Gregory Hayes Swanson

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Portrait photo of Gregory Hayes Swanson. Reproduced from University of Virginia School of Law.

Gregory Hayes Swanson (1924-1992) was the first Black student admitted to the University of Virginia.


Swanson attended Howard University for both his undergraduate career and his law degree. He later opened his own law firm, but his desire to teach pushed him to apply to the UVA Law School, where he could earn a Master of Laws degree.[1] He applied to the University of Virginia's Law School in 1949. With excellent academic credentials, Swanson was an ideal candidate. Polling of students suggested that there was not a strong sentiment against enrolling an African-American. Additionally, Attorney General James Lindsay Almond, Jr. advised the Board of Visitors that the applicant's race would not be suitable grounds with which to reject his application. The Visitors, citing segregation laws that were established by the Constitution as well as the State of Virginia, rejected Swanson based on race.[1] Consequently, the Virginia NAACP filed suit on behalf of Swanson and won on appeal, with Swanson gaining admission in 1950.[1][2]

As the first African-American at UVA, Swanson faced many difficulties, including social exclusion.[1] The Supreme Court forced the desegregation of University-sponsored events, but Swanson was denied entrance to private social clubs and barred from living on Grounds.[2] In 1951 he withdrew from the University.[3] Following his departure from UVA, Swanson practiced law in Martinsville and Alexandria. In 1961, he joined the legal staff of the IRS, remaining there until his retirement in 1984.[1] He died in 1992. [2]

Historic marker

On May 19, 2022, a Virginia historic marker was unveiled outside the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library's Central Branch at 201 E. Market Street.[4]

Frances Brand portrait[edit | edit source]

Swanson is one of several people commemorated by the late 20th-century artist Frances Brand as part of her Firsts series.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Web. What Life Was Like for Gregory Swanson, the Lawyer Who Integrated UVA, Williamson, Eric, UVA Law, 2018, retrieved 16 June, 2022.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Web. Gregory Swanson, First African-American Admitted to UVA, University of Virginia, 15 September, 1950, retrieved 16 June, 2022.
  3. Web. The Road to Desegregation: Jackson, NAACP, and Swanson, University of Virginia, retrieved June 19, 2012.
  4. Web. JMRL unveils new historical marker of Swanson vs. UVA case, Dryden Quigley, News Article, WVIR NBC29, May 19, 2022, retrieved May 20, 2022.