Peter Leroy Colombo (December 23, 1905-July 12, 1974) Born in Galveston, Peter Leroy Colombo overcame disabilities to become a highly accomplished lifeguard. Born in 1905, Colombo lost his hearing, speech and use of his legs at the age of seven, due to meningitis. His brothers took him to the Texas coast where he swam, regaining use of his legs, though his hearing never returned. In 1915, Colombo began to attend the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, where he learned to read lips and communicate in sign language, and where he also continued to train in swimming. He returned to Galveston in 1921 and soon joined the Surf Toboggan Club, a group of volunteer lifeguards. Colombo became a hired lifeguard at the age of 18. In a time of segregation, he would go on to save hundreds from drowning, regardless of race, over a career spanning approximately 50 years. In addition, Colombo set many endurance and speed records in swimming matches, often participating in races that were up to 30 miles long. He was also a pioneer surfer on the Galveston beaches. Colombo officially retired in 1967, but continued to swim and serve as a lifguard when he was able. When Peter Leroy Colombo died in 1974, he was recognized with a moment of silence by the Texas State Legislature. He had officially saved over 900 people from drowning, with many other rescues going unrecorded. In 2005, the sanatorium at the Texas School for the Deaf was named in his honor. Today, Peter Leroy Colombo is remembered as an individual who did not allow disabilities to limit him, risking his life to rescue hundreds along the beaches of Galveston. (2008) #15133

by Texas Historical Commission #15133 of the Texas Historical Marker series

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