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AUTHORIZING THE COMMISSIONING OF A PORTRAIT OF THE HONORABLE STEPHEN ATKINS SWAILS TO BE PLACED IN THE SENATE CHAMBER.
Whereas, Senator Swails was born on February 23, 1832, in Columbia, Pennsylvania; and
Whereas, in 1863, Senator Swails left his job as a boatman on Cheming Canal to enlist in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first African-American fighting unit in the North during the Civil War, and participated in the battle at Battery Wagner on Morris Island; and
Whereas, in 1865, Senator Swails became the first commissioned African-American officer in the Union Army, whereby opening the door for other African-Americans to become commissioned officers; and
Whereas, upon completion of his military service, Senator Swails chose to remain in South Carolina and began employment with the Freedman's Bureau, organized to assist newly freed slaves in the South; and
Whereas, Senator Swails was simultaneously elected to the positions of County Auditor and South Carolina Senator from the Williamsburg District and became the first African-American to hold either office; and
Whereas, Senator Swails was elected as the first African-American President Pro Tempore on November 26, 1872, in which capacity he served until his resignation in 1877; and
Whereas, Senator Swails was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention for drafting a new state constitution; and
Whereas, while serving as senator and auditor, Senator Swails began studying the practice of law, and was admitted to the Bar in 1972, and practiced law with M.J. Hirsch, a white Confederate Veteran; and
Whereas, Senator Swails left for Washington D.C. due to threats and attempted violence against him, but he returned to South Carolina one year later; and
Whereas, Senator Swails provided leadership to the Senate and to the State of South Carolina during the turbulent years of the Reconstruction period, in which the struggle for civil rights began in earnest; and
Whereas, at the time of his death in 1900, Senator Swails practiced law in Kingstree, S.C. and remained a clerk in the Treasury Department in Washington D.C.; and
Whereas, Senator Swails' other activities included services as a major general of the State Militia, Chairman of the Republican party for the First Congressional District and for Williamsburg County, incorporator of the Savings, Building and Loan Association of South Carolina, South Carolina Phosphate and Phospatic River Mining Company, Charleston Loan and Exchange Company, Anderson, Aiken, Port Royal and Charleston Railroad Company, and Trial Justice for Williamsburg County; and
Whereas, the many contributions of Stephen Atkins Swails to the wellbeing of the citizens of South Carolina and his struggles for equality among individuals are numerous and greatly deserving of permanent recognition and tribute in a place of honor in the Senate Chamber where he served with such great distinction. Now, therefore,
Be it resolved by the Senate:
That the Senate authorizes the commissioning of a portrait of the Honorable Stephen Atkins Swails to be hung in the Senate Chamber as a tribute to this great South Carolinian and distinguished statesman.
Be it further resolved that a Portrait Committee of seven members of the Senate be appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. The senior member of the committee shall serve as its chairman. The committee shall handle the arrangements and details of the hanging of the portrait including, but not limited to, the location for the portrait and an appropriate ceremony to commemorate the unveiling and dedication of the portrait. The cost of obtaining the portrait must be paid by private contributions.
Be it further resolved that the Clerk of the Senate shall provide such assistance and services as the committee shall direct.
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