Born in British Guiana (now Guyana) to a Scottish father and Indian mother, Walter Spence learned to swim in the Demerara River, along with his brother, where they survived many piranha bites. He quickly began the top swimmer in his native land but moved to Trinidad and later to Canada, for whom he competed in the 1928 Olympics, and later to the United States. In 1930, Spence enrolled at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He was NCAA champion in the 100 free in 1932-34, the first swimmer to ever win three consecutive collegiate championships in the same event. He also represented Brooklyn Central YMCA and Penn AC in 1926-29 in winning multiple AAU titles. Later in his career he competed for the New York AC, where he was joined by his brother Wally and Leonard, who had also emigrated to the United States. In 1935, with Peter Fick, they won the AAU 4x100 freestyle relay title. After retiring from swimming, Walter Spence worked as an insurance salesman for Security Mutual Life Insurance. He died tragically while trying to board a train at the North White Plains station. Almost missing the train, he ran to catch it, but slipped and fell on the tracks, dying a few hours later from his injuries. Walter Spence and his two brothers were inducted together into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1967.