Guide to the Walter S. "Jack" Persons papers, 1937-2001


Walter Scott "Jack" Persons served as swimming coach at Duke University from 1930 to 1979, and as Duke's lacrosse coach from 1949 to 1966. He was inducted into the Duke Sports Hall of Fame in 1986. Collection includes correspondence, programs, clippings, and photographs related to Jack Persons; the Duke University Physical Education Dept., swim team, and lacrosse team; and the Duke Sports Hall of Fame. Materials range in date from 1937 to 2001.

Collection Details

Record Group
Walter S. "Jack" Persons papers
Persons, Walter S., 1908-2005
0.5 Linear Feet, 250 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Material in English

Collection Overview

The materials include letters, greeting cards, invitations, programs, newspaper clippings, accolades, and photographs. The materials cover Persons's tenure as coach of both the Duke Swim team and the Duke Lacrosse team, as well as his election to and membership in the Duke Sports Hall of Fame.

More Biographical / Historical Info

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Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Walter S. "Jack" Persons Papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 1937-2001
Box 1
Clippings, 1975-1987; undated
Box 1
Programs, 1948-1996
Box 1
Photographs, 1956; undated
Box 1

Historical Note

Walter Scott "Jack" Persons began his coaching career with the Duke Swim team while still an undergraduate in 1931. At the age of 20, he was the youngest head coach at any major university in the United States. Parsons went on to graduate in 1933, but retained his coaching position. During his 45-year career, his teams celebrated 207 meet victories and undefeated seasons in 1933 and 1939. Persons is recognized as one of the pioneers of swimming in North Carolina and served for many years as Chair of the Durham County Red Cross life saving and water safety units.

Persons became head coach of a second varsity sport in 1940, following the graduation of the player/coach of the Duke Lacrosse team. Persons held the lacrosse coaching position until 1966; during that time, he produced several All-Americans and led Duke to upset victories over traditional national powers such as Johns Hopkins and Navy. The highlight came in 1946 when Duke shocked national power Maryland, 12-4 in one of the greatest upsets in collegiate lacrosse history. Under Persons's direction, Duke Lacrosse was consistently ranked as one of the nation's top teams.

Persons retired from coaching in 1975 and was honored with election to the Duke Sports Hall of Fame in 1986. He also held an unbroken streak of 72 years of perfect attendance at Duke home football games until the fall of 2003 when he missed one game. He passed away in 2005 at the age of 96.

Related Material

  • Biographical Reference Collection, 1972-2004 (University Archives, Duke University.)
  • News Service Biographical Files, 1960-2004 (University Archives, Duke University.)

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


The Walter S. "Jack" Persons papers were received by the University Archives as a gift in December 19, 2005 .

Processing Information

Processed by Alyssa Reinhardt, November 2007

Encoded by Sherrie Bowser, November 2007

Accession UA2005-0090 is described in this finding aid.