is still a very competitive pool. Archie knew what makes a pool fast is deep water and insisted the pool be at least 5 feet deep in its shallow end, deeper than most pools being built in that era.


Archie was also active in age group swimming through the YMCA and by organizing the first AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) age group team called the Bloomington-Normal Swim Club (later the Redbird Swim Club). He continued his own swimming through the Masters Swimming program and was a cherished member of the Central Illinois Masters Swim Team (CIMST).


His YMCA and national swimming activities were extensive and included:

  • National YMCA Championship Referee for over 30 years
  • Member of the YMCA and USA Swimming and Diving Committee and its Executive Board where he chaired its Pool Standards and Time Standards sub committees
  • Developed the YMCA Swimming and Diving All American Awards
  • Member of the US Swimming Rules Committee
  • Member of the US Olympic Swimming Committee
  • Member of the Board of Directors of the International Swimming Hall of Fame
  • Chairman of the International Swimming Hall of Fame Honoree Selection Committee


But he will be remembered mostly as the funny, and sometimes scary, big guy with a very big voice. He was able to coax scared children into the pool by connecting with them at their level. Often when a kid was crying, you could hear Archie playfully yelling, "Oh stop crying... you'll get salt in the pool!" CIMST members remember him as the first in the pool at practice and who announced "It's ice cold!" before anyone else got in the water. Everybody who swam in the community seemed to have a connection with Archie.


Perhaps his proudest accomplishment was as director of the Easter Seals camp for disabled children at Lake Bloomington from 1966 through 1981. Counselors for the three-week camp were ISU students taking a 300 level course titled, "Camping for the physically handicapped." Archie talked about how emotional the camp was because it was open to some of the most severely handicapped children. The camp gave them a good experience and was very special to Archie and all who participated.
Archie and his spouse, Harriet, have one son Scott who lives in Sacramento, CA, and two daughters, Beth Trojahn of Springfield, IL, and Kerri Crandell of Downer's Grove. They have 5 grandchildren and several great grandchildren.
For those of us who had the opportunity to swim for Archie, we will always remember the short statements of encouragement, like his famous 'Swim Fast' yelled at the beginning of every event. Archie didn't want to single out any individual since he had a connection to them all. 'Swim Fast' said it all. And during practice when we complained that the interval was too short and we needed more rest, Archie always said, 'Swim faster and you'll get more rest.'


He also liked to sing the song, "Plant a Watermelon Upon My Grave" when practices got long and boring.


The words go something like this:

Just plant a watermelon upon my grave,
And let the juice run through,
Just plant a watermelon upon my grave,
That's all I ask of you.

Chicken and 'possums are might fine,
But there ain't no taste like a watermelon rind
Just plant a watermelon upon my grave,
And let the juice run through.

CIMST Practice Times

Illinois Wesleyan Shirk Center

Monday & Wednesday 5:15 - 6:15 pm
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday 5:30-6:30 am
Saturday: 6:00-7:00 am (Building is locked.  Be at the lower south door by 5:55.)

Swimmers Hall of Fame Inductees