Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame: Richard P. Shearman

Richard P. Shearman
Richard P. Shearman

Richard P. Shearman is the third Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame inductee to have won an Olympic Gold Medal. Shearman, who won his prize as the manager of the 1952 USA Speed Skating Team at the 1952 Oslo games, joins Jenn Suhr, winner of the pole vault at the 2012 London games, and Tara VanDerveer, coach of the USA women’s basketball team at the 1996 Atlanta games, as Olympic Gold Medalists in the CSHOF.

Shearman was born in Jamestown in 1902 and lived in that city until 1955. Richard, who was better known as Dick or “Handlebars” because of his prominent, flowing, well-manicured mustache, was the secretary and plant manager of Shearman Brothers Company. The manufacturers of upholstered furniture, Shearman Brothers, was founded by his grandfather, Rufus, and Rufus’ brother, Addison Shearman, in 1880. Dick’s father, Frank, purchased controlling interest in 1912. The firm later bought Maddox Table Company.

Shearman’s sports interests were many and varied encompassing sailing, skating, baseball, football and bobsledding. For many years he was an avid supporter and booster of the Jamestown Falcons baseball team in the PONY League. He was also a prime mover in the St. Bonaventure Football Boosters Club.

He was an accomplished sailor with the Chautauqua Lake Yacht Club, winning several regattas with his boats Idler II and Idler IV, and serving as Commodore in 1941. Expanding beyond the shores of Chautauqua Lake, he was President of the Central New York Yacht Racing Association in 1947 and Commodore of the New York State Snipe Racing Association in 1949. Also active with the Class E Scow Association, he was its President in 1949 and its Commodore in 1951.

Shearman became involved with local speed skating in the 1940s. He was named to the Western New York Committee of the American Skating Union in 1945. He rose through the ranks of the American Skating Union, serving in a number of positions before being elected as its President in 1952 and being reelected the following year.

He was named manager of the 1952 USA Speed Skating Team that accompanied Coach Lamar Ottsen and six athletes to the Oslo, Norway games. Americans Ken Henry and Don McDermott finished one-two in the 500-meter race.

In 1955, Shearman raised $25,000 to send a three-skater contingent, a trainer and himself to Moscow for the World Games.

After selling his interest in the family furniture business in 1955, Shearman moved to Lake Placid, NY, opened a restaurant called “Handlebars” and took up bobsledding as a hobby. His proficiency in the sport increased to the point where he was named an alternate for the USA Bobsled Team at the 1958 World Championships in Germany.

He was named Chairman of the National American Athletic Union Bobsled Committee in 1958 and served as an official at the 1969 World Bobsled Championships at Lake Placid in 1969.

Shearman died June 8, 1971 in Lake Placid. He is buried in the family plot at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Jamestown.