Lewis Ossie Swingler

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Lewis Ossie Swingler (c. 1905 – September 25, 1962) was a pioneering African-American journalist, editor, and newspaper publisher from Crittenden County, Arkansas. He was editor of the Memphis World and editor in chief and copublisher of the Tri-State Defender.

Early life[edit]

Swingler was born in Crittenden County in 1905. He was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma,[1] where he attended Booker T. Washington High School. Swingler went on to attend the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL), where he graduated with a degree in journalism.[2] While in college, Swingler helped organize the first chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha at UNL[3] and edited the Sphinx, a publication of that fraternity.[4]


Directly after graduating, Swingler moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he was a pivotal figure in the establishment of the Memphis World. He served as its editor from its founding in 1931 until he left in 1951 to start the Tri-State Defender with John H. Sengstacke.[1] During this period Swingler also taught journalism at LeMoyne College.[3]

Swingler used his position in Memphis's black community to advocate for civil rights. For instance, in 1948 Swingler and a number of other prominent black citizens of Memphis pressed the police department to hire African American officers as a way of reducing police brutality.[5] This effort was ultimately successful.[6] Swingler also joined an early voter registration group, Joseph Edison Walker's Non-Partisan Voters Committee, in 1951.[7]

In 1956, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Swingler was the southern vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha. After fellow Alpha Martin Luther King was indicted in Montgomery, Swingler was among a delegation which travelled there to support King.[8]

Swingler died on September 25, 1962, in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, of a heart attack.[4]


  1. ^ a b Marina Pacini; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (15 September 2008). Photographs from the Memphis World, 1949-1964. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-915525-10-2. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Clayborne Carson; David J. Garrow; Bill Kovach; Carol Polsgrove (2003). Reporting Civil Rights: American journalism, 1941-1963. Library of America. p. 948. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b George E. Hardin (November 10, 2011). "Newspaper veteran maintains 'first love'". Tri-State Defender. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b This Week's Census. Jet Magazine. 11 October 1962. p. 28. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Laurie B. Green (28 May 2007). Battling the Plantation Mentality: Memphis and the Black Freedom Struggle. Univ of North Carolina Press. pp. 105–6. ISBN 978-0-8078-5802-8. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Margaret McKee; Fred Chisenhall (1 September 1993). Beale Black & Blue: Life and Music on Black America's Main Street. Louisiana State University Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-8071-1886-3. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  7. ^ Christopher Silver; John V. Moeser (20 April 1995). The Separate City: Black Communities in the Urban South, 1940-1968. University Press of Kentucky. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-8131-1911-3. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Martin Luther King Jr. (27 February 1997). The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Volume III: Birth of a New Age, December 1955-December 1956. University of California Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-520-07952-6. Retrieved 28 August 2012.