canada africa partner reservation In honor of Judge Swallow | News, sports, jobs

In honor of Judge Swallow | News, sports, jobs

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News photo by Steve Schulwitz The children of former 26th Circuit Court Judge Joseph Swallow look at old family photos before a memorial service for their father. Swallow died last month at the age of 91 after living a life in the public sector in the Alpena area and in state government.


ALPENA — You don’t have to travel far in Northeast Michigan to see the handiwork of Joseph Swallow.

The former Alpena County prosecutor, 26th Circuit Court judge and state representative played a major role in helping others while helping make the Alpena area and the entire state the best it could be.

Swallow died on April 20 at the age of 91. A memorial service, celebration of his life and eulogy were held for him Friday at the Alpena County Courthouse, which was open to the public.

Those in attendance shared stories and achievements of the former judge. One thing became clear at the memorial: everyone there had great respect for Swallow.

Those who knew Swallow best said he had a strong desire to help others, both through his time in government and through his work with local charity groups. They said he often put other people before himself and that his love for the Alpena area was unwavering.

Dan Swallow, the judge’s son, said his father was passionate about Alpena and its people and was proud to be a resident there, even while working in Lansing.

“He lived there all his life and was always proud of growing up on the north side,” Dan Swallow said. “He never wanted to leave. He loved the people, nature and the community as a whole. He loved everything.”

Swallow was born in Alpena and attended Alpena Public Schools.

After attending Central Michigan College of Education, which is now Central Michigan University, Swallow joined the Army and served as a paratrooper for three years during the Korean War.

Life led Swallow to Detroit, where he worked in the corporate world before devoting his life to the legal profession and becoming an attorney.

After graduating from law school, Swallow moved back to Alpena, where his law and political careers blossomed.

After serving as a prosecutor for two years, Swallow decided to run for state government and proudly worked with political parties on both sides of the aisle to get things done. He was elected to four consecutive terms as a state representative.

His accomplishments while serving in Lansing included securing funding for construction of the Plaza Pool at Alpena High School and improvements at Mich-e-ke-wis Park.

Swallow also filed and won a lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Northeast Michigan, halting legislation that would disproportionately allocate state funding to Michigan’s urban cities while excluding those in smaller communities like Northeast Michigan.

Don McLennan, a former Presque Isle County judge, said Swallow offered a mix of legal and political knowledge to be effective in the state Legislature. He said Swallow was a leader in Lansing in making indigent counsel available to those at the appellate level and that he was never afraid to take on the challenge of getting laws passed that benefited the people of Michigan.

“He loved the law and thought the Constitution was something that wasn’t always respected by our legislators,” McLennan said. “He loved Northern Michigan and he stood for it. He was never afraid to stand up for the people who live here.”

Alcona County Prosecutor Tom Weichel said Swallow was his mentor and one of the main reasons he is in the position he is in today. He said the first time he met Swallow was in 1988, after the commencement ceremony where Swallow addressed the graduates of the Detroit College of Law. At the time, he didn’t know how important it would be to his future and the area he has called home for so many years.

“I didn’t know I would be here applying for a job at the 26th Circuit Court and ultimately working for him,” Weichel said. “We have become very dear friends. Without him I wouldn’t be where I am today and the things he has done for this area are immeasurable. I can’t even begin to tell you what he’s done.

Dan Swallow said that after his father retired from politics and law, he became more involved in environmental issues, especially those that preserved and protected the Great Lakes. He said his father stayed informed on government issues and was never shy about sharing his views on them and offering advice on how he would approach them if he were still in office.

Weichel said he had no doubt that some issues in the current administration would be less controversial if Swallow could still serve.

“He wanted to work with Republicans and Democrats and had absolutely no problem with that,” Weichel said. “He has very high integrity and always tried to do what he thought was right.”



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