1946 NCAA Champion, Swimming Philanthropist Charles Keating, Jr. Passes Away

  5 Braden Keith | April 02nd, 2014 | Club, National, News

Charles Humphrey Keating, Jr., a juggernaut across many worlds, passed away on Monday in Phoenix, Arizona. He was 90 years old.

Keating lived an almost double-life in this world. In the fields of finance, his name is both revered and reviled – he built massive wealth in the 1980’s in Phoenix, Arizona, but was then brought down by one of the biggest financial scandals in American history that cost him four-and-a-half years in prison.

In the world of swimming, however, he is a legend for both his abilities and his philanthropy.

Keating was the 1946 NCAA Champion in the 200 yard breaststroke, competing for the University of Cincinnati, topping legends Paul Murray and James “future Doc” Counsilman, making him Cincinnati’s first ever national champion in any sport, as well as their first All-American.

He is also the patriarch of a legendary swimming family; his son Charles Keating III swam at the 1976 Olympics in the same 200 breaststroke (he was 5th), and perhaps the best-known as an athlete is his grandson Gary Hall Jr., a SwimSwam contributor, who won 10 Olympic medals as a competitor.

Keating, along with his brother William, donated $600,000 in total to swimming powerhouse St. Xavier High School to build what was at the time arguably the best high school natatorium in the country – a pool that still bears his father’s name. He was a huge financial supporter of the Cincinnati Marlins club in the 1970’s and 1980’s where swimmers like Mary T. Meagher made it one of the most prominent clubs in the country. In 1988, he built the Phoenix Swim Club pool, set to be razed this year, that for so long was a jewel of swimming in the southwestern United States.

Keating’s legacy is a complex one, as are the legacies of most with his stature upon passing; however his impact on the swimming community was undoubtedly and indelibly positive, and for that we all owe him a great deal of gratitude.


  1. Catherine says:

    This is kinder than any other account of his life that can be read today on the web. Other sites say he created the financial scandal that led to his imprisonment.

    But that brings to me to another point. Too often I hear about someone who has done some misdeed and then cringe when I read that they were a swimmer when young. I’d love to see list of famous people who aren’t known for swimming – like Nobel laureates, Oscar winners, Grammy award winners – who did competitive swimming as kids. Any of them?

  2. Olive Garden Lover says:

    Mr. Keating was one of the kindest souls out there… and it trickled down to his entire family – extended and immediate. They’ve done so much for the swimming community and I can honestly say that their efforts have made it possible (and continue to make it possible) for many great athletes to reach high levels. From amazing swim schools – to high performance training camps, this family does it all with class and a sincere heart. Thinking of all of them today and hope they know how much we appreciate all they’ve done for swimming. – Phoenix Swim Club Alumn

  3. Joel Lin says:

    It is too often the case that wealth insulates people into their own narcissism and vanities. The real measure of this man was his heart, and that he opened up to provide charitable kindness onto others. Godspeed, Charles Keating.

  4. MarkB says:

    Mr. Keating surely has done much for swimming, and it’s great that many athlete’s were touched by him. But many others were touched also – in the words of his NY Times obit:

    Lincoln (Keating’s S & L) talked many customers into replacing federally insured deposits with high-yielding bonds from Lincoln’s parent, American Continental, a Keating corporation that was drowning in losses. Bond buyers were not told the condition of American Continental, or that its bonds were uninsured, prosecutors said. A witness in a lawsuit years later produced a Lincoln memo advising its bond salesmen to “remember [that] the weak, meek and ignorant are always good targets.”

  5. Cindy says:

    Keating hurt many people with his swindle including seniors who gave him their retirement funds. Also the American people all lost due to the government’s billion dollar bailout of the Savings & Loan industry. Do you really think the money for the Phoenix Swim Club facility was not ill-gotten?

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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