Jim Doty: the passing of an open-water hero

gregocgregoc Charter Member
edited April 2012 in General Discussion
James J. Doty passed away on the morning of April 17, 2012. He was at home in Dedham, Massachusetts surrounded by his family.

In 1956, he finished 78th in the Boston Marathon and decided that longer was better. He had been spending his summers on Black Cat Island, Lake Winniepasaukee, New Hampshire. One time he had to swim one half mile for help after his boat broke down. This swim coupled with his 26-mile marathon run and a liking for long distances, Jim started swimming long distances in 1968, training with Jack Starrett, 1964 English Channel Swimmer. He trained a couple of summers with Hall of Fame coach Charlie Silvia at Pine Knoll Swim School in Massachusetts. He went on to swim across the lengths of most New Hampshire lakes.

Then he started on the professional marathon swimming circuit doing the 24 hour La Tuque and 28 mile Chicoutimi swims in Quebec. He joined the World Professional Marathon Swimming Association tour with swims in Rhode Island, Chicago, Hamilton (Ontario) and Lac Simon (Quebec). He has done the around Cape Ann (Gloucester, MA) (12h 31m), Boston Light (14 times) (5h), double Graves Light (11h 45m) and double Boston Light (10h).

In 1978, Jim incorporated the New England Marathon Swimming Association (NEMSA) as a charity to promote swimming and study water conditions. He re-started the Boston Light race on an annual basis, the previous race being held before World War II. Hall of Famer Annette Kellerman gained fame doing this swim.

Jim is the recipient of the Irving Davids/Captain Roger W. Wheeler Memorial from the International Swimming Hall of Fame and he was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 2002.

If you wish to know more about Jim Doty there is a book about his swims, “The Jim Doty Story: Accounts of Some of the Marathon Swims of a Great Boston Swimmer” by Robert L. McCormack.

Jim stated on the dedication page of McCormack’s book:

“I want to thank my family: my wife, Paula, and children Polly, Elinor and Jay. They did not see much of me on the weekends from May to October for many years. Unfortunately, this is one of the sacrifices one makes in the pursuit of a career in ocean and marathon swimming”.


  • BrianBrian Member
    With Jim's passing, the open water swimming community has lost a giant.
    For those of us who had the good fortune of knowing him, I'm sure there's not a person who won't crack a smile when they think of him. He will be missed.

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