Drag Boat and Water Speed Record Racer Memorial


Bob Bird

Born:  April 16, 1938

Died:  June 4, 1967

Buried: Sunny Lane Cemetery, Del City, Oklahoma

Age:  29

Full Name:  Robert Hugh Bird

Nickname: Red Bird

Location:  Hulah Reservoir, near Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Event:   Oklahoma City Drag Boat Association Exchange Club race

Accident Date:  June 4, 1967

Boat:  twin Chevy-engined unblown gas boat

Biographical:  Bird was killed when he lost control of his boat at a speed of 110 MPH during the annual drag boat races.  He was competing in the final run of his class against Ken Youngblood's blown fuel hydro.  He was thrown from his boat when it rolled several times.  He was transported to a Bartlesville hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.  He was survived by his wife, Carol, and two children. He was a field representative for a uniform and towel company in Oklahoma City.


"Mishap kills boat driver," Lawton Constitution, June 5, 1967

Social Security Death Index:  Robert Bird, b. Apr. 16, 1938, died June 1967, SS# issued Oklahoma before 1951

Bob Fisher, e-mail communication, July 31, 2011

Glenn Crepps, e-mail communication, June 19, 2013


Donald Campbell

Born:  March 23, 1921

Died:  January 4, 1967

Buried:  St. Andrew Churchyard, Coniston, Cumbria, England

Age:  45

Full Name:  Donald Malcolm Campbell


Location:  Lake Coniston, England

Event:  world water speed record attempt

Accident Date:  January 4, 1967

Boat:  "Bluebird K7" jet-powered hydroplane

Biographical:  He was trying to better his own world water speed record of 276.33 MPH that he set in 1964.  He was trying to put his record out of reach of others who were trying to best his mark.  He had already completed one run down the six-mile long lake and was on his way back when the fatal crash occurred.  He was traveling at an estimated 310 MPH when the right sponson rose from the water and the nose started to lift.  The boat then became airborne, somersaulted, exploded, then dove into the water and sank in a matter of seconds.  Boats rushed to the crash and frogmen hurriedly tried without success to locate his body in the 120-feet deep lake.  His body and the wreckage of "Bluebird" weren't recovered until 2001.  Only days before, the superstitious Campbell had a premonition of his impending death.  He was a son of the late Sir Malcolm Campbell, also a record-setting land and water speed racer in the 1930s.  He was survived by his wife, Tonia.  Donald Campbell had set the land speed record for wheel-driven cars of 403 MPH in 1964 until that record was eclipsed by the Summers Brothers streamliner in 1965.  A prolific speed record holder, he set seven world water speed records between 1955 and 1964 in K7.



"British speed king Campbell is killed," Lodi News-Sentinel, January 5, 1967

"Don Campbell dies when boat crashes in England,"Ogden Standard Examiner, January 4, 1967

"Noted speed ace crashes to death,"Lethbridge Herald, January 4, 1967

"Campbell meets death in speed boat crash,"Troy Record, January 5, 1967

"Campbell dead after boat crash,"Kokomo Tribune, January 4, 1967


http://lastingtribute.blogspot.com/2009_07_01_archive.html   (accessed 7/10/10)

"Achievement or disaster: Which is remembered best?" New York Times, December 2, 2005

http://ned.ronet.ru/0/Autosalon14.htm (accessed 7/10/10)

Find a Grave website  (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6001973)





Buzz Coats

Born:  July 17, 1933

Died:  July 17, 1967

Buried:  Glen Haven Memorial Park, Sylmar, California

Age:  34

Full Name:  William Lee Coats

Nickname:  "Buzz"

Location:  Ski Land, Perris, California


Accident Date:  July 16, 1967


Biographical:  He had been asked to try out a boat that someone was thinking of buying. He ended up racing against Jack Bradley for top eliminator in that boat when it flipped shortly after the start.  After rising out of the water three times, on the fourth time it catapulted Coats into the air.  His helmet smashed when he impacted the water.  He was transported to San Bernardino Hospital where he died the next day from his injuries.  He was the holder of the world record for flat-bottom, multiple-engine, unblown fuel drag boats at 132.24 MPH.  He lived in Mission Hills, California.


