CAPT. ROGER W. WHEELER
1982 INDUCTION TO THE RHODE ISLAND AQUATIC HALL OF FAME
Roger was a native of Newport, graduating from Rogers High School. For over 30 years, the name “Cap” Wheeler has been synonymous with recreational safety. Roger began his water safety career in the early 1920’s at Easton’s Beach in Newport, where he was captain of the lifeguards. He joined the United States Volunteer Life Saving Corps in 1924, and was promoted to Captain in 1929. He carried the title “Captain” throughout the remainder of his life, affectionately known to thousands as “Cap.” In 1930 Roger joined the U.S. Coast Guard, serving at stations from New England to Florida. In 1935, after leaving the Coast Guard, Roger was named director of the division of lifesaving for the State Department of Public Health for Rhode Island. This was the birth of the lifesaving service in Rhode Island. During WWII, Roger became a Warrant Officer in the Army, being assigned to a rescue training unit in Gulfport, Mississippi. During that time, he designed a lifejacket that became standard equipment in the Army and Air Force. While stationed at Wright Field, Ohio, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for developing rescue procedures. After leaving the service in 1946, he resumed his safety leadership for the State of Rhode Island. Among the many offices he held were those of State Commander of the AMVETS; National Rescue Coordinator of the National Rescue and First Aid Association; and acting chairman of Narragansett’s Charter Reform Commission. Roger was instrumental in introducing long distance swim competition in Rhode Island. In 1970, the state beach at Sand Hill Cove in Narragansett, was named in his honor – “The Captain Roger W. Wheeler Memorial State Beach.” Shortly after Roger’s death, Senator Claiborne Pell who was a lifelong friend of “Cap”, had the account of Roger’s death recorded in the Congressional Records in the Senate in Washington, D.C. as a lasting tribute to Roger and his dedication throughout his life to recreational safety for the residents of the state of Rhode Island.