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John Burley Swainson

Gov. John Burley Swainson

  • January 2, 1961 - January 1, 1963
  • Democratic
  • July 31, 1925
  • May 13, 1994
  • Other
  • Olivet College; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Married Alice Nielsen; two children
  • Army
  • Presidential Unit Citation, Purple Heart, Croix de Guerre (France)


JOHN B. SWAINSON, the forty-second governor of Michigan, was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada on July 31, 1925. When Swainson was two years of age, he came to the United States with his family and settled in Port Huron, Michigan. His early education was attained in the public schools of Michigan, and later at the Olivet College, where he graduated in 1947, and then he attended the University of North Carolina, where he earned his law degree in 1951. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army with the 95th Infantry Division, and was severely wounded in a land mine explosion, loosing both of his legs. Swainson entered politics in 1954, serving as a number of the Michigan State Senate, a position he held until 1958. He also served as the lieutenant governor of Michigan from 1958 to 1961. Swainson next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote on November 8, 1960. During his tenure, a tax was secured on the usage of telegraphs, telephones, and leased wires; court procedures were improved; and legislative pensions were excluded from both local and state taxes. Also, medical care for the elderly was advanced; and taxes on liquor, beer and cigarettes were raised to fund educational programs. After running unsuccessfully for reelection, Swainson left office on January 1, 1963. From 1965 to 1971 he served on the bench of the Michigan Circuit Court. He also served as a justice of the Michigan State Supreme Court from 1971 to 1975. Swainson was charged in 1975, of accepting a bribe, but was found not guilty. However, he was found guilty of perjury. He was sentenced to 60 days in a minimum-security facility and temporarily lost his law license. Governor John B. Swainson passed away on May 13, 1994, and was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Manchester, Michigan.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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