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 Claude Augustus Swanson

Claude Augustus Swanson

Birth
Swansonville, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, USA
Death 7 Jul 1939 (aged 77)
Criglersville, Madison County, Virginia, USA
Burial Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 23257 · View Source
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US Congressman, US Senator. He was a successful Democrat politician from the State of Virginia who served in several offices during his lifetime. His Swedish ancestor came to Virginia in the 1600’s, and the family, generation after generation, did fairly-well owning tobacco plantations with slaves, lumber business, a wholesale grocery and farmer's supply business. In 1876, tobacco prices dropped to an all-time low causing him to start teaching school at the age of sixteen. He was the son of John Muse Swanson and his wife Catherine Rebecca Pritchett, and he had siblings to live to adulthood. Swanson's charm, energy, and public speaking skills led four Danville Methodist laymen to lend him funds to attend Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. His public speaking skills won him many debate prizes, and he edited the college as well as two city newspapers. He married Elizabeth Deane Lyons on December 11, 1894 in the District of Columbia. She died on July 13, 1920. He married her widowed sister, Lulie Lyons Hall three years later, and she survived him. He had met the sister while studying at Randolph Macon Academy, as their widowed mother managed a nearby boarding house to support her family. After graduating from Randolph-Macon in 1885, he received a law degree from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1886, and then opened a quickly lucrative law practice in Chatham, Pittsylvania County's seat. The Democratic Party had their eye on him for years before encouraging him to enter politics. He won his first public office election in 1892, a seat in the U.S. Congress representing Virginia's 5th congressional district, which he would serve seven terms from 1893 until 1906. While in Congress, he supported free rural mail, federal aid to rural banks, graduated federal income taxes, reduction of federal excise taxes, and direct election of U.S senators. In 1903 he purchased the 1830s-era plantation Eldon, a few miles from Chatham; became active in real estate, and his family’s businesses were recovering. In 1901, he attempted to run for the office of Governor of Virginia, but lost. In 1905, he defeated Republican Lunsford L. Lewis by a nearly 2 to 1 margin for the office of 45th Governor of Virginia serving from 1906 to 1910. During his term, he built roads, schools, a tuberculosis sanatorium, reorganizing the state Board of Health, and establishing a Board of Charities and Corrections, which later became the Department of Public Welfare. Being on the State Board of Education, he appointed many more capable school superintendents of schools, increased the pay for teachers, but African American schools received far fewer funds. With the death of Senator John Daniels in 1910, he was appointed by the governor to serve Daniels’ remaining terms, which ended March 3, 1917. While senator, he supported the League of Nations and expansion of the Norfolk Naval Base, but opposed women's suffrage. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he served as Secretary of the Navy from 1933 until his death, which was only two months from the start of World War II. As Naval Secretary, Swanson passage of the largest U.S. peacetime naval appropriation to date and without knowing, helped prepare the nation for a war. In the city of Arlington, a middle school was named in his honor, the U.S. Navy named a destroyer USS Swanson (DD-443) for him, and a county in Oklahoma was named for him, but that name has since changed.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 23 Jul 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 23257
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Claude Augustus Swanson (31 Mar 1862–7 Jul 1939), Find A Grave Memorial no. 23257, citing Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .