Reid Patterson, a 1956 Olympic swimmer who at one time was dubbed “America’s Fastest Man In The Water” died Wednesday. He was 81.
Mr. Patterson was born in Pineville, Ky. He lived in Rockford, Tenn.
He swam for Georgia 1951-54, starting out in the backstroke. In 1952, Patterson won the SEC 100-yard backstroke and 220 and 440 freestyle events.
The next year, he won the SEC 50 and 100 freestyles and became the first SEC swimmer to win an NCAA championship race, taking the 100 free.
In 1954, Patterson broke the American 100 free record (51.0 seconds) at Gaineville, Fla., and successfully defended his SEC 50 and 100 freestyle titles.
Mr. Patterson, while serving in the U.S. Navy, was given leave to compete in the 1956 Olympics at Melbourne, Australia. He finished fourth in the 100 free.
He coached swimming at Tulane University 1964-72 and coached age-group swimmers at Metairie, La., YMCA, before coaching Knoxville West Side YMCA from 1973-74.
Mr. Patterson served as an official at Tennessee’s home swim meets starting in 1973.
He was inducted into the University of Georgia Athletic Association’s Circle of Honor, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, and the Tennessee Swimming Hall of Fame.
“We lost a great man,” Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said in a school release. “We lost one of the greatest athletes in the history of UGA and one of our greatest people. He was a humble gentleman and he was always quite competitive. He loved his Bulldogs and he had a wonderful relationship with our program. I will miss seeing him at all our events. He and (his wife) Anna never missed an opportunity to be in Athens.”
Mr. Patterson worked as a geologist for several years, but spent more than 30 years as a financial adviser.
Mr. Patterson’s daughter, Tillie, swam for the Lady Vols from 1983-87. Patterson’s grandson, Nathan Bibliowicz, was a Georgia swimmer from 2005-08. Bibliowicz was a seven-time All-American for the Bulldogs.
In a 1997 interview with the News Sentinel, Patterson said, “I’ve been here so long that I feel that I’m part of the Tennessee swim family. The only time I feel caught in the middle is when Tennessee swims Georgia.”
Mr. Patterson and Anna were married for 56 years. He also leaves four daughters, Virginia Bibliowicz, Isabelle Welch, Martha Singler and Tillie Atkins.
Services will be held Sunday at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church Chapel starting at 3 p.m. The family will receive friends immediately after the service.
Memorials may be made to the UGA Foundation for the Reid Patterson Memorial Scholarship.