He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, owned the Burger Chief restaurant and was a respected dentist in Canton for decades.
Along with his work in the community, Swords traveled to Peru many times to build and work with an orphanage there, said his son, Dr. Edwin Swords III.
Both Swords and his son provided dental care for the children while in Peru on the mission trips, which were through the First Baptist Church of Canton.
Most recently, Swords became the oldest person to ever complete the Peachtree Road Race two years in a row, and was an inspiration to many.
Swords was the first person to graduate from Emory University’s four-year school of dentistry in 1950 and was a prominent dentist in the Canton area, retiring from dentistry in his mid-80s.
The younger Swords said he was inspired to become a dentist like his father, and now practices in Canton. Now 54 years old, he began working in dentistry with his father in 1985 when he was 26.
“He was the reason I got into dentistry,” his son said.
Canton City Councilman Jack Goodwin, Swords’ son-in-law of 40 years, said his father-in-law gave great dentistry service, but he wasn’t “just like any dentist.”
“He was unusual in that he loved candy and he loved ice cream. Not many dentists are like that. He ate ice cream almost every night and he ate Oreos in the morning,” Goodwin said. “He had a bumper sticker on his car for years that said ‘Eat candy, support your local dentist,’ and he just thought that was great.”
Besides dentistry, Swords is well known for opening the iconic Burger Chief restaurant in Canton. His son said that he remembered the store opening when he was a child.
“Canton was just a small, hometown community. That was a hangout; every restaurant you went to then, you probably knew everyone that was there,” his son said. “Everywhere you went it was kind of like a family reunion.”
Operating into the late ’80s, Swords III said the restaurant was “kind of like the old drive-in.”
Swords II also served in the Army, his son said. Deployed to the Philippines during World War II shortly after the invasion, as a veteran Swords will be buried in the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.
“He was in the military from 1943 to 1946, in the Army,” Swords III said.
Swords III said his father loved the outdoors, from hunting to skiing, he was always doing something outside.
“He grew up on a cattle farm in Illinois, and he was definitely an outdoors person,” Swords III said. “He hiked a lot on the Appalachian Trail. He hiked all the way up to Damascus, Va., on the Appalachian Trail.”
Goodwin said his father-in-law was a fun and adventurous person. He always liked joking around and being outdoors, from running to hiking to hunting, even taking up snow skiing at the age of 65, Goodwin said.
“He was always on the trail, hiking, and he would have me pick him up bags of Snickers all the time. He said, ‘That gives me energy,’” Goodwin recalled. “He was always helping people in the community and always playing a joke on somebody and always having fun.”
Goodwin said he knew his father-in-law for more than 44 years, and thought “he was a great man, and just a genuine person.”
“He was concerned about everyone in the community, not just medically, dental-wise, but most everybody was his friend. He was always joking and carrying on. He loved to play a good joke on somebody,” Goodwin said. “He was good to everybody he knew.”
Swords finished more than a dozen Peachtree Road Races, and was the oldest person to ever complete the race, running it in his 90s, two years in a row.
He lived life to the fullest,” his son said.
In 2012, the then-91-year-old Swords ran the race with a custom-made shirt from his granddaughter, Beth Goodwin.
“Eat my dust, slowpokes!” the back of the shirt read.
In an interview after the race, Swords told the Tribune that he was stopped by at least 200 people throughout the 10-kilometer race who wanted to take pictures with him.
“I was the most photographed thing in the race,” he joked.
Six of Swords’ grandchildren ran the Peachtree Road Race in support of their grandfather in 2012, along with three other family friends.
Swords is survived by his son Edwin I. Swords III, daughters, Denise Swords and Debra Swords Goodwin, all of Canton, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Darby Funeral Home is handling the funeral arrangements. Visitation will be at Darby Funeral Home on Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Darby Funeral Home is at 480 East Main St. in Canton.
A funeral service for Swords will be Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Canton First Baptist Church, at 1 Mission Point in Canton.
Burial will at Georgia National Cemetery at 2:30 p.m. The cemetery is at 1080 Veterans Cemetery Road in Canton.