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Theologian John Swomley's Legacy Extends from Civil Rights to the Philippines


Kansas City, MO – A Kansas City theologian died last week who had a far-reaching impact on the history of the 20th century. John Swomley was a long-time professor at the St. Paul School of Theology. His writings about non-violence and reconciliation influenced the strategies of the civil rights movement, the integration of the military, and the People Power Revolution in the Philippines, among other major world events.

Swomley died August 16, 2010 at the age of 95. Last week, friends and family gathered at All Souls Unitarian Universalist church on the Plaza for a surprisingly low-key memorial service. Peace activists, Methodist ministers, and former neighbors joined his wife, children and grandchildren. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver also stopped by--he was a student of Swomley's at St. Paul.

Nationally, Swomley is known for his pacifist take on liberation theology. He used Gandhian principles to lay out strategies for the civil rights movement, advocating for the integration of the armed forces, against nuclear proliferation and mandatory military service, as well as women's reproductive rights.

KCUR's Sylvia Maria Gross sat down with Reverend Jim Eller, the emeritus pastor of All Souls, who was a friend and colleague. Eller said he first became familiar with John Swomley through his writing.

This story was produced for KC Currents. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents Podcast.

Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
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