"Hydro racer badly hurt," Los Angeles Times, July 17, 1967

"Drag boat champ dies," Modesto Bee, July 17, 1967

"Boat driver dies of injuries," Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1967

Lori Coats Tanner, e-mail communication to site administrator, Apr. 13, 2018

California Death Index (Ancestry.com)


Jerry Gleason

Born:  March 6, 1936

Died:  February 22, 1969

Buried:  Memory Garden Memorial Park, Brea, California

Age:  31

Full Name:  Jerome Thomas Gleason


Location:  Long Beach Marine Stadium, California

Event:  World Drag Boat Championships

Accident Date:  February 22, 1969

Boat:  "Mr. Ed" hydroplane (owned by Ed Wills)

Biographical:  He was thrown from the cockpit of his hydroplane while traveling at an estimated speed of 130 MPH during a qualifying run.  The boat flipped three times.  The wind may have been a factor in the crash.  He was immediately transported to a hospital where he died two hours after the crash.  He was from Yorba Linda, California, and was divorced.  He was survived by his mother, Veronica Hawkins of El Monte, a sister, Miss Sharon Anderson, and a brother, James Gleason, of Glendora.  He had driven the boat to a world record of 190.26 MPH at Perris, California, in the previous month.  He had been elected to the Drag Boat Racing Hall of Fame just three weeks before.


"Boat champ Gleason killed at Long Beach," Los Angeles Times, February 23, 1969

"Services today for inboard driver," Long Beach Independent, February 26, 1969

"Rosary tonight for champion boat driver," Pasadena Star-News, February 25, 1969

"Fresnan tells of fatal boat crash," Fresno Bee Republican, February 24, 1969

"Hydroplane spill kills top driver," Oxnard Press-Courier, February 23, 1969

"Boat racer killed in flip," Quebec Chronicle-Telegram, February 24, 1969

California Death Index  (Jerome T. Gleason, born March 6, 1936 in Calif., died Feb. 22, 1969 in L.A., mother’s maiden name was Dwyer)

California Birth Index (Jerome Thomas Gleason, born Mar. 6, 1936 in L.A. Co., mother’s maiden name was Dwyer)


Gean Keen

Born:  May 27, 1928

Died:  May 11, 1968

Buried: Eternal Valley Memorial Park, Newhall, California

Age:  39

Full Name:  Harry Gean Keen


Location:  Lake Ming, near Bakersfield, California

Event:  Kern County Boat and Ski Club-sponsored Western Boat Drags

Accident Date:  May 11, 1968

Boat:  "Keen Machine II" unblown fuel flatbottom

Biographical:  He was traveling about 107 MPH during qualifying when his boat started planing and whipping.  It began flipping end over end and hurled Kenn into the air.  He died later that night after being transported to a Bakersfield hospital.  He was from Sepulveda, California, and was the first of two racers killed at the event.  He was trying to break his own record.


California Death Index:  Harry G. Keen, born May 27, 1928 in Calif., died May 11, 1968 in Kern Co., mother’s maiden name was Child

Social Security Death Index:  Harry Keen, born May 27, 1928, died May 1968, SS# issued in Calif. Before 1951

California Birth Index:  Harry Geam Keen, born May 27, 1928 in L.A. Co., mother’s maiden name was Child (his brother was William Roy Keen, born July 31, 1930 in L.A. Co.)

“Racing boats flip, kill two at Kern Lake,” Fresno Bee Republican, May 13, 1968

“Memorial Drags,” Fresno Bee Republican, June 23, 1968

http://boatracingfacts.com/forums/showthread.php?t=715  (accessed 3/7/11)


John Lawson

Born:  October 25, 1929

Died:  June 4, 1967


Age:  37

Full Name:  John Russell Lawson


Location:  South Thermalito Forebay, Oroville, California

Event:  NDBA-sanctioned Oroville Boat Club Spring Championship during Feather River Regatta Days

Accident Date:  ca. June 4, 1967

Boat:  "Cobra" hydroplane

Biographical:  He had been clocked at 173.91 MPH when the propeller shaft twisted off and the boat shot skyward.  He was killed instantly.  He was a television account executive, living in Paradise, California.


