James Murray
Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics

Philadelphia native Jim Murray in considered by many the "Dean of American Fencers."  Murray taught fencing at the New York Athletic Club for 64 years and coached the Columbia fencing team for over 50 years, laying the foundation for what would become a dominant Columbia University fencing program.

Murray was trained in Paris-and was widely considered the finest American-born coach of his day, whereas most other fencing coaches in the States were foreign-born.  In France, Murray studied and trained at the Salle d'Armes Jean-Louis with the best of France's classical stylists.  He mastered the French language and made lifelong friendships.

Before long, Murray become one of France's immortals as an unbeatable foil champion, and upon his return to the United States, he accepted a fencing master position at Columbia in 1898.  Shortly thereafter he took a similar post with the New Athletic Club.  His professional career in New York was practically coterminous with the life of the Amateur Fencers League of America (founded in 1891) and of the Intercollegiate Fencing Association (founded in 1894).

As a head coach, he led the Lions to over 190 wins and an IFA (Intercollegiate Fencing Associaton) title in 1932.  Murray produced many great individual fencers: a total of 12 IFA championships, including Norman Armitage.  Murray retired after 50 years of Columbia fencing in 1949.

Among his pupils at Columbia were John Purroy Mitchell, who became mayor of New York City, Gustavus Towne Kirby, President Emeritus of the United State Olympic Association; Fitzhugh Townsend, and several other great figures in the history of New York.  The task of listing all the outstanding American fencers who learned the sport from Murray is no short task-the roster is seemingly endless.

After Columbia and NYAC, Murray decided to exclusively teach special classes for the children of NYAC members until 1954.