Katherine Rawls showed a rare versatility in the pool, winning a record number of 33 AAU titles (later broken by Tracy Caulkins) in such diversified events as freestyle, breaststroke, individual medley and diving. She was undefeated in the individual medley for eight years and had it been on the Olympic program in 1932 or 1936 she would almost certainly have added an Olympic gold medal to her championship honors. She was the first American woman to win four national championships at a single meet, which she did by taking the 440y, 880y, and one mile freestyle and the individual medley at the 1937 AAU Championships. She repeated this feat in 1938.
Katherine Rawls came from a dedicated swimming family in Fort Lauderdale and her sisters, Dorothy and Evelyn, both won national honors in relay events. She retired after the 1938 nationals and later, as Mrs. Thompson, became a top pilot in World War II, being one of the original 25 women who ferried planes to combat zones for air transport command. After the war, she tried in vain to qualify for the 1948 London Games. Rawls worked as a swimming teacher and eventually died of cancer. In 1965 she was one of the first female athletes inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Athlete Olympic Results Content