Claude Augustus Swanson was born at Swansonville, Virginia on March 31, 1862. He graduated from Randolph-Macon College in June, 1885, and then received a law degree from The University of Virginia in July, 1886. In 1892 he won his first election, securing a seat in the United States House of Representatives which he held from 1893 until he became Governor of Virginia in 1906.
Governor Swanson's tenure was marked by important improvements in the educational, health and transportation systems in the Commonwealth. The number of high schools rose from 75 to 400 and the number of teachers' colleges from two to four. During this time the first State Health Department was organized and the Department of Transportation was established.
After his term as Governor expired in 1910 he was appointed to an unexpired U.S. Senate seat to which he was later elected and re-elected until his appointment as Secretary of the Navy in 1933. During his time in the Senate he served on the Naval Affairs Committee and also on the Foreign Relations Committee. In 1932 President Hoover appointed Senator Swanson as the only Congressional member of the United States Delegation to the General Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
In an appointment which was motivated as much by political expediency as by consideration of ability, Senator Swanson was installed as the Secretary of the Navy in March, 1933. His congressional experience in naval affairs and his outspoken support of a strong navy would make him one of the greatest peace-time naval fleet builders in American history. Secretary Swanson died in office on July 7, 1939 and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.