Albert A. Tillman was one of the fathers of scuba training and
history. He co-founded a major sport scuba instruction programs
in the world, wrote many of the early instruction materials and
was a leader in several of the diving instruction associations
for over forty years.
Al Tillman was born in Los Angeles on January 16, 1928. At the
age of 10 on the beach at Palos Verdes, CA, he discovered the underwater
and quickly became a fanatic enthusiast. He also peered through
goggles at the bottom of a salt-water swimming pool in Redondo
Beach, California. These were experiences that would affect not
only his life, but that of thousands who would later take a course,
read a manual, see a film and visit a dedicated dive resort ...
all developed by Al Tillman.
His deep interest in the field of skin and scuba diving inspired
him to a leading position as an authority and organizer of many
fields of underwater activity.
He served in the U.S. Coast Guard at the end of World War II,
where he had the opportunity to dive in the South Pacific. While
stationed in Hawaii, Tillman continued his diving and completed
classes at the University of Hawaii.
In 1949, Tillman married his high school sweetheart, Ruth McIntyre.
Tillman earned a Bachelors Degree in Public Administration from
the University of Southern California (USC) (1950) and played football
Tillman became Director of Sports and Underwater Activities for
Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation in 1952.
In 1953, Al Tillman and Bev Morgan (L.A. County Lifeguard) took
a special diving course at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
in La Jolla, CA. Later, Bev Morgan became a commercial diver. Morgan
and Bob Kirby (a former U.S. Navy diver) formed a leading commercial
diving manufacturing company, Kirby Morgan Dive Systems, Inc. (www.divingsystems.com).
The diving course that Tillman and Morgan attended was developed
for diving scientists by Conrad Limbaugh and Andy Rechnitzer.
These two diving pioneers were both graduate students at Scripps.
Connie was Diving Officer at Scripps and Andy later earned his
Ph.D. from Scripps.
Tillman and Morgan returned to their work with L.A. County in
1953 and developed a new program to train diving instructors of
the newborn sport of scuba diving.
Al Tillman and Bev Morgan developed and launched the first sport
scuba diving instruction program in the world through the Los Angeles
County Department of Parks and Recreation in 1954.
Because of liabilities, L.A. County felt that it would be best
to have a separate non-profit organization to train the scuba diving
instructor. Tillman and Morgan were instrumental in the organization
of the Los Angeles Underwater Instructors Association (LAUIA) in
1955, which has trained hundreds of thousands of divers (www.lascuba.com).
This was the first sport scuba diving instruction in the U.S. Today,
LAUIA is considered one of the most rigorous diving instructor
programs in the world.
Tillman continued his education and earned a Master of Science
Degree in Physical Education from California State University,
Los Angeles (1956). He acquired 50 units toward a Doctorate of
Philosophy at USC (1957-1964). In addition, he also did graduate
work at Loyola Law School. Tillman was a Professor of Recreation
and Leisure Studies at California State University, Los Angeles
from 1956 through 1988.
Tillman became a Professor at California State University, Los
Angeles. He created the first university degree program in underwater
recreation and leisure studies and wrote the first college text
books in this area. Tillman was Faculty Advisor for the first college
scuba club at California State University, Los Angeles.
In 1956 Tillman was a Founder of the Underwater Photographic Society
(UPS) in Los Angeles.
Also in 1956, Tillman co-produced the first public diving instruction
film, Introduction To Skin Diving.
In 1957 he
co-founded the International Underwater Film Festival with his
diving friend, Zale Parry. Tillman and Parry
were Producers and Directors of the Film Festival in Santa Monica,
CA. Tillman and Zale Parry planned, organized and ran the Film
Festival for 12 years. This gala celebration was “the event
of the year” in diving for many years. The annual gala event
was similar to the Cannes Film Festival in France. Renowned underwater
photographers from around the world presented their work and were
recognized for their high levels of achievement at the International
Underwater Film Festival.
He was a Technical Advisor on the classic television series,
Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges.
Tillman co-authored with William Starr one of the earliest sport
diving books, Underwater Recreation, published by Los Angeles County.
