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Navy's '52 Olympic Gold Medal Crew Team to Hold Reunion

9/26/2002 - Men's Heavyweight Crew
Navy's '52 Olympic Gold Medal Crew Team to Hold Reunion

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Navy's 1952 Olympic Gold Medal-winning crew team, "The Great Eight," will return to Annapolis for its 50-year reunion, Oct. 4-6. All surviving members of the crew and their spouses, as well as those members of the junior varsity crew, are planning on attending the event.

Official events for the reunion weekend begin Oct. 4 with the crew joining the Brigade for lunch in King Hall. Later in the day, at 4 p.m. to be exact, the crew will gather at Hubbard Hall for a rechristening ceremony of Navy's "The Great Eight" shell, followed by a row-by from the crew. City of Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer will attend this ceremony and will make a presentation to the crew. Saturday night, the crew will hold a reunion dinner in Hubbard Hall.

Navy opened the 1952 crew season with a 19-second victory over Yale. The Mids then won their next five races, defeating a total of eight teams along the way, with every victory coming by at least two boat lengths. Navy would close its collegiate regular season with an undefeated record by winning the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship.

Navy's crew would qualify to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, with a nine-second victory over Princeton in the Olympic Trials. The winning time of 5:57.7 over the 2,000-meter course was a new Olympic Trials record.

At the Olympics, Navy posted a time of 6:25.9 to win the Gold Medal by nearly six seconds over Russia, eight seconds over Australia and nine seconds over England.

Navy's crew dominance did not end at the conclusion of the Olympics. Navy would go on to post 29-consecutive wins from 1952-54, winning three IRA and three Eastern Sprint titles along the way.

Numerous accolades have been bestowed upon the crew over the years. The eight-member crew, along with coxswain II Robert Jones, were inducted into the National Rowing Foundation Hall of Fame as a team, with Ed Stevens, Wayne Frye, and Frank Shakespeare being inducted as individuals.

Their involvement in the Olympics has also continued over the years. Just prior to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the Olympic torch was carried by Bob Detweiler in Utah, Dick Murphy in New York and Frank Shakespeare in Delaware. During the torch run leading up to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, the torch was carried by Ed Stevens in Washington.

"The 1952 crew and all of those men who rowed in the varsity crew from 1952-54, certainly must be regarded as one of America's finest rowing eight-oared crews," said Navy heavyweight head coach Rick Clothier. "I have personally been involved with four of their reunions and I am very grateful to have been included. These men are unquestionably exceptional human beings who have enjoyed wonderful professional careers, as well as fine athletes. The Great Eight continues to be an inspiration to our rowers, even fifty years after their greatest triumph."

Following are brief biographies on the members of Navy's "Great Eight" --

Coxswain, Dave Manring '52 -- Became a naval aviator flying ASW missions and eventually retiring as a captain. He died of a heart ailment in 1991. His teammates complied with his final request by manning a shell without a coxswain and spread part of his ashes in the Naval Academy Severn River at its 40-year reunion in 1992.

Bow oar, Frank Shakespeare '53 -- After first serving in submarines and later as the supply officer of a new construction guided missile destroyer, he went into civilian life and became a high school math teacher. He is now retired and resides in nearby Towson, Md.

#2 oar, Bill Fields '54 -- Retired with the rank of commander and returned to Gainesville, Ga., where he served as a high school crew coach. He consulted with the U.S. Olympic Atlanta Organizing Committee, along with former teammate Jim Dunbar, to establish the 1996 Olympic Rowing Venue in Gainesville. Bill passed away in 1992. The finish line of the 1996 Olympic Rowing Venue was within feet of the Gainesville home he shared with his wife, Kitty, who will represent Bill at the reunion.

#3 oar, Jim Dunbar '55; #4 oar, Dick Murphy '54; #5 oar, Bob Detweiler '53; #6 oar, Hank Proctor '54; #7 oar, Wayne Frye '54 -- Each of these men entered the Air Force upon graduation from the Naval Academy. Detweiler, Dunbar, Frye and Proctor all became pilots and flew combat missions in Vietnam.

Frye is credited with shooting down a North Vietnamese MIG and was awarded two Silver Stars and a Purple Heart. Combined, the four men earned a total of four Legions of Merit, 13 Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars, and 33 Air Medals. All four continued to row competitively while they were on active duty, and all four are now retired from The USAF. Detweiler and Dunbar have coached high school rowing crews, while Dunbar worked with the U.S. Olympic Atlanta Organizing Committee to help establish the rowing venue for the '96 Olympics. Frye now lives in Maysville, Ken., Proctor lives in Camas, Wash., Detweiler lives in Orem, Utah, and Dunbar lives in Arlington, Va.

After completing his service time, Dick Murphy resigned and set up an international electronics business and now lives in New York.

Stroke oar, Ed Stevens '54 -- After serving in submarines, he resigned from the Navy and obtained a Master's Degree in nuclear engineering at MIT and has since worked as a nuclear engineer. He now lives in Kennewick, Wash. He has served many years as a U.S. Rowing Association judge and referee and has officiated across the country.

Additional Members --

Coxswain II, Robert Jones '53 -- Took over as coxswain of the crew after Manring graduated in '52. He served 26 years in the Marines before retiring as a colonel. In civilian life, he has served in positions as a systems and research analysis, community college instructor of math, church board member and hospice volunteer. He now lives in Locust Grove, Va.

Coxswain III, Bill Kennington '55 -- Replaced Jones as coxswain of the crew after Bob's graduation in '53. Kennington has served as a submariner, with extensive service in nuclear submarines, has completing Regulus and Polaris patrols and eventually became the executive officer of a new construction submarine and, on another occasion, the commanding officer of a new construction submarine. Later, he became commanding officer of the submarine base in Pearl Harbor. During his career he was awarded two Legions of Merit and four Meritorious Service Medals. After serving in the Navy for 30 years he retired as a captain now lives in Crofton, Md.



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