H.M. Patterson & Son-Spring Hill Chapel

1020 Spring Street Nw, Atlanta, GA


Robert Nash Higgins

July 7, 1933August 21, 2019

Robert Nash Higgins “Pete”, 86, of Atlanta, GA passed away on August 21, 2019, at Piedmont Hospital. He was the only child of Alfred Nash Higgins and Edith Haworth Higgins. He was born on July 7, 1933, in Tampa, FL. After growing up on Davis Island, in Tampa, he attended Hillsborough High School, and graduated from Sewanee Military Academy in Sewanee, TN. As an accomplished athlete he attended The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was a four-year letterman of the swim team and a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. After he received both a B.S. in Business Administration, and a Masters Degree in Education, he moved to Atlanta, GA to begin his 57 year career at The Westminster Schools. In addition to his career as a teacher and swim coach at The Westminster Schools he created the first year round swim team in GA, the Atlanta Swimming Association. He was the recipient of numerous national and state awards over the years, including National High School Federation National Coach of the Year twice and Georgia Athletic Coaches Association “Circle of Achievement” Award. He was a 57 year member of Trinity Presbyterian Church where he served as an usher and as an Elder. He was a Board member of the ALS Association of GA after his son’s diagnosis of ALS. Pete is survived by Nell Furgason Higgins, his loving wife of 63 years, daughter Blynn Higgins Masters, her husband George William Masters; grandchildren Steely Marie Masters, Hadley Mayer Masters, Robert Carter Higgins, Kathleen Elizabeth Higgins; and predeceased by his son Robert Nash Higgins, Jr.; his sister-in-law Jo Ann Uptmor, brother-in-law Weldon Uptmor (deceased), her children Anne Harper Slaughter, and Russell Harper, and brother-in-law Samuel L. Furgason, Jr., Joanne V. Furgason. The family wishes to express profound gratitude to our wonderful caregivers for all their support, especially Ellen Alston, Adelaide White, Harriett Ebanks Thorpe, and Ima Johnson. Memorial service will be held at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3003 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30327 on August 29, at 1:00pm. A reception will follow. Visitation is August 28, from 4:00-6:00pm at H.M. Patterson & Son– Spring Hill, 1020 Spring St. NW Atlanta, GA 30309. In lieu of flowers family suggests donations to: ALS Association of GA, Trinity Presbyterian Church or The Westminster Schools swim program.


  • Visitation Wednesday, August 28, 2019
  • Memorial Service Thursday, August 29, 2019


Robert Nash Higgins

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David Harrison

August 29, 2019

I started swimming under Pete in about 1960 I believe. Then it was AISA which morphed into ASA. The most notable memory I have is in 1966 when Pete arranged for me and a handful of other swimmers from other schools to workout early in the morning before school and in the afternoon after school. Pete, of course, was the Westminster swim coach during the normal school year but that year he was the coach for numerous other swimmers from other schools that didn't have a swim program. Pete's sacrifice that year made it possible for me and others to reach goals and accomplishments that would not have been possible without his commitment. I am forever grateful to Pete for his commitment to his swimmers and their accomplishments. Pete was always encouraging and supportive and he never doubted one's ability to achieve if they would put in the work.

Joanne Furgason

August 28, 2019

Dear Nell, Blynn and family,
Truly sad news to learn of Pete’s passing. You are in our thoughts and prayers during this time. He was a legend in the swimming world and know his presence will be missed by many. Take care and we’ll talk soon. Love, Joanne

Jeff Dash

August 28, 2019

Coach Higgins will always be an incredible man. He will always be the person who believed in you. It didn't matter if you were the swimmer who was just trying to swim to the other end of the pool without standing on the bottom or you were the swimmer who was going for a national high school record. Coach would believe that you could do it. Coach touched so many lives weather it was coaching at Cherokee during the summer or Westminster during the winter he was always there making sure the kids were having fun learning the life skill of swimming.

I will always remember getting to practice or meets early, sitting on the pool deck while coach was upstairs in his office above the 3 meter spring board working away on his computer. Then when it was time to warm up he would walk out of his office and yell out warm up as he was walking down the spiral staircase.

Another fun story of Coach was 8th grad PE when we had our swimming and diving section. On the days where we knew what was for lunch (chicken sandwiches or pizza) and our PE class happened to be right before lunch the lunch period, my class mates would have me go up to coaches office and ask if we could leave early for lunch. He would usually swivel away from his computer in his green chair, lean back with his hands around his stomach and then with a big smile on his face would say "Ok Jeff, just have them do 10 laps in the pool and 5 front dives and 5 back dives and then you can leave. " Well I did all the swimming and then miraculously the rest of my class fished on the same lap as I did.... I guess my class had a lot of really good swimmers in it. We would do all our dives and then head to lunch and funny enough Coach had beaten us to the cafeteria.

We all loved Coach for so many reasons and he will be missed.

