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Honor and Remember 1st Lieutenant Stephen Atkins Swails

23 February 2023 All day

The best of the best should always be remembered.

Civil War Union officer 1st Lieutenant Stephen Atkins Swails was born on February 23, 1832 and died on May 17, 1900. Swails could have easily led a life of dishonor, by passing for white for “whites only privileges,” but chose to live his true identity, as a black male during slavery.

1st Lt. Atkins became a member of the infamous 54th Massachusetts All Voluntary Regiment. Mr. Atkins was the first African-American soldier promoted to commissioned rank as a line officer. However, Swails’ honor and promotion to 2nd Lieutenant was denied publicly because of the US Army’s War Department staunch discrimination and racist policies. But Swails commanded respect, and argued his case, which resulted in his official 2nd Lieutenant rank.

Second Lieutenant Stephen Swails was promoted to 1st lieutenant on April 28, 1865 and discharged honorably from military service on August 20, 1865. Mr. Swails returned to South Carolina, where he became a lawyer, a mayor, and a state senator for 10-years, including as president pro tem. Mr. Swails was also delegate to the 1868, 1872 and 1876 Republican national conventions, and was a member of the U.S. Electoral College. Mr. Swails was also editor of the Williamsburg Republican.

White confederates/supremacists repeatedly tried to assassinate Mr. Swails, and ultimately forced him out of South Carolina, because of the long-standing bigotry of South Carolina (John Calhoun, James Henry Hammond and Sons of confederate Vets/kkk). Mr. Swails worked in Washington, D.C. at the US Postal Service and United States Treasury Department.

Mr. Swails left behind an abundance of family members, including in New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Atlanta, Georgia. One of his descendants is Dr. Robert Swails Rollins, a US Air Force Major and flight surgeon.

Never forget which side of history of 1st Lieutenant Stephen Atkins Swails fought for and stood with: living his truth, and fighting for what’s right, at all times. Mr. Swails commanded respect, honorably, and never let confederates degrade his honor, which can never be taken from him, in life, nor death.

Additional Information:

https://www.nps.gov/people/stephen-swails.htm

https://shaw54thwitnesstohistory.org/lieutenant-stephen-a-swails/

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10515871/stephen-atkins-swails

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6417951

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