An exhibit of the Cherokee County Historical Society at the Historic Marble Courthouse in downtown Canton now on display highlights the decades Dixie Speedway has been owned and operated by Mickey and Martha Swims.
It has pictures of many of NASCAR’s finest at Dixie Speedway including Richard Petty signing autographs. At the time, Mickey said, “When he came here for us, he signed autographs as long as there were people in line. He didn’t cut it short. A lot of the young drivers in NASCAR today could learn from him.”
But NASCAR, Awesome Bill from Dawsonville, dirt tracks, fast driving, etc., is not what this column is about. It is about good people and those who know them will agree that Martha and Mickey Swims are two of the best.
As Paul Harvey might have said if he had viewed the excellent display provided by the Historical Society, “Here is the rest of the story.”
Cherokee County Manager Jerry Cooper has observed how the Swims live their faith. For more than 20 years, Rev. Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, has been the chaplain of the track for drivers, their pit crews, families and fans.
Tracy Byrd works with the FBCW race track ministry. She describes the Swims family as having giving and loving hearts. Consistent is another word she uses to describe them. “I know when there is a need, they are some of the first ones to step up giving their time, their talent and treasures to help.”
Local charities and nonprofits as well as families and individuals have been recipients of their generosity.
Some time ago Martha and Mickey said, “Of all the things that have happened over the last 40 years, we are most proud of the race track ministry of FBCW.”
Sheriff Roger Garrison describes Mickey and Martha Swims as salt-of-the-earth people. They are generous, caring and kindhearted. As someone said, “They are everyday Joes like the people who come to the races.”
Sheriff Garrison praises the Swims for keeping the cost of admission reasonable so ordinary people can share their love of the sport. They provide affordable, wholesome family entertainment while at the same time providing quality racing.
While Mickey is working out front, Martha is working behind the scenes. It is another case of the old adage about wherever there is a good man, there is a good woman behind him. Martha Swims has even been called the First Lady of Auto Racing.
You might say Martha and Mickey raised their children at the race track. They taught them to work for what they have.
Very early in their lives, the children were given responsibilities in the business. When she was 7, daughter Mia sold programs and distributed schedules to fans. When she was 12, she took over the merchandizing.
The Swims’ son, Mike, was operating the scoreboard and signing the drivers in when he was 12. In his very early 20s, he had already taken over the promotional duties of the track. The Swims’ son-in-law, Marshall Green, daughter-in-law, Debra Swims, and their grandchildren have all worked in the family business.
Tragedy struck the Swims family after Mike was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Most of us cannot imagine how hard it was for them, but they went on with their lives.
Mike’s death was also a loss to the world of dirt track racing where he is remembered as a man of vision whose word was gold.
Prior to Mike’s death, he and his dad had been inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. Later they were inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.
At the time Mike expressed appreciation to all of those involved at Dixie Speedway. He spoke of employees who had been working there for 20 or 30 years.
Most people have not rubbed elbows with as many of the rich and famous as the Swims have.
Kenny Rogers was at Dixie Speedway for days during the filming of one of his popular movies, “Six Pack.” Racing greats Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Petty, Rusty Wallace and Geoff Bodine are just some of those the Swims have hosted on the track.
Yet Martha and Mickey Swims remain unchanged. They continue being the same salt-of-the-earth people and everyday Joes who love their God, their church, their family and other people. They are highly respected in the world of racing and in their personal lives for their ethics and high morals.
People like you and me would do well to live our lives as they do theirs.
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.