The History of the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation

Bessie Minor Swift

Bessie Roberts Minor was born on June 29, 1887, in Onaga, Pottawatomie County, Kansas.  She was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and then moved to Blackburn, Missouri where she taught school in a one room schoolhouse.  She married Dean Edwin Swift on October 12, 1910 in Chicago, Illinois. They had been married for 61 years at the time of her death.

Her Life and Her Story

 Bessie and her husband “Ed” had three sons, Dean Edwin Swift, Harry Minor Swift and Philip Eugene Swift.  Dean died in the Philippines in 1946; Harry died in March of 2010 and Phil died in November 2019.  Neither Bessie nor Ed had formal education past high school but each of their son’s completed college.  Theirs was a home filled with books, music (Bessie played the piano and Ed the harmonica) and hard work.  They were a farm family growing up during the Great Depression who exchanged extra products they raised for those they didn’t.  Phil once said that the family was barely aware of the Depression era because they had no cash to lose.  Bessie’s interest in English, reading, history, music and her experience in the one-room schools and in their home was evident in her sons.

Bessie Minor Swift passed away on May 5, 1972, in Napa, California and is buried next to her husband in Blackburn Cemetery, Blackburn, Missouri

Phil Swift at his first newspaper, the Clarence Courier, prior to the US entering WWII.  He subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Navy and left his newspaper in the hands of the employees to operate until he returned in 1946.

Bessie and her husband Ed on their 50th anniversary.

Bessie Minor Swift Foundation

           After several years of discussion and planning, Phil Swift and his two daughters, Marilyn Shelton and Janet Buschert and their husbands established the Bessie Minor Fund in 2007, a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund for the purpose of highlighting the need for literacy and STEM education in communities served by Swift Communications, Inc.  Phil Swift founded Swift Communications, Inc. (formerly Swift Newspapers, Inc.) in 1975 after being involved in community journalism since before WWII.  Because of the strong memories of the importance of English, reading, history and music to his mother and their grandmother, the Fund was named in her honor and the first grants were given in 2008.  In 2012, the Fund was replaced with a private foundation, the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation, and Marilyn Shelton, Jack Shelton and Janet Buschert joined its Board of Directors.

Contact Us


Sterling Foundation Management

12030 Sunrise Valley Drive

Suite 450

Reston, VA 20191