Lawson Swearingen

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Lawson Lewis Swearingen, Jr.
Swearingen Lawson & Sharon 2010Jan31.JPG
Lawson and Sharon Harrelson Swearingen
Louisiana State Senator from District 34 (Ouachita Parish)
In office
Preceded by H. Lawrence Gibbs, Jr.
Succeeded by John C. Ensminger
President of the University of Louisiana at Monroe
In office
Preceded by Dwight D. Vines
Succeeded by James E. Cofer Sr.
Personal details
Born (1944-05-27) May 27, 1944 (age 72)
San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas, USA
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sharon Harrelson Swearingen

Lawson Lewis (Chip) Swearingen, III

Ashley S. Day
Residence Fairhope, Alabama, USA

Attorney; State Senator; Professor

Former university president
Religion Baptist
State Senator Swearingen left the legislature to become president of his alma mater, which was renamed as the University of Louisiana at Monroe during Swearingen's ten-year tenure as president from 1991 through 2001.

Lawson Lewis Swearingen, Jr. (born May 27, 1944), is a former Democratic member of the Louisiana State Senate, having represented District 34 (Ouachita Parish) from 1980 to 1991,[1] and a former president of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, whose tenure extended from 1991 through 2001.

Early life[edit]

Swearingen was born in San Antonio, Texas, to Lawson Swearingen, Sr. (1919–2011), and the former Jeanette Christine "Jean" Cadwallader (1922-2012). The senior Swearingen was a World War II veteran, a graduate of Louisiana Tech University, and an executive with Commercial Union Insurance in Ruston, Louisiana, and, later, Boston, Massachusetts. The paternal grandparents of Swearingen, Jr., were Annie Marie Estlinbaum and Henry Douglas Swearingen of Eagle Lake, Texas.[2]

Swearingen's mother, Jean, daughter of the Reverend Chester Sabin Cadwallader and the former Carrie Kendall, met her husband at Baylor University in her native Waco, Texas. While the couple resided in Ruston, she was for twelve years the Lincoln Parish deputy clerk of court. She was active in Baptist women's groups and assisted her husband while they were living in Boston to organize Billy Graham's 1980 New England Crusade.[3]

Swearingen, Jr., was reared in Ruston, where he graduated in 1962 from Ruston High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966 in the field of government from ULM, known at the time as Northeast Louisiana State College. He also excelled in college basketball under the popular coach Lenny Fant.[4] In 1969, he received his Juris Doctor degree from Roman Catholic-affiliated Tulane University in New Orleans. He then practiced law for twenty-two years in Monroe while he also served as a state senator.[5]


Louisiana State Senate[edit]

Swearingen was elected to the Senate in 1979 to succeed Democrat H. Lawrence Gibbs Jr. (1919–1993).[6] In his third and last election to the state senate in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 24, 1987, Swearingen easily defeated the real estate figure and fellow Democrat Fred W. Huenefeld Jr. (born December 1929), also of Monroe, 26,087 (77.6 percent) to 7,521 (22.4 percent).[7]

Upon his resignation from the Senate in 1991 to become the ULM president, Swearingen was briefly succeeded by former State Representative John C. Ensminger (born 1934), a conservative Democrat who had switched to Republican affiliation while serving in the House in 1985.[1]

ULM President[edit]

In 1991, Swearingen resigned with less than a year remaining in his senate term to become only the fourth president of the then Northeast Louisiana University, which was renamed ULM in 1999 during his presidential tenure.

Under Swearingen, the university added four doctoral degree programs, expanded the pharmacy program, built new library and computer science buildings, and expanded Biedenharn Hall. Certain selective admissions procedures were also implemented. Swearingen retired as president in 2002.

