Founder’s column: Swangers taking over daily operations at IHJ

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by Mike Chapman


Last issue, I shared with you all of the positive developments that have taken place with Iowa History Journal since it debuted in January of 2009, and how bright the future looks for the publication. This issue, I want to tell you about a new player in the long-range plan – a friend of mine that will help guide IHJ to even greater heights.


Michael Swanger is coming aboard as the new publisher, taking over the responsibility of running the day-to-day operations with his wife, Rebecca. They have a true passion for history and for Iowa. Michael is a well–established journalist with a long list of credentials, and Rebecca is highly skilled in the area of office management. They will be a great team, just like my wife, Bev, and I have been.


Michael worked for me when I was publisher of the Newton Daily News over a decade ago, and when I started Iowa History Journal he was among the first persons I reached out to for story assignments. He has been a regular contributor to these pages from the outset.


A native of West Des Moines, he brings a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the publication. At my age (I hit 70 last October), I decided that it was time to turn over the general operation of IHJ to someone younger.


That doesn’t mean I will not be involved. I will write a column every issue for the foreseeable future, and will contribute articles from time to time. I will also continue working with some of the advertisers, and will serve in the role of consultant to the Swangers as they work diligently to provide you, the readers, with the most interesting and entertaining history publication available.


Working at our side the past two months, the Swangers have already experienced the joy of publishing the magazine and have witnessed firsthand how many readers like you appreciate the magazine. They are truly excited about the future.


Bev and I are very pleased that Michael and Rebecca are carrying the torch forward, and we are committed to helping grow Iowa History Journal in the years to come. We hope that you will continue your unabashed enthusiasm for and support of IHJ as it works to preserve the heritage of this great state.


While we always look to the future, it is with sadness that we bid farewell to two Iowans who left huge footprints on the state’s cultural heritage. Johnny Orr and Phil Everly died recently, and anyone who loves Iowa certainly felt the pain of their passing.


Johnny Orr was one of the brightest personalities to come along on the Iowa sports scene in the last 50 years. He shocked the college basketball world when he left the University of Michigan to come to Iowa State University in 1980. Energetic and charming, he guided the Cyclones basketball program for 14 years, and though his teams never reached the Final Four, he turned ISU into a respected power all across the nation.


In his retirement years, Johnny was a regular on the celebrity golf tournament circuit and made many new friends in that capacity.


“He is the most iconic figure in the history of Iowa State University,” athletic director Jamie Pollard told the Des Moines Register shortly after Johnny’s death. “His decision to leave Michigan to come to Iowa State was unprecedented, especially at that time. That decision forever changed the history of Iowa State University basketball.”


Phil Everly died on January 3 at age 74. In the late 1950s, Phil and Don Everly exploded onto the music scene with a series of huge hits – from “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie” to “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and “When Will I Be Loved.” Between 1957 and 1962, they had almost as many hits as Elvis Presley!


Among their many fans were several kids in Liverpool, England, who made history a few years later when they formed a band known as the Beatles. Upon hearing of Phil’s passing, Paul McCartney wrote a stirring tribute to him on his Facebook page, calling Everly one of his biggest heroes.


Be sure and read the tribute to Phil Everly on page 30 of Iowa History Journal. The Everlys and Johnny Orr used their unique talents to make sports and music more enjoyable for a vast number of Americans. They were great Iowans, and will be truly missed.


(Mike Chapman retired from a 35-year newspaper career in 2002. He and his wife, Beverly, founded Iowa History Journal in 2009.)