Publish date:

Al Wiggins, College Swimmer APRIL 2, 1956

Between leading Ohio State to eight national swimming
championships, from 1955 through '57, setting three butterfly
world records and competing at the '56 Olympic Games in
Melbourne, Al Wiggins made sure he got excitement into his life.
He took all the tax accounting courses that Ohio State had to
offer. Internal Revenue Code, corporate reorganization and
distributions, death taxes--these were the topics that got the
finest all-around swimmer in the U.S. fired up. Wiggins
maintained that passion throughout Harvard Law School and a
40-year career as a tax attorney, working first for a Pittsburgh
firm, then opening a practice with his wife, Holly Garfield, a
specialist in corporate and healthcare law.

"Detail oriented?" says Wiggins. "Precise? Rigid?" He laughs.
"It's my nature. There is a right, and there is a wrong. As an
attorney I like wrestling with real-life problems and helping
people do battle with the IRS." These days Wiggins, 66, says he
is "trying to retire, but it's a lot more of a job than I

An exceptionally versatile swimmer, Wiggins won his five AAU
national titles in three strokes: the butterfly, backstroke and
freestyle. He was a four-time Big Ten individual champion and a
member of Buckeyes teams that won two NCAA, two AAU indoor and
four AAU outdoor titles. By 1955 Wiggins held world records in
the 100-yard and 100-meter butterfly (both the long- and
short-course marks), and at the 1956 Games he finished seventh
in the 100 backstroke. His last competitive meet was the AAU
nationals in Philadelphia in '57, where he won the 100 fly. "I
put everything I had into swimming and was deeply satisfied with
what I got out of it," Wiggins says. "Once you realize the
reward of doing the best you can in sports, you develop an
attitude that carries over to everything else you do."

Wiggins still swims 1,000 yards every other day in the
glass-enclosed pool on the 44-acre estate in Ligonier, Pa.,
about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh, where he and Garfield live
with their 20-year-old son, David. (Wiggins also has two grown
daughters from a previous marriage.) As soon as possible Wiggins
intends to dive into his retirement by traveling to China,
England and Eastern Europe. He says he considered a return to
competitive swimming but realized he had too many other plans in
the works to do it, well, right. "I would need to do one year of
serious weight training, and I would not be content unless I won
my age group," Wiggins says. "I couldn't stand on a starting
block and then finish last."

--Hali Helfgott

COLOR PHOTO: FRED VUICH Easing into retirement after a 40-year legal career, world-record setter Wiggins is still in the swim.