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Street in Springfield named for retired State Rep. Benjamin Swan

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.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.