When President elect Franklin Roosevelt was planning his administration and consolidating his power, he realized that he wanted a strong Democratic party in Virginia. The rising Harry Byrd was desirous of Senator Swanson's job, but did not want to risk challenging the senior Senator. Roosevelt, one time Assistant Secretary of the Navy, decided to move Senator Swanson, the most knowledgeable candidate on naval affairs, to the position of Secretary of the Navy and allow Byrd to get Swanson's Senate seat. Swanson was seventy-one years of age at the time, the oldest individual to serve as Secretary of the Navy.
However, the relationship between the senior Senator from Virginia and the up and coming Byrd was somewhat strained. Claude Swanson refused to resign his Senate seat early so that Harry Byrd could gain seniority over others entering the Senate at the same time.
There were a number of reasons given for Claude Swanson's refusal to advance Byrd. Byrd had worked against Roosevelt in the campaign before the Democratic Convention and had also failed to support Al Smith in the 1928 Presidental campaign. For an analysis of the situations surrounding this incident one may consult Claude A. Swanson of Virginia: A Political Biography by Henry Ferrell .