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Street in Springfield named for retired State Rep. Benjamin Swan

Benjamin Swan in front of campaign poster from when he first ran for elected office as he announced his retirement from the state legislature in 2016.
Paul Tuthill
Benjamin Swan in front of campaign poster from when he first ran for elected office as he announced his retirement from the state legislature in 2016.

A public dedication ceremony is Saturday

On this Juneteenth holiday weekend, the city of Springfield, Massachusetts will honor a local civil rights leader and public servant with a street naming.

A street in the historically Black Mason Square section of Springfield has been named Ben Swan Way to honor Benjamin Swan, who in the 1950s and 60s marched for civil rights in Springfield and other cities around the country and then later represented Springfield on Beacon Hill for more than two decades.

Swan, 88, plans to attend the dedication ceremony Saturday at 10 a.m. along with members of his family.

“It is indeed an honor,” Swan told WAMC.

The street is a short cut-through on the side of a triangle park where State Street meets Wilbraham Road and Eastern Avenue. It is where Swan’s district office was located in a storefront during the 22 years he was a State Representative.

“That is a nice spot — very visible and very important to Mason Square,” Swan said.

City Councilor Sean Curran, who served with Swan in the Massachusetts House for a decade, initiated the process to get the street named for his friend and former colleague.

“It is a great way to honor the service of Benjamin Swan,” Curran said. He encouraged people to attend Saturday’s dedication.

Earlier this week, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the order to create Ben Swan Way.

City Councilor Malo Brown, who represents Ward 4 where the street is located, said it is a great way to honor an elder statesman of the city’s Black community.

“He really paved the way for the Black and brown people in my area,” Brown said.

A block away a new school is under construction that will be named the Swan-Deberry Elementary school. Rev. William Deberry was a Springfield native and civil rights leader. The Springfield School Committee was petitioned by several people and organizations to add Swan’s name.

“I sincerely thank all the individuals who have been involved especially Mayor Sarno, all the members of the City Council, and School Committee,” said Swan, who added a special thanks to Sean Curran.

Several community events are being held this weekend by Springfield’s Juneteenth Jubilee Committee. These include a family movie night screening “Black Panther” in Blunt Park Friday night, a block party at Court Square Saturday, and a Father’s Day brunch and interfaith worship service also at Court Square on Sunday, said City Councilor Justin Hurst, a co-chair of the committee.

“It should be a fun-filled weekend for everybody to enjoy and really celebrate Black culture,” Hurst said.

The Brethren Community Foundation, which has celebrated Juneteenth for over 20 years, will pay tribute to the late Raymond Jordan, the first Black state legislator from Springfield, who died earlier this year. The event is Sunday at noon at the Raymond A. Jordan Senior Center.

This is the first year Juneteenth is being observed as a federal holiday. It became a state holiday in Massachusetts in 2021.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.