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James Mack Swigert

James Mack Swigert Obituary
WALNUT HILLS - James Mack Swigert, a labor-law icon who helped draft the Taft-Hartley Act in the 1940s and went to his downtown law office every day past his 100th birthday, died April 15 of natural causes at his home.

He was 103.

For decades, Mr. Swigert was a constant presence along downtown streets, starting his day with breakfast at the Queen City Club, followed by a stint at the offices of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, always wearing his trademark suit and tie.

"He was very much as people saw him. He was so loving, steady and reliable," said his daughter Sally Hamilton of New York City. "I think my Dad always had the perspective of a younger man."

For more than a decade, Mr. Swigert's companion was his grandson, Andrew Hamilton, who lives in Walnut Hills across the street from Mr. Swigert's home.

They had dinner together nearly every night, most weeknights at either the Queen City Club or Cincinnati Country Club, and Sunday nights at home with a Stouffer's frozen dinner.

At the Queen City Club, Mr. Swigert's name is literally attached to his regular table, where he ate grapefruit, cereal and toast with a particular British marmalade every morning.

"He was very consistent as a person from day to day," Andrew Hamilton said. "If you knew the day of the week and what time it was, you pretty much knew where he was and what he was doing."

Mr. Swigert is best known for helping U.S. Senate Majority Leader Robert Taft draft amendments to the Wagner Act, the 1935 law protecting union bargaining rights.

Those changes, including the rights of workers to stay out of unions and the government's ability to end strikes for national security, eventually became the core of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

"I guess I was helpful in giving suggestions to the senator, but it was his bill," Mr. Swigert told The Enquirer in 2000.

Thomas Terp, managing partner at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, said Mr. Swigert's work impacted workers and companies across the country.

He was managing partner of the firm from 1979 to 1985, when he retired.

"Everything he did, he did with the highest degree of integrity," Terp said. "He wasn't one to shout or carry on, but there was never any mistake about where he was coming from or where he was going."

Often Mr. Swigert was going to play golf at the Cincinnati Country Club. Terp said he played quickly.

"Frequently he would play by himself so he could play quickly," Terp said.

Sally Hamilton remembered her father as a tennis player before he took up golf. She said he once won a doubles tournament with his partner, a teenage Tony Trabert, the Cincinnatian who became the world's top-ranked player.

Born in Carthage, Ill., Mr. Swigert grew up in Iowa and attended Grinnell College. He transferred to Harvard College and graduated in 1930, before he earned a law degree at Harvard Law School.

In the depths of the Great Depression, Mr. Swigert and his wife, Alice, lived in Chicago for several years before earning the job at Taft.

In the late 1920s Mr. Swigert traveled to China on a freighter and later did his college thesis on the Manchurian Railway, his daughter said.

He flew on an early commercial flight in China, and in his 90s he flew on the Concorde to London.

"He was always interested in new things," she said.

Sally Hamilton said Mr. Swigert was always well-dressed, with the best shoes and business suits made around the world.

"It wasn't flash," she said. "It was just right."

In addition to his daughter and grandson, survivors include a son, David Swigert of Fort Collins, Colo., four other grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Alice Swigert; son Oliver Swigert and granddaughter Libby Swigert.

The family has scheduled a private visitation, then funeral services for 1 p.m. Friday at Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church, 5950 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge. Burial will follow at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Memorials: Lighthouse Youth Services, 401 E. McMillan St., Cincinnati, OH 45206; or the ALS Association Development Department, 27001 Agoura Road, Suite 250, Calabasas Hills, Calif. 91301.

Written by Cliff Peale | [email protected]
Published in The Cincinnati Enquirer from Apr. 20 to Apr. 21, 2011
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