Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pius Louis Schwert (1892-1941)

    I can hear it now...... "What? Why is Andy profiling a baseball player on his political strange names site?" You'd be right in asking that question, as the man being profiled today was indeed a Major League Baseball player! What you may not know is that Pius Louis Schwert was also a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York for two terms!
  Pius Louis Schwert was born in the village of Angola, New York on November 22, 1892, the son of Julius and Louise Ahlers Schwert. Research indicates that Julius was quite a prominent man in the town of Angola, being at times a business owner, town treasurer, town clerk and eventually deputy sheriff of Erie County, New York. Pius Schwert attended schools local to the Angola area and eventually graduated from the Lafayette High School in Buffalo, New York. Soon afterward he began attending the Wharton School of Commerce in Philadelphia, graduating from there in 1914. 
   While attending college in Pennsylvania, Schwert gained prominence as a stand out ball player on the varsity team. He eventually made the All-American college team, and after leaving college went on to the Major Leagues. In 1914 he joined up with the New York Highlanders (later known as the Yankees) and played with the team for two seasons. Schwert left the major leagues in 1916 and became an ensign in the Navy, eventually being stationed at a naval yard in Philadelphia throughout the course of WWI. Schwert continued on with his baseball career during his navy service, playing on a Naval District team.

              Pius Schwert (1892-1941), as he looked during his tenure on the NY Highlanders, ca. 1915.

   After his naval service concluded, Schwert returned to Angola and began engaging in business endeavors. In 1921 he was named as the President of the Bank of Angola, serving in this position until 1931. In the early 1930s, Schwert relocated to Buffalo, New York and was elected as Erie County clerk in 1933. He served a five-year term as clerk and in 1938 began a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. In that year's congressional election, Schwert ran as the Democratic candidate and defeated his Republican opponent, John Cornelius Butler (1887-1953). When the votes were tallied, Schwert managed a 3,000 vote win over Butler, 39,287 votes to 36, 326.

                                            From "Evans and Angola", by Cheryl Delano, 2009.

   Schwert was reelected to Congress in November 1940 and on this occasion defeated his Republican opponent (Edward F. Moss) by a wide margin (64, 250 votes to 44, 866.) Schwert was only a few months into his second congressional term when tragedy struck on March 11, 1941. On that particular day, Schwert was in the midst of giving a speech at a dinner party in Washington, D.C. Within minutes of delivering this announcement, he suffered a fatal heart attack at age 48 and died in the arms of U.S. Senator James Michael Meade of New York. Schwert's body was returned to Angola a few days after his death and he was buried in the Forest Avenue Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Hattie, who died in 1967 and was interred alongside her husband at the Forest Avenue Cemetery.

                                      Schwert's death notice from the Troy, NY Times Record.

   Earlier today (February 5, 2012) I managed to make a visit to Pius L. Schwert's gravesite in Angola and after some searching discovered the quiet, well-kept Forest Avenue Cemetery on the outskirts of the town. Schwert's gravestone is located between that of his father and mother (as well as his wife, Hattie) and it indeed mentions his service in Congress from 1939-1941. An American Legion marker and flag indicate his service during the First World War. Some photos from that visit have been posted below. So there you have it, a very interesting bit of political history buried right in the backyard of our native Western New York!

                         With the SNIAPH Book at the gravesite of Congressman Pius Louis Schwert.

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