Diving into success at the Huey P. Long Field House: the story of Benjamin W. Wax, Sr.

The LSU College of Human Sciences & Education is proud to present the story of Benjamin W. Wax, Sr., an outstanding LSU athlete who was involved in LSU swimming and diving, track and field, and football. Wax was active in participating in swimming and diving meets at the Huey P. Long Field House pool.

The attached photos and story of Benjamin W. Wax, Sr., were provided by his son, Ben Wax, Jr.

Ben Wax at the Field House

Ben Wax Diving at Field House

 Ben Wax on LSU Football team
Ben Wax in the Daily Reveille

Ben Wax and LSU Diving Team


"Ben Sr. attended LSU from 1936 -1940 shortly after the Huey P. Long Pool and Field House were opened in 1932. It was at the Huey Long Pool that he competed during the first dual-swim meet on February 25, 1939, against Georgia Tech, also marking LSU’s entry into the SEC.

Benjamin W. Wax was known to everybody, including his mother, as 'BW.'  While at Baton Rouge High, he was a standout athlete competing in Varsity Football, Track & Field, and Swimming & Diving.  He shattered the State Mile Swim record as a member of Boy Scout Troop No. 30 in the State AAU meet.  During his senior year, he received as many as 28 scholarship offers from various Southeastern Universities, but LSU won out.

BW was on the LSU football team for two years under Coach Bernie Moore; but at 5’9” tall, 155 lbs., he was a bit small to play with the 'big boys' in the SEC. He settled on Track & Field, in addition to Swimming and Diving. He became the SEC Diving Champion in 1938 & 1939 and first runner up in 1940 under coach W. G. “Hickey” Higginbotham, who had also been his coach at Baton Rouge High. In 1940, he was invited to complete in the Olympic Diving trials; however, WWII cancelled the Berlin Game. As most young men of that time, he also participated in the LSU ROTC Corps of Cadets.

Later, military training took BW into Normandy on D-Day with the 101st, 501st Paratrooper Infantry Regiment, eventually earning a Bronze Star. After the war, he returned to his hometown to resume teaching and coaching at Baton Rouge High. Additionally, he and his wife, Polly, started Boys Academy off of Jefferson Hwy., and developed a successful afterschool and summer program. One of their campers, Bob Pettit, later became an LSU and NBA basketball standout.

BW’s dream was to open a residential camp.  He and Polly searched the southeast for property and settled on Western North Carolina. They purchased 'Little Scaly Mountain' in Highlands, North Carolina, and started Camp Highlander for Boys, a residential summer camp. Many of his campers from Baton Rouge and the New Orleans area attended. Additional campers flocked from neighboring states to the to make Camp Highlander one of the premier summer camps in the Southeast. 

Sadly, BW passed away at age 46 of cancer.  He was survived by his wife Polly Wax, his 16-year-old daughter Ann Wax, and son, “Little” Ben Wax Jr., age 6.  Both children were born in Baton Rouge and delivered by Dr. Julius Mullins, Sr., another Baton Rouge High and LSU graduate. Fate would have it that Ben Jr.’s first child was also delivered by Dr. Mullins in 1983. Ann still lives in Highlands, but Ben Wax, Jr., lives in Asheville, North Carolina. He still owns the family’s long standing season tickets in Tiger Stadium as an avid Tiger Fan! Geaux Tigers!"

- Ben Wax, Jr.