William A. Swain, 88, of Germantown, the first African American in Philadelphia to become a member of the printer’s union, died Sept. 6 of an aortic aneurysm at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse.

Mr. Swain operated a printing and accounting business at 6228 Germantown Ave. from 1977 until shortly before his death. He was granted the right to use the Allied Printing Trades Council’s union label in the mid-1950s when he was using the basement of his home on Magnolia Street as his shop. Mr. Swain did the printing and his wife, Ena Lindner Swain, handled bookkeeping, orders and billing.

For more than three decades, starting in 1956, he also was the founding supervisor of the reprographics department at the Free Library of Philadelphia that provided in-house printing services for the library.

He received a distinguished service citation in 1971 from the Graphic Arts Association of the Delaware Valley for his work in promoting access and diversity in Philadelphia’s trade unions and as a public high school lecturer.

Born in Dale, Texas, Mr. Swain graduated from Lincoln-Ball High School in Seguin, Texas. He then enlisted in the Marines where he learned the printing trade. He served during the Korean War and was honorably discharged with the rank of staff sergeant.

He was active with Boy Scout Troop No. 216 and the Boys Club at Mallery Playground. In 1978 he was given an Outstanding Service Award for his work as vice president of the Philadelphia Citywide Recreation Advisory Council.

An avid gardener, he was widely known for his Texas barbequing skills.

In addition to his wife of 66 years, he is survived by daughters Valerie Swain-Cade and Gail Swain Harrison; sons William A. Swain Jr. and Brian A. Swain; 12 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held Sept. 16 at Christ Church and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, with interment in Ivy Hill Cemetery.

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