Author: Henry C. Ferrell

an East Carolina University emeritus professor of history
ENTRY

Swanson, Claude A. (1862–1939)

Claude A. Swanson was a powerful Democratic Party leader and one of the most successful Virginia politicians of his era. He served seven terms in the United States House of Representatives (1893–1906), was governor of Virginia from 1906 until 1910, and U.S. senator from 1910 until 1933. In addition, Swanson served as secretary of the United States Navy under U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 until his death in 1939. While in the House, Swanson presided over a raucous time in state politics that culminated in the adoption of the state Constitution of 1902 that was notorious for its disfranchisement of African Americans and poor whites in spite of the universal suffrage called for by the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1870). As governor, he instituted a number of progressive reforms and continued to advance those reforms, as well as his belief in a strong U.S. Navy while in the U.S. Senate and in Roosevelt’s cabinet.

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