John M. Swomley, Jr. is a native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He holds degrees from Dickinson College and the Boston College University School of Theology, an M.A. from Boston University, and a Ph.D in political science from the University of Colorado. In 1982 he was presented with an honorary degree from Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi.
His writings include American Empire: The Political Ethics of 20 th Century Conquest (1970); Religion: The State and the Schools (1968); The Military Establishment (1964); America, Russia, and the Bomb; The Road To War; The Peace Offensive and the Cold War; and Press Agents of the Pentagon. He authored numerous short pamphlets and magazine articles, which have appeared in Christian Century; Commercial and Financial Chronicle; Progressive; Nation; The Christian Advocate; and Intercollegian. He served as editor of Current Issues from 1960 to 1970, and as editor of Conscription News.
Swomley is a minister of the Methodist Church, and worked as a Professor of Social Ethics at the St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri from 1960 to 1984. He served in the capacity of visiting professor in Manila, Philippines (1973); at United Theological College near Salisbury, Rhodesia (1977); and in the Facultad Evangelico de Teologia in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1969). In 1966 he was invited to address the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Government in the House of Commons regarding the Vietnam War.
After World War II, Swomley formed the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Training and Service to bring about the desegregation of the Armed Forces. From 1944 to 1952 he worked as Director of the National Council Against Conscription directing a nation-wide campaign against universal military training. In 1956 he organized the first South-wide strategy meeting of militant black leaders with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, which was the spiritual forerunner of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1960-1964 Swomley served on the Methodist Church’s General Conference Commission to Study the Relation of Nuclear War to the Christian Faith. He helped organize the National Council to Repeal the Draft in 1969. At Wounded Knee in 1973, at the request of the American Indian Movement, he negotiated (unsuccessfully) with the Department of Justice for non-violent settlement. He participated in research, speaking, and debate for labor organizations in their 1978 campaign against the “Right to Work” amendment to Missouri Constitution.
Swomley served as the Chairperson of the Church-State Committee; President of the Methodist Peace Fellowship; Executive Secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (1953-1960); President of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Christian Ethics (1964-1970); and President of Americans for Religious Liberty. In 1976 he helped organize and served as Executive Director pro-tem of the Committee on Militarism in Education. In 1993 he founded the American Committee on Korea and served as its Executive Secretary. He was a member of the American Friends Service Committee Working Party on Non-Violence; the American Political Science Association; the American Society of Christian Social Ethics; the Commission on Religious Liberty of the National Council of Churches; the General Board of Christian Social Concerns of the Methodist Church; the National Council of Churches’ Committee to Study the Rights of Conscience; and the Women’s Rights Committee.
In 1975 Swomley received the ACLU’s Patrick Murphy Malin award for outstanding service to the cause of civil liberties in Missouri, and in 1976 he was selected by the United Nations Day Committee to receive the award of Kansas City’s World Citizen of the Year.