College of Charleston Researchers Find Grave of Early Black Trustee of the University of South Carolina

In a recent ceremony, a stone marker was placed on the recently rediscovered grave of Lt. Stephen Swails, one of the first African Americans to be commissioned an officer in the U.S. Army. Researchers at the Avery Institute for African-American History at the College of Charleston in South Carolina discovered records indicating that Swails was buried in the city’s old black cemetery across the street from Magnolia Cemetery, where more than 1,700 Confederate soldiers are buried.

Swails was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, in 1832. He enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts regiment which fought in Charleston during the Civil War, a battle that was immortalized in the film Glory.

Swails survived the battle. After the war he became a lawyer, state senator in South Carolina, mayor of the town of Kingstree, and a trustee of the University of South Carolina.

Swails was one of the first African Americans to vote in the Electoral College for the presidency of the United States. He also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention on three occasions.