Bill Caulkins Retires From Chattanooga Area Swim League Duties

Sunday, June 8, 2014 - by John Shearer
Bill Caulkins
Bill Caulkins
- photo by John Shearer

For the first time in more than 40 years, Bill Caulkins this summer is not walking the deck as an official and volunteer for Chattanooga Area Swim League meets. 

However, his name will still be prominently on everyone’s mind, as local swim officials announced earlier this year that the CASL city swim meet held at the end of the season will be renamed in his honor.

It is all part of a proverbial last lap the 83-year-old Mr. Caulkins has enjoyed after announcing he was retiring from his longtime volunteer duties. 

A dinner salute in his honor was also held in March at the Fairyland Club, where the announcement about the new name was made.

“It was well attended,” Mr. Caulkins proudly said. “We had a good time there and saw a lot of people who had been involved in swimming years ago.” 

Just as was his trait in working meets, the decision to retire from his volunteer position came with careful thought and attention.

“I just figured it’s time for me to hang it up,” he said during an interview recently from the Sherman-Reilly utility and telecom equipment firm in Alton Park, where he still helps out part-time after a lengthy sales career there. 

“Not that I don’t want to do it anymore, I just don’t want to be responsible for it anymore.”

Mr. Caulkins had become involved in swimming after older daughter Betsy Caulkins Bookout started in the sport initially in California before the family moved back to Chattanooga. Younger daughter Caroline Caulkins Bentley also soon took part. 

He and his wife, Nancy, started out as judges with stopwatches, but he eventually gravitated toward being a deck official. The reason was that deck officials seemed busier than those handling the more mundane job of watching lanes as a judge, he said.

Mr. Caulkins also handled other volunteer administrative duties over the years. 

One of the more memorable times related to his volunteer work occurred more than four decades ago, when the fairly new James L. Fowle Memorial YMCA in downtown Chattanooga hosted an invitational meet that drew standout junior swimmers. One of the winners was a young female swimmer who was a distant cousin – Tracy Caulkins of Nashville, who would go on to win three gold medals at the 1984 Olympics.

About the best Chattanooga swimmers he saw over the years were Geoff Gaberino, who went to Baylor and Florida and won a relay gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, and Girls Preparatory School graduate Annemieke McReynolds. The Auburn swimmer was a Pan Am Games silver medalist, who just missed making the Olympic team in the breaststroke. 

While Mr. Caulkins saw a lot of people swim competitively over the years, he was not one of them, as he was never much of a swimmer growing up. He remembers swimming in a cold residential pool on Lookout Mountain as well as the one at the Fairyland Club, but he never warmed to the sport as a competitor.

But in the days when he was a student at McCallie, summer swim teams did not really exist. The reason was not a lack of interest, but a lack of a vaccine for polio until the 1950s. 

“When the season for polio came around, no parent would let their child get in the pool,” Mr. Caulkins remembered. “North Carolina and Tennessee were the two hottest spots for the transmission of the disease.”

But Mr. Caulkins did play plenty of other sports seriously before graduating from McCallie in 1949. He was involved in football and track and field, and could run the 100-yard dash in a swift 10.0 seconds. He also pole vaulted, using the school’s lightweight bamboo pole that had been taped. 

When he went to the University of North Carolina, he became an unlikely pioneer in the sport of lacrosse. An acquaintance asked him to try out for the new varsity team being formed, so he became a midfielder.

“It was a pretty lousy team,” he said with a laugh. 

However, his status as a former North Carolina lacrosse player has no doubt risen over the years, because now the Tar Heels are a national lacrosse powerhouse.

Mr. Caulkins also helped organize the Lookout Mountain softball league for several decades after becoming involved initially as a teenage player. 

Although he had his feet in the other sports as a competitor and even as a volunteer, his heart in recent decades has been primarily in swimming as an official.

“I enjoyed from the very beginning dealing with the swimmers, the parents and the coaches,” he said.             

Jcshearer2@comcast.net


Lee Women Win Third Straight Golf Tournament

SEVIERVILLE,  Tenn . – Chalk-up a third consecutive tournament win for the Lee University women's golf team. This week's win took on an extra meaning for coach John  Maupin's  club that was pitted against five NCAA Division I programs in the seven-team field. The Lady Flames posted their best four scores of the 54-hole event  on Tuesday  (294) ... (click for more)

Gustitus Named Gulf South Pitcher Of The Week

Lee pitcher Rob Gustitus has been named the Gulf South Conference (GSC) pitcher of the week. The junior right-hander hurled a complete seven-inning game in the Flames’ 8-1 victory over long-time rival Shorter University this past  Saturday . Gustitus, who played his high ball at Detroit Catholic Central, threw 125 pitches, allowing only three hits and no earned ... (click for more)

City Council Winner Anthony Byrd Told He Cannot Continue Working At The County And Be On City Post; Resigns At Criminal Court Clerk's Office

Anthony Byrd, who upset City Council Chairman Moses Freeman in the District 8 council race, has been told that under the city charter he cannot remain on his county job and hold the city post. Mr. Byrd has worked in the Criminal Court Clerk's office for the past 22 years. Criminal Court Clerk Vince Dean said Mr. Byrd got the news of the ruling on Tuesday. He said, "No one ... (click for more)

Judges Say Judge Bales Has Not Signed Letter To Governor On Medical Disability; They Can't Find Him

General Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes said fellow Judge David Bales apparently has not yet signed a letter to the governor saying he plans to take medical disability. Judge Starnes said, "We can't reach him. He does not answer any of our calls or texts." He added, "We are concerned about his well-being." Judge Bales last Friday, after a sit-down meeting with the other ... (click for more)

Repeal Obamacare, Congressman Fleischmann - And Response

Chuck: I'm writing to express my strong opposition to the plan that is being rolled out by Paul Ryan to replace Obamacare. And as I'm writing this, I'm remembering all the times you and all of your Republican colleagues over the last six years campaigned on REPEALING  Obamacare and used that call to action as the basis for your reelection. And I'm also remembering the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Will Perdue Abide His Oath?

Sonny Perdue, a licensed veterinarian who served as the governor of Georgia for eight years, is scheduled to appear for confirmation hearings  tomorrow  as the nation’s next Secretary of Agriculture. It has been nine weeks since he was named by President Donald Trump and horse advocates have been holding their breath for exactly that long. Will Sonny remain a devoted ... (click for more)