George Robinson Swift (1887-1972) was a businessman and philanthropist who served briefly in the U.S. Senate after the death of John H. Bankhead II in 1946.
Swift was born in the community of Swift Post Office, in Baldwin County, on December 19, 1887, to Charles and Susan Roberts Swift; he was one of 13 children. The community was named for his father and his uncle Ira Swift, who represented the Southern States Lumber Company in the area. Around 1900, the couple moved the family to a large home on the Bon Secour River. Like his siblings, George attended a public school on the river that his parents built for their children and the children of mill workers. He then completed his secondary education at University Military School in Mobile. Upon graduating, he entered the University of Alabama, but dropped out to assist his older brother Robin in the family lumber business, which had relocated to Knoxo, Mississippi. In 1909, the brothers formed a partnership with the Hunter family of Mobile, purchased land in Atmore, and opened the Swift-Hunter Lumber Company there. The business which played an important role in the economic development of the area for 33 years.
In 1931, Robinson was elected as a Democrat to the Alabama House of Representatives. When his term was up, he ran successfully for a seat in the Alabama Senate. After his term was up in 1939, he returned to his family business. In 1943, he took on what would be his most important job in Alabama history when he was appointed state highway director by Gov. Chauncey Sparks. During his tenure, he almost singlehandedly formulated the state's peacetime roadbuilding program while the war was on. Under his capable direction the department was ready to begin new construction when Congress gave the green light when the war ended. In June 1946, while still highway director, Swift was appointed by Sparks to the finish out the term of U.S. Senator John H. Bankhead II who died in office. During his few months in office, Swift vigorously opposed price controls and defense spending in opposition to Alabama's other senator, the progressive Lister Hill.
At the end of his Senate term, Swift was again elected to the state senate, serving there until 1950 when a rift with the Gov. Gordon Persons administration caused him to leave politics. In 1955, Swift and his cousin purchased the lumber company from his brother and renamed it the Swift Lumber Company. After his retirement, Swift often chartered bus trips for children to visit the state capitol and other points of historic interest in Montgomery. Swift died on September 10, 1972, in New York City after a short illness and was buried in Atmore, Escambia County.
Note: This entry was adapted with permission from Alabama United States Senators by Elbert L. Watson (Huntsville, Ala: Strode Publishers, 1982)
Elbert L. Watson
Easley, South Carolina
Published November 9, 2010
Last updated July 18, 2011