Swimming Coach, 1931-75 207 Swimming wins Lacrosse Coach, 1940-66 ACC Champions, 1954 Ranked Second Nationally, 1951 Three Top Ten Finishes Nationally
W.S. "Jack" Persons became Duke's head swimming coach in 1931. At the age of 20, he was the youngest head coach at a major university in the nation. When he retired from coaching 45 years later, he was one of the most admired men in his field. Along the way, his teams recorded 207 victories in 378 meets, including undefeated seasons in 1933 (6-0) and 1939 (9-0). Persons' teams also copped one Southern Conference championship, had seven runner-up finishes and were tops among Big Five teams from 1932-35.
Persons also had a storied career coaching the Blue Devil lacrosse team from 1940-66. He directed Duke to one of the greatest upsets in collegiate lacrosse history in 1946 when the Blue Devils shocked national power Maryland 12-4. In the 1950s, his team was a national contender on a yearly basis, with the 1951 squad finishing second in the nation. In all, Persons had three teams finish the year ranked among the top ten teams in the nation.
In addition to his coaching duties, Persons taught physical education at Duke and was a pioneer of swimming in North Carolina. During the summer months, Persons could inevitably be found near a pool, either giving lessons, clinics or talks on swimming and water safety. As a leading advocate of water safety, Persons was chairman of the Durham County Red Cross life saving and water safety units.