According to the 2002 ULM Chacahoula yearbook, Swearingen's resignation announcement occurred barely a week into the 2001-02 school year, effective Dec. 31 of that year. As the yearbook went on, "ULM received a no-opinion" audit for fiscal year 1999, placing its accreditation from the Southern Colleges and Schools in jeopardy. In 2000, however, the school received a qualified audit from then-Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle, who said the university 'made phenomenal progress.'"

The ULM yearbook also addressed perceptions that Swearingen didn't spend enough time with students. After ULM received its poor audit, the then-student newspaper, the Pow Wow, released an editorial suggesting Swearingen should resign. Making matters worse for Swearingen was the "Truth At ULM" website, created by anonymous faculty members unhappy with Swearingen's performance.

"The site documented what it said was low morale among the faculty and severe mismanagement because of Swearingen's leadership."

In the summer of 2002, according to the Pow Wow, ULM economics professor John Scott was revealed as the anonymous "Truth At ULM" author.

"Scott said that one of his reasons for creating the site two years ago originated from a meeting held between 40 of the school’s faculty and then-ULM President Lawson Swearingen," the Pow Wow reported.

"According to Scott, Swearingen informed them that budget cuts would be taking place in their salaries, but subsequently contradicted himself by telling the media that no such cuts would occur. Scott said faculty in attendance, himself included, were 'frustrated' not only at Swearingen’s remarks, but also that no one among them were willing to come forward with their side of the story. That unwillingness to come forward, he said, stemmed from fear of retribution by the former administration."

Scott resigned his position that summer to take a job directing The Center For Economic Education and Research at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Ark, the Pow Wow reported.

Personal life[edit]

Swearingen has also lived in Hammond, Louisiana, and, currently, Fairhope in Baldwin County near Mobile in southern Alabama.[8] He served as a professor of management, specializing in legal environment of business and other business law courses at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond in Tangipahoa Parish[9] before retiring in 2010.[10] He was an active community leader in Hammond and often lectured on education topics. A Baptist as well as a member of Gideons International, Swearingen is a trustee having served a term through 2011 on the board of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.[11]

Swearingen is married to the former Sharon Harrelson (born 1947), originally a ULM cheerleader from West Monroe. The couple has two children, Lawson Lewis "Chip" Swearingen, III; and Ashley Swearingen Day and husband, Will. Swearingen has two sisters, Carolyn Swearingen Cody, and husband, Rodger, of Houston, Texas, and Sharon Swearingen Tusa of Richmond, Texas. Swearingen's mother resides in Shreveport, where she retired with her late husband,[2] who was an active donor in 2008 to the Republican Party.[12]

Louisiana House of Representatives
Preceded by
Henry Lawrence Gibbs Jr.
Louisiana State Senator from District 34 (Ouachita Parish)

Lawson Lewis Swearingen Jr.

Succeeded by
John C. Ensminger
Preceded by
Dwight D. Vines
President of the University of Louisiana at Monroe

Lawson Lewis Swearingen, Jr.

Succeeded by
James E. Cofer Sr.


  1. ^ a b "Members of the Louisiana State Senate, 1880-2004" (PDF). Retrieved January 13, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Obituary of Lawson Swearingen, Sr.". Shreveport Times, December 24, 2011. Retrieved December 28, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Jean Swearingen". Shreveport Times. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Mark S. Rainwater, "Fant's legacy lives on in 'his boys'", October 13, 1998". Monroe News Star. Retrieved January 3, 2010. 
  5. ^ "The Bayou: The History and Traditions of the University of Louisiana at Monroe" (PDF). Retrieved January 14, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Louisiana election returns, October5 24, 1987". Retrieved January 14, 2010. [dead link]
  8. ^ People Search and Background Check
  9. ^ "Southeastern Louisiana University". Retrieved January 14, 2010. 
  10. ^ A retirement reception for him occurred in Southeastern's Garrett Hall on 2010 May 6.
  11. ^ "New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary". Retrieved January 14, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Lawson Swearingen, Sr., Political Campaign Contributions, 2008". Retrieved January 14, 2010.