By Ariel Zangla, Daily Freeman POSTED:
ATHENS >> Charles B. Swain, Greene County’s longtime minorities historian, died this week at 73. Swain had served as the minorities historian for Greene County since the early 1970s, the first in the state to hold such a title. He died Sunday at Albany Medical Center.
A resident of Athens, he wrote and lectured on black history for many years. Among his works are books on black cowboys, Buffalo Soldiers and black pioneers of the American West, as well as African-Americans in early New York state. He also compiled a census of the 1748 black population in Greene County, which he had said took him three years to complete. Swain also had participated in Civil War re-enactments in which he portrayed his great-grandfather.
“He was excellent colleague,” Greene County Historian David Dorpfeld said of Swain Friday. “Sometimes our focus was a bit different, but I think it was a good thing to have a position like his.” He said Swain was appointed in 1975 and took his position very seriously. Dorpfeld said Swain worked hard to promote events that celebrated the contributions of minorities.
Tania Barricklo-Daily Freeman Charles Swain in a photo taken in February 2013 stands next to a wheel cover on his that pays tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers, a black U.S. Cavalry unit formed after the Civil War. His great-grandfather was a Buffalo Soldier.
Many years ago, Swain sponsored an all black rodeo in Cairo that was very successful, Dorpfeld said. He said the event raised quite a bit of money that was passed on to black churches in Catskill and Coxsackie. In 1999, Swain also organized a two-day Civil War memorial service in Coxsackie honoring colored soldiers from Greene County, Dorpfeld said.
“He was very dedicated to his mission and he was a wonderful man,” Dorpfeld said. He noted that he had been profiling Swain for a book on Greene County residents.
Swain also worked in Hyde Park for the National Park Service at the Vanderbilt Mansion and the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to his obituary. He was a U.S. Marine Corps reservist and also belonged to Mountain Top Marine Corps League Detachment 1274.
A graduate of Catskill High School, Swain married his wife, Doris, in 1961. Swain is survived by his wife and his children, Charles A. Swain of Catskill and MaryJane Swain of Athens, as well as other family members, according to his obituary. Millspaugh Camerato Funeral Home in Catskill is handling funeral arrangements.