NEIGHBOR PROFILE


 
John and Kathy Swift
 

At age 4, John Swift started his career In the family business rolling firewood to the family house in his red wagon. That family business dates back to the 1830’s when the John Swift family settled in Madison, FL., and began cutting live oaks for the U. S. Navy. John’s grandsons, Charles and Ira Swift, came to the Perdido Bay region and worked for Mr. George Robinson at Southern States Lumber Co. around 1880.

About 1900, they started their own saw mill and logging operation in Bon Secour, the Swift & Lyons Lumber Co. Around 1915 the mill was moved to Mississippi, and in 1922, they moved the operation to Atmore, AL. The mill is still In operation in Atmore under the management and supervision of 5th and 6th generations of the Swift family.

In 1949, at six months of age, John and his family moved from Louisville, KY. to Atmore to join the family business. The Swift family had 2 more sons after they moved to Atmore. The saw mill operation, Swift-Hunter Lumber Company, supplied building materials for the south Alabama and Florida Panhandle construction market, and produced high quality export lumber products until 1955 when the old mill closed, and Swift Lumber Co. began retail operations, and Swift Supply was created about 1958. The 9 family members manage the day to day operations that provide retail building materials, and manage logging operations and timber procurement. There are 6 locations including the current saw mill, and retail stores in Atmore, Orange Beach, Daphne, Pensacola, Brewton and Monroeville. John’s great great grandfather, John Swift, originally settled in Madison, FL. In 1829, and two of his grandsons moved to the Perdido Bay area in 1877, from where they shipped lumber from Perdido Bay to Pensacola, and where pilings from Southern States Lumber Co. still stand today on the shore line of Perdido Bay. Mr. Robinson, Swift’s employer in the lumber business, changed the landscape of the Orange Beach coast line by having Charles dynamite the landmass that connected Perdido Pass to the Old River, creating Ono Island, and Robinson Island, named after the lumber businessman! Another of the their family historical sites was the 1900 construction of the Swift-Cole House, which still stands today in Bon Secour as a treasured Baldwin County historical landmark.

John attended public school in Atmore, and completed high school at University Military School (UMS) in Mobile. He graduated from Auburn University in 1970, with a degree in engineering. He returned home to work in the family business. He met Kathy Reeves, a native of Atmore, and they dated for 6 years, and were married in 1996 by the Chilton County Probate Judge, who was also the local undertaker and funeral home owner. Kathy has a child by a previous marriage. Kathy worked for Vanity Fair, but soon turned her career path to her “new job”, creating a signature barbeque sauce for John’s avocation…professionally cooked barbeque! They made a commitment to the barbeque “road show”, and joined the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the nation’s largest cooking fraternity, and travel in a comfortable motor coach, with a custom built mobile barbeque kitchen in tow, to compete in KCBS (KCBS.com) events around the country. In their first year they attended one event, and they have competed in as many as 26 events in one year. They have won over 500 awards in KCBS competition, and Top Ten’s for a number of years in ribs, brisket, chicken and butts, in competition against over 4,000 teams. In 2008, they competed in the World Championship at Kemper Arena, Kansas City, against 550 teams, and won KCBS Team of the Year for chicken, and world champions in ribs. Thanks to modern communication tools, John can conduct business from the road, and enjoys “draining his 401K” from the motor coach, barbeque venues and companionship of their fellow world class barbeque chefs! Kathy created their award winning barbeque sauce from scratch, and offers it for sale at the KCSB events, and often used by their competitors. She also created her own seasonings and rubs, and offers those for sale to the public along with her award winning sauce.

The Swift’s have traveled over 150,000 miles to compete in barbeque events, but enjoy some time off in June and July at their beautiful home on Arnica Bay in Josephine. John bought the original house on County Road 95 in 1990, and rebuilt on the site in 2006 after the property was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. The current house was designed and engineered to withstand hurricane force winds and high water, and the interior appointments reflect their personal touch and quality, with virgin longleaf heart pine and finish only a lumber expert could design and build. The Swift’s enjoy a wonderful and entertaining lifestyle, and a love for the barbeque “road show,” and the many friends that they have met in competition along the way. The Swift family has made a significant impact on the history of the local area, and still possess family historical documents that were signed by President Andrew Jackson, among others. In fact, floors in two rooms of the house are constructed from old shortleaf pine trees from the property for which Jackson executed the deed to the property in 1835. Josephine is fortunate and very proud to have the Swift’s call Josephine a “home away from home”, and for those of us who have had the pleasure to sample their signature barbeque , “Wild Bunch Butt Burners”, there is no better barbeque than Swift Made!

 
 

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