SWANN, Jr., James P.
James P. Swann, Jr of Atlanta, GA passed away on November 16, 2020 at the age of 96. Born on November 8, 1924 as the only child of James P. Swann, Sr. and Grace Whatley Swann, JP was a proud native Atlantan who battled through The Great Depression to succeed in all aspects of his life. JP was a labor lawyer extraordinaire, husband, father, public servant, athlete, friend, published author, master craftsman and last but not least a proud grandfather.
Growing up in the Morningside area of Atlanta, JP attended and was one of the last living graduates (1943) of Boys High. Upon graduation from Boys High, JP attended Georgia Tech which has long been a dark family secret. While at Georgia Tech, JP felt the calling of his country to serve and was accepted into the Army Specialized Training Corp and inducted into the Army later in 1943. After basic training at Ft. Benning, JP completed specialized training in Corvallis OR, Monmouth NJ and Honolulu HI. JP became a member of 3181st Signal Service Battalion as a 1st Lt. and subsequently part of the 10th Army.
In April of 1945 JP participated in the invasion of Okinawa where he was charged with establishing wire and cable lines to facilitate communications between Army commands. JP's service did not end after WWII as he was sent to Korea to further serve his country. He was Honorably Discharged from the Army in March of 1946 and was awarded the America Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal with a Bronze Star.
Soon after his military discharge JP enrolled at the University of Georgia making amends for his brief matriculation at the North Avenue Trade School. At UGA, JP excelled in all aspects of campus life, academically, socially and athletically. While earning business and law degrees, JP was Commander (President) of Sigma Nu fraternity and did his best Charlie Trippi impression in quarterbacking the football team to the intramural championship and the all-sports trophy in 1948. After receiving a law degree from UGA in 1950, JP accepted a position with the FBI at an annual salary of $5000 (less a six cent deduction for retirement purposes). His career in the FBI spanned for six years with assignments in Springfield, IL and New York City. In New York, JP was assigned to the Communist Squad for Counter Intelligence where the team tracked the activities of known communists and spies. While in New York, JP met native New Yorker Eleanor Sexton who was attending the Fordham School of Law. They married in St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1955 and stayed married for nearly 65 years until Eleanor's passing in February of 2020. JP missed her dearly along with their son James P. Swann, III (Jay) who passed away in 1987.
JP longed to return to his hometown and left the FBI in 1956 with Eleanor to start a family. His initial job was as Corporate Secretary of a printing company for several years but felt the calling to put his law degree to work. In 1959, JP accepted a position with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) where he honed his craft as a trial attorney exposing unfair union trade practices. After several years JP entered private practice and joined the law firm of Wilson, Branch, Barwick and Vandiver becoming a partner in 1966. In 1970, JP left with senior partner John Branch to form Branch & Swann which practiced for over 15 years. JP was known as a labor law pioneer throughout Atlanta and a fierce advocate of management and educating its employees on the zero sum proposition offered by labor unions. Some of his major clients included The Southern Company, GE, Coca-Cola, Hilton Hotels, Avon and Equifax. In 1985, seeking a lighter workload, JP became "Of Counsel" for Arnold and Anderson and its successor firms and later "Of Counsel" with Ogletree Deakins until fully stepping away in 2009.
Starting in the mid-80s JP's attention turned toward world travel with Eleanor, extended trips to their second home in Hilton Head, making furniture and playing tennis and golf at the Atlanta Athletic Club where he was a proud 50+ year member. JP reset his goals and was never bored whether he was building a chair, cabinet or table, playing in tennis tournaments throughout the Southeast or hassling the local tax assessors office with 10 page briefs challenging his annual property tax assessment. With the additional time, JP's tennis game flourished with multiple senior tournament victories as a highly state ranked player in the late 80's and into the mid 90's. In 1988, JP won the GA State Open men's 60 doubles, was finalist on the GA State Open 60 singles and finalist in the State Indoors 60 doubles. Success continued in 1989 as the men's 65 doubles finalist in both the Atlanta City and GA State Opens. JP teamed with his wife Eleanor to win multiple senior mixed doubles titles including the 1995 Southern 65 mixed championship. In 1996, JP achieved the #2 ranking in the State of Georgia 70 singles trailing only the Greatest Bulldog, Dan Magill. At the turn of the century JP's attention turned to golf at the Atlanta Athletic Club where he enjoyed his association with the Duffers and Sunday afternoon rounds with Eleanor. JP will be very much missed by his friends at the AAC.
James P. Swann, Jr. led a full life, one of principle, balance and accountability. He didn't believe in enabling or entitlements but earning your way through life. He was a Republican through and through but did wonder what happened to the quasi-reasonable Southern Democrat, though he never voted for one. JP died a rich man in that there was nothing else he could ever want or need, we should all be so lucky.
Survivors include his son Tony Swann (Lara) and daughter Eleanor Tillman (Matt) and five grandchildren, Nicolas Tillman, Grant Tillman, Zoë Tillman, James P. Swann, IV and Cameron Swann. The family will have a private graveside service on Friday November 20th. We hope to have a larger open service at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in the honor James P. Swann, Jr., to the Bobby Dodd Institute, 2120 Marietta Blvd. Atlanta GA 30318, bobbydodd.org