During the summer of 1897, Salt Lakers were entertained and thrilled with the amazing acrobatics and daring feats of Kearney P. Speedy, the “Champion High Diver of the Universe.” He performed the most daring act of a headlong plunge from an 80 ft. tall tower into a tank containing only 3 ft. of water.
He performed two shows nightly at Saltair for two weeks. Also performing was Achille Phillion, the famous equilibrist.
Speedy grew up in Missouri and began his public career by jumping heard first from the St. Louis Bridge as a young man. He was born in 1875 as Kearney Parsons Speedy to his father Cal and mother Elnora Speedy. He was the middle child of three surviving sons. His father and brothers were not performers like Kearney but they were all respected local businessmen.
According to Speedy, the secret to a successful high dive is to "…maintain the perpendicular… The high diver, as you have seen, makes a clear dive, head first, just as a boy does from a springboard in swimming. I do it in very shallow water…. The shallow dive is possible from the same principle that a cannon or a rifle shot meets the most resistance the more powerful the impact. You see, I give my body and head a slight inclination upward at the instant I strike the water, which causes me to pop out as a board would do or an oar on the feather."
By 1918, Speedy has mostly retired. He had toured the United States for more than 20 years jumping from towers, bridges, and hot air balloons. In 1907 he performed in Africa and India and was the headliner attraction in England. In Africa he was presented with 65 two-carat diamonds for his performance for a diamond mine.
In 1921, Speedy broke another world sport record by diving 186½ feet into 4½ feet of water and according to newspaper reports "did not get his back wet."
Most of his dives had been mostly injury free but by 1918 he had broken his leg and had a scar above one eye which was blinded as a result of a miscalculation of distance.
It is not known what happened to Speedy after 1930. He was listed in the 1930 census as being a ward of the Kings Park State Hospital psychiatric hospital in New York. He and his wife, Nellie, never had children and she died prior to his hospitalization.