Hall Brodie

August 26, 2019

Pete, like with so many other of his swim families, played a major role in our daughter's life. The year before Layne was eligible to swim varsity she broke her foot and became very discouraged about continuing her swimming. My wife Brenda, a huge Pete admirer, suggested that Layne go spend a few minutes with Pete to seek his advice - several hours later, Layne came out and announced that she was playing water polo while her foot healed and would receive coaching from Pete during that time and as they say, the rest is history! Layne eventually became the only female to win the same event (breaststroke) 4 years in a row and was recently inducted into the Westminster HOF and UNC's Circle of Champions. Our family has lost one of its own - Pete was always there for us and loved our daughter like his own - he will be greatly missed.
P.S. On a funny note, I remember a State meet where a new coach (who did not know Georgia swimming) for a team competing in the relay, came over after finishing ahead of Pete's team in the preliminaries and wished him luck in the final not knowing that Pete's studs had sat out the prelims. Pete graciously thanked him and, as he walked away, just shook his head and laughed. Westminster won the event going away and the legend of Pete grew another notch!!

Rick Farber

August 25, 2019

Pete was my coach from 1960 to 1963. He was responsible for getting into USC with an athletic ride. Today I talked with Charlie Krepp, Pete's predecessor and my Godfather, about all of those memories, special people, fun, and success that Pete brought to us. There are not enough words to tell all of you the profound influence Pete has had on my blessed life.

Martha Gray Herb

August 25, 2019

Coach Pete Higgins, through his leadership, guidance and swim coaching, mentored me as a person and a swimmer that permeated my entire adult life. As a swimmer, Pete provided that "push" to be the best swimmer I could be and to never quit - no matter what. He taught me to "finish" the race - both the good races and the bad races. …..and then figure out how to be better the next time. During those high schools years, he walked through the difficult times with every swimmer on the team - even when life threw unexpected curve balls.

My swimming experience with Pete prepared me for countless opportunities throughout my life - opportunities that required a "can do" attitude and a belief that you never "quit". I will always be grateful for Pete's support and encouragement to attend Westminster - a pivotal change in my educational history and life's adventures that would come.

Like so many, I have great "Pete stories". Bottom line - Pete made a difference in so many lives and he created life memories for us all. Even now, I still swim for relaxation and enjoyment - and with each stroke, I am thankful for all that I learned from Pete.

Dean Hanlon

August 23, 2019

I swam for Pete Higgins from 1985-1998.

Not only did I have the good fortune of swimming for Westminster’s most decorated athletic coach & his legendary program, I also was lucky enough to be introduced to competitive swimming and team sports by Pete as a swimmer for the Cherokee Town & Country Club summer team.

Working with the same coach for 13 years is not something that many amateur athletes have the opportunity to do. Working with a coach of Pete’s personal and professional caliber for 13 years is something I regard as one of my life’s great privileges.

Nothing felt better than Pete’s words of approval after a set, a practice, a race or a season. Not because he was overly sparing with those words but because I knew how well he knew me, the situation, the race – and I must have met or exceeded the goals he had in mind for me that day.

I have started swimming again in the last several years after a 15-year break. Whenever I tell non-swimmers that I swim 80+ laps in a session, they always comment on how boring it must be – no scenery, no music or TV to distract you as you churn through yards. But I crave it. When I’m in the pool, I am focused and driven – even with middling yardage and times, I’m always pushing myself to get better. I stare at the black line and touch the walls. I hear the water, I hear my breathing and the creaks and groans of an older body, and I still hear Pete.

Thank you, Pete.

Rick Creed

August 23, 2019

Pete instilled in everyone that was fortunate enough to cross his path to stand up and make a difference! He would give the shirt off of his back to help anyone in need. He was an incredible mentor, educator, and coach. When Pete spoke, everyone listened! Pete brought credibility to the sport of swimming in Georgia! He was a man of great integrity and he was great role model. He was revered by his swimmers, students, and all of the coaches and educators that knew him. Thank you Pete for instilling in all of us that if you work hard enough, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!!! Rest in peace my good friend!!!!!

Richard Harrison

August 23, 2019

I swam for Pete from the age of twelve until I went to college on a swimming scholarship. “The Big Red Bear” was an inspiration in so many ways and his impression on me is everlasting. I have so many “Pete Stories”; but, any who knew him have stories, too.
This is certainly the end of an era. Love ‘ya, Coach.

Robert Nash

August 22, 2019

Pete was a fine man and we worked on a number of events for the swim team during my 45 years at Westminster. So many people did not know his name was Robert Nash Higgins and my name, Robert Lamar Nash. We would laugh and say that we were brothers. Often he would get my mail and I would get his mail. The last time I saw saw him was in May, at a luncheon for retirees at Westminster. I don't think anyone from back in the day, can say the name, Westminster, without thinking of Pete Higgins, especially when it come to the swim teams. He will be missed by so many. RIP