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.