Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Harry Nelson is one of the few high school gymnastics coaches to be inducted into the U.S. Gymnastic Hall of Fame. Not only was he an excellent coach, he was an innovator. Although he was only a student at Temple University for one year, his efforts to organize a competitive club team were inspirational and eventually led to the success of Temple’s many great university gymnastic teams. Although he spent many hours in the gym guiding his charges to better event routines, he found time to travel as necessary to judge at almost all levels of competition.
Harry Nelson had an illustrious career wherein he excelled in both gymnastics and swimming. Gymnastics was his passion, and he helped develop the sport in numerous ways in the Philadelphia area. He was long active in YMCA, high school, AAU, and collegiate (Ursinus College) gymnastics. He was a teacher and coach for 43 years retiring in 1971. Harry began his gymnastics competitive career at Northeast High School in Pennsylvania, and then he went on to become a teacher and gymnastic coach. Philadelphia Public High School Championships: Gold-AA, (1924 & ’25). Harry was captain of his HS team during these years. Later, he organized and was Captain of the Temple University Gymnastic Club Team, (circa 1926, ’27, & ’28). This was before the first NCAA Championships in 1938, so he didn’t get the chance to sparkle on the national level in college. Coach: Harry returned to Northeast High where he became an outstanding gymnastics coach. Nelson’s gymnastic team’s won 8 Public High School Championships. He also coached at the Philadelphia Turners. NAAU Championships: Gold-Philadelphia Turner Team, (1952). His 1952 team featured Joe Baba, Mel Stout, and Robert Stout. The latter went on to become an Olympian and USGHOF Inductee. Judge: Harry Nelson was a highly regarded by his peers as a gymnastics judge for 40 years at high school, college, AAU, NCAA, Olympic Trials, and international meets. He was elected President of the Eastern Judges Association for five years. Honors: Elected to the National Judges Association Hall of Fame; Received special recognition when awarded plaque from the Eastern Judges Association that designated him as “Dean of Officials.” Clara Schroth-Lomady, in a telephone interview, indicated that, “Harry Nelson definitely was primarily a men’s coach at the Philadelphia Turners, but he also was very helpful as a coach for the women’s teams. He was not only helpful, he was very encouraging, and a very nice man.” During Nelson’s time period the women’s teams in the U.S. featured some of the most outstanding women gymnasts in the history of the sport. Ladies such as Gymnastics Hall of Fame Inductees Pearl Perkins-Nightengale, Helm McKee, Clara Schroth-Lomady, Marion Twining Barone, and Roberta Ranck-Bonniwell were all competing and winning gold during Harry’s time.
Sources: NAAU, NCAA records, and Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005 who also interviewed Ms. Clara Schroth-Lomady. Introduction and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.