Bill Craig, Olympic swimmer and Hoover High grad, dies at 71

Bill Craig, Olympic swimmer and Hoover High grad, dies at 71
Bill Craig, pictured with son Christian and wife Patty, was founder of Billy’s at the Beach restaurant in Newport Beach. He died Sunday at age 71. (Courtesy of Patty Craig)

Bill Craig, a Hoover High School graduate who won a gold medal as part of the U.S. world-record setting 400-meter medley relay swim team at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, has died.

The 71-year-old passed away from complications related to pneumonia, according to his family.


Craig and Rich McGeagh spearheaded Hoover's run to the 1962 CIF championship in boys' swimming, considered by some as the best program in the country. Craig graduated from Hoover in 1962.

The longtime Newport Beach resident was founder of Billy's at the Beach, a Hawaiian-themed restaurant in Newport Beach.

Inspired by his love of Hawaiian culture, Craig founded Billy's along Mariners' Mile in 1993. It was an immediate success, said Craig's wife, Patty.

"He made everyone feel very welcomed," she said. "People continue to say how good it feels to go in there. You kick off your shoes and you're at home — a very relaxed feeling."

In 1993, a restaurant reviewer from the Los Angeles Times called Billy's "a throwback to those carefree '70s (or '60s, or maybe even '50s), and is this joint jumpin'! Take your nostalgia pill before you visit."

The review said Craig is "generally seen lounging in a corner of the bar or traipsing around the dining room in a Hawaiian shirt, schmoozing it up like a mainland edition of Don Ho."

In addition to his wife, Bill Craig is survived by his sons, Rick and Christian, daughter, Kimber, daughter-in-law, Kendra, and two grandchildren.

A private celebration of life is planned.


Bradley Zint,

Twitter: @BradleyZint