Lawson Swearingen

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Lawson Lewis Swearingen, Jr.​

Louisiana State Senator for District 34 (Ouachita Parish)​
In office
1980 ​ – 1991​
Preceded by H. Lawrence Gibbs
Succeeded by John C. Ensminger

In office
1991​ – 2001​
Preceded by Dwight Vines
Succeeded by James E. Cofer, Sr.​

Born May 27, 1944}​
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Sharon Harrelson Swearingen​
Children Lawson Lewis (Chip) Swearingen, II​I

Ashley S. Day ​

Residence Fairhope, Alabama
Occupation Attorney; Professor, Politician

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 Democrat former state senator for District 34 in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, whose service extended from 1980 to 1991,[1] and a former president of the University of Louisiana at Monroe from 1991 through 2001.​


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]

His 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 Southern 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 and 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 in Monroe. He also excelled in college basketball under the popular coach Lenny Fant.[4]

In 1969, Swearingen received his Juris Doctorate degree from Tulane University Law School 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

Swearingen was elected to the Senate in 1979 to succeed Democrat Henry Lawrence Gibbs, Jr. (1919–1993). 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 Huenefeld, also of Monroe, 26,087 (77.6 percent) to 7,521 (22.4 percent).[6]

Upon his resignation from the Senate in 1991 to become the ULM president, Swearingen was briefly succeeded by former state Representative John Clifford Ensminger, Sr., a conservative Democrat who switched to Republican affiliation while serving in the House in 1985.[1]​ ​

ULM President

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.​ He succeeded Dwight Vines, a native of Jackson Parish.

Under Swearingen, the university added four Ph.D. 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 the ULM president in 2002 at the age of fifty-eight.​

According to the 2002 ULM Chacahoula yearbook, Swearingen's resignation announcement occurred barely a week into the 2001-02 school year, effective December 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 website documented what it claimed 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 forty faculty members and Swearingen, the Pow Wow reported. According to Scott, Swearingen informed the faculty 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 stemmed from fear of retribution by the former administration," Scott said.

Scott resigned his professorship at ULM that summer to become the director of the Center For Economic Education and Research at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Arkansas, The Pow Wow reported.​ ​

Personal life

Swearingen has also lived in Hammond in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, and currently, Fairhope in Baldwin County, near Mobile in southern Alabama.[7] He served as a professor of management, specializing in legal environment of business and other business law courses at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond[8] before retiring in 2010. A retirement reception for Swearingen was held in Southeastern's Garrett Hall on May 6, 2010. 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.[9]

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 resided in Shreveport, where she retired with her late husband,[2] who was an active donor in 2008 to the Republican Party.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Membership in the Louisiana Seate 1880 - Present. Louisiana State Seante (January 2012). Retrieved on October 27, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Obituary of Lawson Swearingen, Sr.. The Shreveport Times (December 24, 2011). Retrieved on October 27, 2019.
  3. Jean Swearingen obituary. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on October 27, 2019.
  4. Mark S. Rainwater, "Fant's legacy lives on in 'his boys,'" Monroe News Star, October 13, 1998.
  5. ’’The Bayou: The History and Traditions of the University of Louisiana at Monroe’’. Retrieved on January 14, 2010; no longer on-line.
  6. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election Returns, October 24, 1987.
  7. People Search and Background Check
  8. Southeastern Louisiana University. Retrieved on January 14, 2010; no longer on-line.
  9. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Retrieved on January 14, 2010; no longer on-line.
  10. Lawson Swearingen, Sr., Political Campaign Contributions, 2008. Retrieved on January 14, 2010; no longer on-line.