The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume 8, July 1904 - April, 1905 Page: 230
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230 Texas Historical Association Quarterly.
had moved to Austin. In the fall of 1878, when the yellow fever
was raging in Memphis and in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and
there was a call for medical assistance, he immediately volun-
teered, and with him went another physician from Austin, Dr. T.
D. Manning. Because the necessity of Holly Springs seemed
greatest, they went there. In seventeen days from the time they
left home, Dr. Manning died of the fever, but Dr. Swearingen con-
tinued at his post until the plague was over. What feelings to-
wards him this inspired among the people of Holly Springs may
be inferred from the expression of the local paper of the town,
which said that, while not intending to single out as pre-eminent
for service and self-sacrifice any one among those who had come
to the help of the town, "a common sense of justice impels us to
give to the world the name of Dr. R. M. Swearingen, who for
measureless energy and conspicuous devotion to his sick is facile
One result of the epidemic of 1878 was the appointment by
President Hayes, in pursuance of action taken by Congress, of a
commission of nine experts to investigate and report on the sub-
ject of epidemics. Dr. Swearingen was a member of this commis-
sion. The outcome of its report was the creation of the National
Board of Health, which was later merged in the Marine Hospital
In 1881 Dr. Swearingen was appointed state health officer of
Texas, and with the exception of the four years 1887-1891 he held
the position till his death. In the discharge of his official duties,
his courage, tact, and patience were often severely tested, but he
was always equal to the emergency. In spite of the fact that he
frequently had to resist the popular impulse, he attracted and
held popular commendation with rare success.
Not the least of Dr. Swearingen's public services was his activ-
ity in organizing the public schools of the city of Austin. He was
for many years an active and efficient member of the board of
public school trustees, being for most of the time its president.
Dr. Swearingen died of Bright's disease, August 9, 1898. He
had been for years a sufferer from this malady; but, knowing its
nature as he 'did, he had been able to keep it in check. In his
anxiety, however, to guard the interests of the state during the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume 8, July 1904 - April, 1905, periodical, 1905; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101033/m1/237/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.