Thomas C. McSwain
newsleader.com April 25, 2010
Thomas Clyde McSwain, 95, of Staunton, died Saturday, April 24, 2010,
at Augusta Health, Fishersville. A well-known educator throughout Virginia,
he was Superintendent of Staunton Schools for 17 years from 1961 until
his retirement in 1978.
Born January 1,
1915, in Cleveland County, N.C., he was the son of the late Elam and Annie
He held a bachelors degree in business administration from Lenoir-Rhyne
College in Hickory, N.C., which he attended on a full athletic scholarship
playing football, baseball and basketball. Following graduation from Lenoir-Rhyne
College he played professional baseball in North Carolina, where he also
began his career as an educator in 1940 as well as coached in the Rowan
County School System in Rockwell, N.C. He received his master's degree
in education from the University of Virginia in 1954.
He served in the Navy during WWII having enlisted in 1942 in former heavyweight
boxing champion Gene Tunneys physical fitness program, called the
Tuna Fish, to help train recruits. His classmates included Sammy Snead,
Bob Feller, Phil Rizzuto and Peewee Reese. He was commissioned in 1943,
and was named commanding officer of a destroyer escort based in Norfolk,
and when the war ended he was headed for the Far East. Following the war,
he returned to civilian life and later joined the Navy Reserve unit based
at Fishersville, and was commanding officer with the rank of lieutenant
commander for three years.
He joined the Staunton School System in 1946 as a physical education teacher
at the citys five schools, and as coach of three sports and classroom
teacher (math and history) at R.E. Lee High School. He left the classroom
and coaching after the 1951-52 season to go into administration, and opened
and was principal at three new schools: Bessie Weller for four years;
Westside, two years; and Northside, one year. He was appointed to the
position of assistant superintendent in 1958 and he was named superintendent
in 1961. During his tenure as superintendent, he led the integration of
the school system, a major building program of new schools and closure
of most of the former segregated black schools. In 1964 he also served
as the president of the Virginia Education Association. Citing his contribution
to education, not only in Staunton but throughout the state, the School
Board renamed Northside Elementary School in his honor upon his retirement
He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, Staunton where he earlier
served as an elder and as a member of its Christian Education Committee
and taught a Sunday school class of teenage boys.
He is survived by his second wife, Theresa (Peiffer) McSwain, of Staunton,
a son Col. Thomas C. McSwain Jr., and wife, Jane Crane, of Shepherdstown,
W.Va.; daughter, Susan McSwain Lee, of Chesapeake, and her fiancé,
James Ingram, of Lesage, W.Va.; stepson, Donald Peiffer and wife, Barbara,
of Rural Hall, N.C.; five grandchildren, five great-grandchildren as well
as numerous nieces and nephews.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife,
Isabel Anderson McSwain and two sisters, Gladys McSwain Thornburg and
Adell McSwain Lovelace.
A funeral service will held on Tuesday, April 27, 2010, at 2 p.m., in
First Presbyterian Church, 100 E. Frederick St., Staunton, with the Rev.
Dr. Richard S. Dietrich officiating. Interment will follow in Thornrose
Cemetery. Active pallbearers will be the grandchildren. Honorary Pallbearers
will include the staff and administrators of the Staunton City Schools
attending the funeral service.
The family will receive friends 7-9 p.m. Monday, April 26, 2010, at the
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Community
Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge, P.O. Box 815, Staunton, VA 24402.
Donations will put towards a scholarship to be established in memory of
Friends and relatives are invited to view this obituary and share condolences
or memories with the family at www.reynoldshamrickfuneralhomes.com
Arrangements have been entrusted to Reynolds Hamrick Funeral Homes &