"Oroville, Clear Lake races due," Hayward Daily Review, June 23, 1967

"Speedboater killed," Salem Statesman Journal, June 6, 1967


Len Owen


Died:  October 8, 1962


Age:  49

Full Name:  Leonard Owen


Location:  Glenmaggie Reservoir, Australia

Event:  world water speed record attempt

Accident Date:  October 8, 1962

Boat:  "Hurricane III"

Biographical:  He was attempting to break the world 7-litre class hydroplane water speed record of 151 MPH.  He was timed at over 170 MPH during the first leg of his attempt.  On the return leg, his boat hit its own wash while traveling at about 150 MPH.  It rose thirty feet into the air and plunged into the water.  Owen was pulled from the water still conscious, but died in a hospital about an hour later.


"Sport shorts," Albuquerque Tribune, October 9, 1962

"Aussie killed in speed record try," Abilene Reporter News, October 11, 1962

"Australian killed in attempt to set new water speed record," Appleton Post Crescent, October 9, 1962

"Hydro boat pilot dies," Centralia Daily Chronicle, October 9, 1962

"Record try fatal for hydro ace," Hayward Daily Review, October 9, 1962

"Speedboat driver dies in crackup," Troy Times Record, October 9, 1962

"Aussie speed boat driver killed," Los Angeles Times,  October 9, 1962


http://www.vsbc.org.au/history2.html  (accessed 7/24/10)


Dudley Proctor


Died:  September 7, 1969


Age:  33

Full Name:  


Location:  Oxford Lake, Michigan

Event:  Blue Water Summer Dragboat Nationals

Accident Date:  September 7, 1969

Boat:  "White Mist" blown fuel Sanger flat bottom

Biographical:  He was driving a new boat that had just been brought back from California that week.  It was making its first drag run.  Unfortunately Proctor really got into it instead of breaking it in slowly.  His estimated speed was 105 MPH on that fatal run, but he went airborne and crashed after the finish.  He was taken to Pontiac General Hospital where he died about an hour after being retrieved from the water while on the operating table.  He had a ruptured liver.  He was from Westland, Michigan.


"Boat mishap kills racer," Benton Harbor News-Palladium, September 8, 1969

http://dragboatracing.com/Community/Forums/tabid/54/aft/41954/Default.aspx (accessed 7/25/10)

Randy Zeeman, e-mail communication to site administrator, Apr. 17, 2012


"The Long 'T'," Hot Rod Magazine, September 1960

Randy Zeeman, e-mail communication to site administrator, Apr. 16, 2012



Bob Stipp

Born:  October 30, 1932

Died:  May 12, 1968


Age:  35

Full Name:  Robert R. Stipp


Location:  Lake Ming, near Bakersfield, California

Event:  Kern County Boat and Ski Club-sponsored Western Boat Drags

Accident Date:  May 12, 1968

Boat:  hydro

Biographical: He was traveling at a speed of about 152 MPH when he lost control of his boat while making a qualifying run.  It was thought his throttle may have stuck.  When the boat overturned he was thrown more than 200 feet into the air.  He died shortly after being pulled from the water.  His was the second death in two days at the event.  He was from Buena Park, California.


“Racing boats flip, kill two at Kern Lake,” Fresno Bee Republican, May 13, 1968

“Memorial Drags,” Fresno Bee Republican, June 23, 1968

California Death Index:  Robert R. Stipp, b. Oct. 30, 1932 in Kansas, d. May 12, 1968 in Kern Co., mother’s maiden name was Kendrick

Social Security Death Index: Robert Stipp, born Oct. 30, 1932, died May 1968, SS# issued in Calif. Before 1951