Howard G. Swafford, 96, of Jasper Tennessee, died at his home on February 4, 2016.
He was the son of the late John A. Swafford and Ida Graham Swafford of Marion County, Tn.
At the age of 16 with all of his possessions in a brown paper bag and $75 in his pocket, Howard hitch-hiked to Knoxville, to enroll at the University of Tennessee. After paying tuition, he had $50 left for the rest of the year. He sought to find a place where he could work for his room and board. He found a room but no board.
At this point he appeared unannounced in the office of the football coach, General Neyland and asked if he could try out for the football team. Coach Neyland asked him where he had played high school football. When Howard responded that he had never played in an organized football game, the General impatiently asked him, “Why do you think you could play for the Tennessee Vols? Howard honestly responded, “I have $50 left for the rest of the year. But if I played football, I could get my three square meals a day at the training table.”
An impressed General Neyland sent him to the wrestling coach, along with a recommendation that Howard be a part of the wrestling team. Howard became Captain of the wrestling team, got his three square meals a day at the training table, and literally wrestled his way through college.
In 1942 at the outbreak of World War II, Howard was reported in the Knoxville News Sentinal to be the youngest student taken from the campus of the University of Tennessee for military service. Howard went to Naval Officer Candidate School becoming a naval aviator flying a Kingfisher catapulted off the USS South Dakota. As a combat pilot Lt. JG Swafford was extremely dependable and totally reckless and just what the War Department needed. Howard saw combat throughout the entire Pacific Campaign, including but not limited to Midway, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, and Okinawa.
Howard was in Tokyo Bay and personally observed the signing of the Peace Treaty between the United States and Japan. Had Harry S. Truman not had the character to use the bomb, Howard would have been the first wave in the Japanese mainland invasion where it was anticipated the death total would exceed 500,000 American soldiers. Howard’s children firmly believe if the war had not been brought to a conclusion by President Truman’s decision, they “probably” would not have been here today.
Howard’s fondest war memory was the Christmas card he received from the University of Tennessee with the quote “and to the Hill you will return.” And, he did return to the Hill after the war, attending law school thanks to the GI Bill.
After law school, Howard returned to Marion County, TN where he began practicing law with Judge John T. Raulston (the Judge at the Scopes Monkey Trial) and Sam Polk Raulston.
In 1947, Howard married Claude Galbreath of Greeneville, TN, an outspoken, un-edited law school classmate. They were married almost 70 years.
Howard was elected to the Tennessee Legislature in 1972, served as City Attorney, City Commissioner, Boy Scout leader, Member of the Tennessee Bar Association for over 70 years, and member of the Mountain City Club. Howard practiced law at all levels from the City Courts to the United States Supreme Court. He won his last jury trial at age 92.
He was instrumental in forming the South Pittsburg National Guard in 1950. All assumed there would be no more wars and that the National Guard would be a lot of safe fun. That was not the case and his National Guard unit was mobilized for the Korean War. Although Howard could have gotten out of the responsibility due to past combat service, he was of the opinion that “I talked these kids’ mothers into letting them join the National Guard and I’m not going to leave them now”. Howard was their commanding officer.
Howard is survived by his wife of almost 70 years, Claude Galbreath Swafford; a son, Howard Graham Swafford, Jr. (Sharon Carson), of Jasper, TN; a daughter, retired Magistrate Claudia Swafford Haltom (William Haltom) of Memphis, TN; grandchildren: H. Graham (Andrea) Swafford, III of Nashville, TN; Shelton Swafford (Patrick) Chambers of Chattanooga, TN; William H. Haltom, III, Nanjing, China, Kenneth G. Haltom, Boston, MA and Margaret Grace Haltom, Charlottesville, VA; great-grandchildren: Kennedy Marie Swafford and Howard Graham Swafford IV of Nashville, TN and Carson Mae Chambers and Lutealia Chambers of Chattanooga. Additionally, Vicki and Billy Dagnan were like family and loyal caregivers at the end of his life.
Howard’s funeral will be at 3 p.m., Feb. 7, at the First Baptist Church of Jasper. Visitation will begin at 1 p.m. prior to the service.
The family requests no flowers. Any contributions should be made to the First Baptist Church of Jasper, TN and/or the Family Life Center fund at McKendree Methodist Church of Jasper, TN and/or A Step Ahead Foundation of Memphis or of Chattanooga.
Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.rogersfuneralhome.com.