During 1959, Tillman became Contributing Editor for Skin Diver
Magazine. He wrote numerous informative articles about scuba diving.
fellow Skin Diver Contributing Editor Neal Hess began development
of a new
international sport diving organization. The
two visionaries founded the National Association of Underwater
Instructors (NAUI) in 1960. He directed the first NAUI Instructor
Course in Houston, Texas, in 1960. Members of that first NAUI Instructor
Course is like reading a who’s who of sport diving.
as the first NAUI President and Executive Director. He had the
of being NAUI Instructor #0001. Tillman
was the President of NAUI for five years. He continued to serve
on NAUI’s Board of Directors for almost a decade and directed
NAUI Leadership Courses until the late 1980’s. Today, NAUI
is one of the largest diver training and certification organizations
in the world, with offices and training programs internationally
In 1960, Tillman conducted the first tri-certification instructor
class (YMCA/L.A. County/NAUI). He was also a Member of the YMCA
National Skin and SCUBA Committee for four years, and Pacific Coast
In 1957, Tillman recovered a 700-pound boulder of jade from a
cave 60 feet underwater at Big Sur. Tillman donated the huge jade
rock to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, where
it has been on exhibit ever since.
He authored the milestone early diving book Underwater Education
In 1962 Tillman
was named Manager of the Department of Public Affairs for Skin
Magazine. In this capacity, he wrote many
articles for the magazine. In 1962 Tillman took a sabbatical from
teaching at CalState University and moved to Freeport, Grand Bahama
Island. He was Founder, President, Designer and Executive Director
of the first dive resort, the Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO)
(www.unexso.com). This was the world’s first dedicated diving
resort. In 1969 Tillman sold UNEXSO and went back to teaching at
California State University, Los Angeles.
During 1970, Tillman looked for a new diving resort location on
Orcas Island in the Washington. He bought a farm in the Doe Bay
Area of Orcas Island.
He continued to teach in California part of the year and travel
for the diving industry.
Tillman wrote several books on diving, recreation, book collecting
and art. Tillman retired from California State University, Los
Angeles, in 1984, as an Emeriti Professor. He continued teaching
part time at the college level until 1995.
In 1992, Al Tillman and his wife Ruth moved to Anacortes, Washington.
This is on Fidalgo Island in the San Juan Islands (north of Seattle
and directly east of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Al and Ruth Tillman had two children, Laura and Thomas. After
55 years of marriage, Ruth died in 1994.
Al Tillman continued to work on his books and managed the Anacortes
Book and Paper Shows.
In 1998 Tillman
wrote and published an autobiography, I Thought I Saw Atlantis,
of a Pioneer Skin and Scuba Diver.
It is a personal account of recreational diving’s formative
Al Tillman and his son, Tom, established the Scuba America Historical
Center (www.divinghistory.com). He also traveled and lectured on
sport diving history.
Tillman wrote the History Of NAUI in 2000, which documents the
early diving instruction association
In January 2001, Al Tillman traveled to Grand Cayman Island to
be inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. Other
inaugural inductees were Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Hans Hass, Dr.
Sylvia Earle and Jack McKinney. Patricia McKinney was at the gala
event to accept the award for her late husband, the remarkable
underwater photographer and Editor of Skin Diver Magazine.
30 years, Al Tillman and Patricia McKinney renewed acquaintances … and
fell in love. In October 2001, Tillman married Patricia McKenney.
Following almost 25 years of research, in 2000 Zale Parry and
Al Tillman published the first volume of their long-awaited book,
Scuba America, The Human History Of Sport Diving. The two authors
and pioneering divers planned four-volumes of Scuba America, which
is about the 100 events and 100 great divers who formed the sport
of scuba diving.
During his long, distinguished career. Tillman was an accomplished
underwater photographer. He won numerous awards for his underwater
For his many
years of very productive dedication to diving, Al Tillman was
with many honors and awards: the NOGI Award
for Distinguished Service from the Underwater Society of America
(now presented by The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences)
(1964); Honored Photographer from the International Underwater
Film Festival (1968); Reaching Out Award and induction into the
DEMA Diving Hall of Fame (1990); the Los Angeles County Underwater
Instructor’s Association Outstanding Contribution Award (1994);
NAUI Lifetime Achievement Award (1998); induction into the International
Scuba Diving Hall of Fame in the Cayman Islands (2001); plus many
For 65 years, Al Tillman dedicated himself to sport diving.
Sadly, on January 16, 2004, Al Tillman passed away from a cerebral
hemorrhage. It was his 76th birthday.
and Al Tillman had been working on Volume 2 of Scuba America
since 2000. It
was Tillman’s wish that Zale Parry
continue their work and finish the book. She is following the request
son, Tom, is completing the non-diving book projects that his
From PIONEERS IN DIVING by Edward C. Cargile 2133 Sorrento
Drive Oceanside, CA 92056 Phone/Fax: (760) 722-1205 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2002 Edward C. Cargile All Rights Reserved No Reproduction
In Part Or Whole Without Prior Written Permission Of The Author.