Former Texas Swimming Coach “Tex” Robertson Passes Away at 98

Former UT head men’s swimming and diving coach “Tex” Robertson passed away Monday at his home in Burnet at the age of 98; Robertson mentored 13 All-Americans, led UT to 13 conference championships and is credited for developing the “flip turn.”

Julian William “Tex” Robertson, a former University of Texas head men’s swimming and diving coach, passed away Monday, Aug. 27 at his home near Burnet, Texas.  Robertson was 98. 

A 2003 International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee, Robertson served as the UT head men’s swimming and diving coach from 1936-43 and from 1946-50.  Thirteen student-athletes earned 15 All-America honors under his tutelage, and he led the Longhorns to Southwest Conference Championships during each of his 13 seasons in Austin. 

Among his pupils were Adolph Kiefer and Ralph Flanagan, who won gold and silver, respectively, at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, and former Olympic gold medalist diver Skippy Browning, whose name adorns the diving well at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.  In addition, Eddie Gilbert was a finalist at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games.  

Notably, the International Swimming Hall of Fame credited Robertson for developing the “flip turn” in his training of the aforementioned Kiefer in preparation for the 1936 Summer Olympics.   

A long-time friend of the Texas swimming and diving program, Robertson was known for his tireless devotion to the sport, which perhaps was most reflected in his creation of “Camp Longhorn” on Inks Lake near Burnet in 1939.  The summer-long program encouraged children to make swimming an integral part of an active lifestyle. 

The camp was interrupted in 1941, when Robertson enlisted in the Navy at the outset of World War II and transferred to San Diego, Calif., to teach survival swimming skills to new recruits.  Robertson transferred to Fort Pierce, Fla., in 1943 and trained sailors in underwater demolition tactics.  The sailors came to be known as “frogmen” and were a forerunner to today’s Navy Seals. 

Robertson resumed his position as the head men’s swimming diving coach at Texas in 1945 and served in that post until his retirement in 1950, when he devoted himself full-time to Camp Longhorn.  The camp, which has welcomed tens of thousands of children throughout its existence, continues to thrive today.

An accomplished swimmer, Robertson completed a decorated swimming career at The University of Michigan in the 1930s.   Robertson set a collegiate record in the 220-yard freestyle and won the Big 12 Conference title in the 440-yard freestyle.  He helped the Wolverines to NCAA team championships in 1934 and 1935.  He was a member of the 400-yard freestyle relay quartet that won a NCAA title in 1935.  He remained an active swimmer and competed in the U.S. Masters swimming program.    

Born in 1909 in Sweetwater, Texas, Robertson is survived by his wife, Pat, and their five children:  John, Bill, Robby, Sally and Nan.  Robertson’s grandson, Jim, is a member of the Texas men’s swimming and diving team.  

The Camp Longhorn family has invited the public to a memorial service at Inks Lake, near Burnet, on Saturday, Sept. 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Texas Swimming Hall of Fame at The University of Texas or to Burnet Swimming.

Statement from Texas governor Rick Perry:

“Tex Robertson was a Texas original whose personal integrity and commitment to children touched countless lives.  His legacy will live on in the hearts of thousands of campers and counselors who were forever impacted by their time at Camp Longhorn.  My family and I send our sincere condolences and prayers to the Robertson family and friends.  I am confident that God greeted him at the gates of heaven with a big ‘Attawaytogo.’”

Texas Swimming Hall of Fame

P.O. Box 6962

Houston, TX  77265

Burnet Swimming

Hill Country Swim Boosters

P.O. Box 1134

Burnet, Texas 78611

 -special thanks to the International Swimming Hall of Fame for contributing information to this story -