Family and friends mourn the death and celebrate the life of The Reverend Dr. Harold W. McSwain who died on June 17, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.
Visitation will be on Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 1:00 p.m., and a memorial service will follow at 2:00 p.m., both at Epworth United Methodist Church, 5100 Karl Road, Columbus, Ohio.
He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Elvis and Ruby McSwain and had two sisters, Dorothy M. Byrn of Murray, Kentucky and Margaret M. Wise of Jackson, Tennessee. After serving in the Third Army during World War II, he returned to West Tennessee. Academic credentials include a B.S. from Lambuth College, an M.S. from Peabody University, an M.Div. from Southern Methodist University, and a Ph.D. from Emory University. Ordained an elder in the Memphis Conference of the Methodist Church, he served churches, academia, and the parish for sixty-three years.
Harold married Joyce DeShazo on July 25, 1948, and they had three children: Harold (Hal) W. McSwain, Jr. of Ocala, Florida; Kenneth W. McSwain (Christine) of Columbus, Ohio; and Mara M. Weed (Peter; children, Kaitlin, Timothy, and Gregory) of Cheshire, Connecticut.
Harold served rural pastorates in the Memphis Conference, and in 1957 he became Executive Secretary of the Memphis Conference Town and Country Committee as well as served on the faculty of Lambuth College. In 1964 he became Executive Director of Hinton Rural Life Center in N.C., dedicated to small town, county seat, and rural church ministries. From 1973 until his retirement in 1994, he was Professor of Church Administration for both Methodist Theological School (Delaware, Ohio) and United Theological Seminary (Dayton, Ohio) and was Director of the Center for Town and Rural Ministries, working closely with the East and West Ohio Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church. Harold served as Staff/Dean of the Rural Chaplains Association from the late 1980's until 2008 as well as President of the United Methodist Rural Fellowship. A prime mover in the National Network on Town and Country Ministries related to the General Board of Global Ministries and the National Cooperative Ministries Leadership Team, Harold was affectionately known as the “Godfather of the cooperative parish ministry movement.” He also helped form the Appalachian Development Committee, which coordinated United Methodist ministries across the Appalachian Region, and he was deeply involved in the Commission on Religion in Appalachia, the ecumenical Rural Church Network, and the International Rural Church Network. Harold was a visionary, a dreamer and activist, and one who stood against oppression and injustice. He had a lifetime commitment to God’s people of rural, town and country, and small membership churches.
In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be given to “The Dr. Harold McSwain Scholarship Fund of the Family and Friends Network of Goodwill Columbus” (1331 Edgehill Rd., Columbus, OH 43212), or “Rural Chaplains Association” (c/o Ben Poage, 297 Rosemont Garden, Lexington, KY 40503).