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JUNE 2021 Blues Vol 37 No. 6

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  • Blues
  • Galveston
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JUNE 2021 Blues Vol 37 No. 6 • The History of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol • Beach Safety Tips • It's Island Time - Where to Stay, Eat & Play on the Island • The Texas School District Police Chiefs Conference • State & National Law Enforcement News • Warstory - What Happened to Susan Miller? • President Biden Receives Light Bulb Award • Open Road - The End of the HEMI? • Fishing with Rusty Barron • Dr. Tina speaks with David Edwards - Humanizing the Badge

The Legend of LeRoy

The Legend of LeRoy Colombo LeRoy made his first rescue at the beach when he was only 12, saving a man twice his size. At 15, he was fast enough to join the Surf Toboggan Club (STC), an elite Galveston lifesaving club whose rigorous tryout involved a 3-hour swim in open water without stopping. STC held the highest standards of sportsmanship and public service and provided free swimming lessons and first aid to beachgoers. He was the youngest and fastest member of the group, winning over 35 races during his time on the beach. LeRoy’s speed gave him a status. He beat Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller in a 10-mile-long race in the Mississippi River. Johnny didn’t finish the race, while LeRoy finished the race with a dislocated arm. Le- Roy saved two men from a tugboat that caught fire by swimming under the burning oil to retrieve them. The city even tried to raise enough money to send him to the Olympics but couldn’t collect the funds. LeRoy was known to have an “uncanny ability to detect swimmers in distress.” Though he was deaf and mute, he could read lips and speak clear enough to communicate to beach patrons. He was known to be friendly and humorous. Though the Galveston Beach Patrol didn’t initially hire LeRoy due to his deafness, he continued voluntarily guarding the beaches. Eventually the city of Galveston hired him due to his elite skill. Even today, he still holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most lives saved by one individual at a total of 907 lives. After he retired at the age of 62, he continued to swim daily. On July 12, 1974, LeRoy passed away from a heart condition. In his honor, Galveston renamed 57th street “Colombo’s View” and erected a plaque on 57th and Seawall Blvd in 2008. The Austin School for the Deaf renamed their swimming center in his name and the Rosenberg Library still holds his championship cup. Though LeRoy is gone, Galveston will never forget his contributions to the foundation of our lifesaving tradition. 62 The BLUES POLICE MAGAZINE The BLUES POLICE MAGAZINE 63

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