July 13, 2005 The V.I. community was shocked to learn of the death early Wednesday morning of the head of the V.I. Justice Department. Condolences have been coming in throughout the day.
Attorney General Alva A. Swan died around 4 a.m. at the Schneider Regional Medical Center of an as-yet undisclosed cause. He was 62.
Swan had been appointed to the attorney general post in May, after serving as chief deputy attorney general for the past 11 years.
"His last days were happy," said Elliot McIver Davis, V.I. solicitor general and one of Swan's closest colleagues.
Davis said, "He was fulfilling a goal." One part of that goal was to make sure the Justice Department's Paternity and Child Support division was functioning properly.
Davis told a story of Swan's particular dedication to that area of his purview.
"When he was a young boy his mother got child support from his father," Davis said.
According to Davis, young Alva used to accompany her to the then district court across from Emancipation Garden, where she had to go to pick up the check.
Davis says Swan recalled the humiliation his mother was subjected to by the workers at the court.
Davis said Swan told him "They made her sit and wait to get her check, mumbling behind her back and disrespecting her."
After a time, Swan's mother stopped going to the court. Instead, Davis said, she sent Alva, and "He hated doing it." Swan had told Davis that he was subjected to the same humiliation.
Davis said Swan made it his mission "to see to it that no mother or child ever had to go through that."
According to Davis, Swan was a good manager, which is how the newly-appointed attorney general saw himself. Two and a half months ago, on the day the Legislature approved his nomination, Swan said, "I don't want to be the best lawyer in the Justice Department," Swan said. "But I want to be the best manager."
Davis recalled that Swan would spend his time at night writing "literary masterpieces," in the form of memos to various Justice Department personnel. "Every morning I would come in to find several in my in box he copied everyone on the memos," Davis said.
He thought of the Justice Department as the "can-do agency," Davis said.
Former Attorney General Iver Stridiron, who Swan replaced, said he was "proud" to have had Swan as his successor.
Stridrion said, "After his confirmation he didn't go out to a fancy restaurant. He went to Sebastien's corner, " where Swan was known to hang out with a group of taxi drivers.
"I often saw him there," Davis said, exchanging ideas and just enjoying time with a group of friends."It was his posse."
Davis also had a story about the day that Swan was confirmed. "I walked into his office. He was holding a Cartier bag."
When Davis asked what was in the bag, Swan opened it and showed Davis a beautiful ink pen. "His eyes just sparkled," Davis said. Swan told him, "I just bought it. It was $400."
Davis said it was out of character for Swan to be extravagant or to reveal the cost of something he had purchased. Swan went on to explain, "At every momentous event in my legal career," Swan told Davis, "I have bought myself an extravagant pen to give to my grandchildren."
Davis said he was moved by Swan's gracious gesture and propensity to think of others at a time of honor for himself.
Davis also shed some light on Swan's unexpected death. He said Swan had gone home sick on Tuesday.
According to Davis, Swan had never, to his knowledge, gone home sick in the 11 years that they worked together. When Davis questioned the unusual behavior, Swan's secretary told him the attorney general said he felt like he might have had food poisoning.
Swan had given up his private law practice in Washington, D.C. after a triple bypass operation. "He was told to reduce stress," Davis said.
He came home, Davis said, to take the deputy attorney general's position, where the stress might be lessened.
Senate President Lorraine Berry said, "The Virgin Islands was made a better place when he decided to come home. In a press release from her office, Berry characterized Swan as a "down-to-earth individual" who was easy to talk to. "He was a man of conviction, yet one of understanding," Berry wrote.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen said in a release from her office that Swan would be, "greatly missed by his family, friends and the V.I. Justice Department, and the people of the Virgin Islands."
Kerry E. Drue has been tapped by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to fill the position of acting attorney general.
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