Jack Kelly, Sr.

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJohn Brenden "Jack"•Kelly, Sr.
Used nameJack•Kelly, Sr.
Born4 October 1889 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)
Died20 June 1960 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)
Measurements187 cm
AffiliationsVesper Boat Club, Philadelphia (USA)
NOC United States
Medals OG
Gold 3
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 3


Jack Kelly is the greatest sculler the United States has ever produced. He began rowing with the Chamonix and Montrose Boat Clubs of Philadelphia, but in 1909 he joined the Vesper Boat Club. Between 1909 and his competitive retirement after the 1924 Olympics, Kelly won every sculling title available to him, including the World Championship in both singles and doubles, the Olympics in singles and doubles, and many national titles in both boats. In 1919 and 1920, he won the national single sculls title over both the sprint distance (¼-mile) and 1½ miles. Kelly never won the Diamond Sculls at the Henley Regatta because he was denied entry. The usual rumor is that he was considered a professional by the Henley authorities, because his trade, as a contractor, gave him an unfair advantage in that it required him to use his muscles for strengthening, but that is false. In fact, all members of Vesper Boat Club were banned for what were considered, to the British, earlier professional activities. Kelly would certainly have won that title had he been allowed to compete and in later years had the last laugh on the British when his “bricklaying” led to a lucrative business as a contractor in Philadelphia. Kelly fathered two very famous children – John Kelly, Jr., another Olympic rower, who became President of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the late Grace Kelly, the American movie star who later became Princess Grace of Monaco.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1920 Summer Olympics Rowing USA Jack Kelly, Sr.
Single Sculls, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
Double Sculls, Men (Olympic) Paul Costello 1 Gold
1924 Summer Olympics Rowing USA Jack Kelly, Sr.
Double Sculls, Men (Olympic) United States 1 Gold
Coxless Pairs, Men (Olympic) United States DNS

Olympic family relations