Believe it or not, the American history books recount many presidents who loved to swim. This goes back to even before the White House had a swimming pool, when the Potomac River served as a great place to take a dip.
In honor of President’s Day this week, we explored the American Presidents of years past who enjoyed swimming. Some were even known to swim in the buff.
John Quincy Adams
President John Quincy Adams may perhaps be the first of presidents who loved to swim. As the 6th president of the United States there was not yet a White House pool. In this case, President Adams elected to wake early every morning and swim in the Potomac River. Given the era, swimsuits did not yet exist so Adams swam nude.
According to an article from Swimming World Magazine, President Adams was so well known for his swimming schedule, that one of the first female journalists at the time, Anne Royall, went down to the Potomac shore one morning and sat on the president’s clothes. Royall had desperately wanted an interview with the president and refused to leave so that the president could get dressed until he answered all of her interview questions. How’s that for journalistic style?
The first White House pool was built for President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930’s. Not only was Roosevelt one of the American Presidents who loved to swim, he looked to it for his health, as well. Since stricken with polio, swimming served as a way for Roosevelt to build strength in his upper body which aided in his ability to get in and out of wheelchairs. He was known to swim laps daily in the White House indoor pool.
President Gerald Ford was also known to love the water, as well as be an avid swimmer. During his term, he looked to reopen the indoor pool at the White House which had been built by one of the previous presidents who loved to swim, Franklin Roosevelt. The indoor pool had been covered up during Nixon’s term, however, Ford had hoped to uncover it to use again. Upon deeming this too costly, President Ford commissioned the building of the White House outdoor pool which is still in existence today. Ford was also known to swim almost daily.
John F Kennedy
President John F Kennedy had quite a history of swimming. He was a member of the Harvard swim team where he was best at swimming the backstroke. While serving in World War II, Kennedy put his swimming skills to use to save the lives of fellow crew members after their ship was sunk by the Japanese. Kennedy and crew swam for miles to the safety of an island, before then swimming to another island where they found food. As a result, Kennedy was awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps medal.
In his presidential years, Kennedy swam frequently to ease his aching back. He also enjoyed swimming with friends and family for social activity.
Much like Kennedy, President Ronald Reagan swam competitively in school for Eureka College. When his coach fell ill, Reagan was asked to not only swim on the team, but coach the team too. He led the team to a fourth place finish in their conference. Following college, Reagan was the lifeguard in his hometown of Dixon, Illinois. His swimming ability allowed him to save over 70 lives throughout the five years he was lifeguard.
Some people have said that various presidents went off the deep end throughout the years. However, this lesson serves as proof that some actually knew what they were doing once they hit the water. Which president would you want to swim with if given the choice?