Excerpts of this essay have been published at Communities Digital News.
For Father’s Day I thought I should write about my dad, R. George Swift, Jr. He was born in 1928 in Illinois. He lied about his age to join the Marines at age 17 during WWII, rose to rank of 2nd Lieutenant, and was disappointed that he was never deployed. He explained that he “never fired a shot in anger.” He revered the soldiers who did fight in that epic battle and always felt inferior to those who fought and died for freedom.
His patriotism and love of country was an inspiring thing. He had a love for music and would sometimes choke up when singing the National Anthem, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Amazing Grace, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, and God Bless America. He loved America beyond mere words.
“Swifty” was the most positive, encouraging man I ever knew. His signature line whenever anyone dropped by or called him up on the phone was “what can I do to help?” He taught his daughters the importance of daily acts of helpfulness as well as regular civic duty.
Before I was born, my father and mother were living near Houston, Texas. My father told me that in the summer of 1963 he marched across a bridge in Galveston, Texas linking arms with supporters of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. My father said they marched together, arm in arm, across that bridge while the Texas national guardsmen trained rifles on them all. My father was a white man and a Republican.
My father told me that it was very important for him to march that day as a white man marching together with many blacks. He believed that all men, regardless of color, should have the same opportunities.
At that time, more than 100 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Southern Democrats still insisted on racial segregation in society. My father knew that segregation was not only legally wrong, it was also morally wrong, just as slavery was wrong. We are all one human race.
Years later he related his beliefs. Because I was perhaps 7 or 8, he used a simple illustration that today’s “woke” social justice warrior crowd would call racist. He explained that people are like Oreo cookies — all white on the inside. It wasn’t a reference to racial color but rather an attempt to explain to a little girl the taste or the character of the good stuff inside everyone.
I understood it as he meant it, that all people are the same on the inside. And that was why he marched that day to witness to that truth; that we are all part of one human race; that just like God loves the colors of the rainbow and made all the flowers in the field, He made people in all sorts of skin tones, too. Those skin tones give glory to God and should not be used to divide or deny some people opportunities in school or job or life.
He was active in local politics. He explained how important it was to vote in every election. He explained that voting is a solemn duty to our country. Voting honors the dead who gave their lives to defend freedom.
My dad spent his life providing for his wife and two daughters. He saw in his wife, Jeanine, an outstanding and rare gift of personality and media presence. My mom was a local leader in her own right, a moderator for the League of Women Voters in Texas. A radio station had asked to record her discussions at the League. When my mom told my dad, he thought that instead she should have a political television show of her own in Houston. He conceived of a roundtable discussion with my mother leading a group of women to discuss the political events of the day from a woman’s perspective.
My dad was the executive producer and my mother became the anchor personality; he pitched KHOU TV in Houston with the novel idea of a serious one hour political discussion group by all women. This was frankly revolutionary in the 1960’s in the south. The show “Inquiry” was born.
My mother and her friends interviewed political luminaries of the day such as Texas Governor Connally and Barbara Jordan. “Inquiry” was a runaway hit. Because of its popularity, the television station soon changed the format from a panel of women to create a show just for my mom, “Inquiry with Jeanine Swift” (people would recognize her in the supermarket even 20 years later). It was my dad who had conceived of that show long before there was “The View” or “The Five” — because he knew my mother had a gift and that women needed a political voice in that day and age.
My dad and mom worked together to clip articles from newspapers gathering facts on the guests to prepare for serious political discussion on air. They did this in the evenings and would lay out all of these clippings on the living room floor on Saturday mornings while my sister and I got to watch two hours of Bugs Bunny cartoons. My dad worked as an insurance salesman during the day while my mom stayed at home to raise us. We were never aware of her career because together my dad and mom made family a priority.
He told me that he wanted me to grow up in a world where women would be able to do anything they wanted to. He sought to empower my mother and his daughters throughout his life.
This is the true legacy of my father. Patriot. An advocate for equality. A political activist. A feminist in the truest sense of the word. Strange how today many of these words are co-opted signal words for radical left-wing social justice black lives matter woke causes.
Before all of their social justice agitation, men like my father, black and white and all colors in between, sacrificed for our country and our families, and for their wives and sisters and daughters to quietly advance these truths, to make America a great country, to unite and to defend universal principles that flow from the love of God Almighty. That is the true legacy of American fathers.