• April 2, 2020

Darius Swann, who fought for school integration, dies at 95 - Odessa American: Wire News

e-Edition Subscribe

Darius Swann, who fought for school integration, dies at 95

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 3:52 pm | Updated: 7:31 pm, Wed Mar 25, 2020.

The Rev. Darius L. Swann, whose challenge to the notion of segregated public schools helped spark the use of busing to integrate schools across the country, has died at his Virginia home. He was 95.

The Rev. David Ensign, interim pastor at Burke Presbyterian Church, where Swann's family attended church, confirmed in an email that Swann died on March 8.

Swann's wife, Vera, told The Washington Post that her husband died of pneumonia.

On Sept. 2, 1964, Swann wrote a letter to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, asking that his son James be allowed to attend Seversville School, two blocks from his home, rather than the all-black Biddleville School, which was more than twice as far away. He was allowed to argue his case at a subsequent meeting of the school board, which suggested that the Swanns enroll James in Biddleville, then request a transfer.

The Swanns said no thanks.

"We figured that the system was really protecting segregation," Swann told The Associated Press in an interview in 2000. "What they wanted to do was decide things on a case-by-case basis, when what they needed to do was change the whole system; there was a systemic problem."

Enlisting the support of local activist Reginald Hawkins and civil rights attorney Julius Chambers, Swann sued the school system in January 1965. While they pursued their legal fight, the Swanns enrolled James and his younger sister, Edith, in a private Lutheran school. After one year there, the Swanns moved their children to Eastover, a public school in the affluent, predominantly white Myers Park neighborhood.

Chambers continued the lawsuit even after the Swanns moved to New York, where Swann and his wife worked at Columbia University, and later to Hawaii before moving to India, where he researched Asian theater.

"Sure he got tired of it," Chambers said of the lawsuit. "He had difficulty understanding all the opposition and how mean people could be, but he never to my knowledge ever thought about bailing out."

In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld court-ordered busing in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, clearing the way for the use of busing as a means of desegregation. Swann learned of the decision while he was in a mountain village in India and read about it in an English-language newspaper.

At the time, Swann said he had no regrets about the long legal battle he endured on behalf of his children and children across the country.

"I felt that schools were a means of our becoming one society," Swann explained. “Perhaps I was overly optimistic, but I still think it's a significant factor. … We have to have an integrated society in order to be one, and if we don't have an integrated society, we will continue to be two people, separate, unequal.”

© 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Odessa, TX

Current Conditions

Humidity: 15%
Winds: W at 9mph
Feels Like: 78°

Your Extended Forecast


High 86°/Low 55°
Mainly clear. Lows overnight in the mid 50s.


High 67°/Low 42°
Partly cloudy. Highs in the upper 60s and lows in the low 40s.


High 58°/Low 48°
Showers ending by midday. Highs in the upper 50s and lows in the upper 40s.
Online Features

Pet Central


Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and we’ll help by giving you lots of tips and tricks! More >>



Our fitness articles will help teach you how to work out with gym- and home-based exercises. More >>



Enjoy the crosswords challenge in our free daily puzzles, from the harder Sunday crossword to the quicker daily. More >>



Every Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically. Enter numbers into the blank spaces so that each row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. More >>

  • ALL-ACCESS: Subscribe to our e-edition and premium website at myoaoa.com.
    You can read your daily newspaper without taking a walk to the driveway.
    Look back at yesterday's newspaper, or issues from months ago with our archive feature.
    Call circulation at 432-337-7314 to sign up today.