Grover C.“GC” Swinney   Age: 87   b: 6/17/1893  d: 4/16/1980

Grover C. Swinney of Draper was a supporter of checkers who was a member of the NC Checker Association and Winton-Salem YMCA Chess & Checker Association.  He was an active player, a committed officer and served on the Executive Committee over the years for both organizations.

G.C. Swinney was personal friends of Checker Grandmasters Tommy Wiswell, Willie Ryan, and Newell Banks and particularly Wiswell.  After WWII and into the '60's he opened his home to these "Checker Celebrities" when they scheduled their special checker attractions and exhibition tours into the area, usually several days or a week long.

Newell Banks would mostly hold his exhibitions in Reidsville and stay at the Jeff Webster's home (John's farther), while Tommy Wiswell would hold his exhibitions in the Eden area better known back then at Draper, Leaksville, and Spray which GC would provide him a comfortable bedroom, and setup playing accommodation for tournaments and exhibitions. Swinney and Webster would keep these two separated and it seemed they were satisfied with not crossing over into the others checker territory; however, this changed much later with both touring Reidsville, Winston-Salem, and Eden. 

Such events were presented as annual public entertainment, drawing city and county crowds like July 4th and Autumn Fairs.  This brought attention to the game of checkers as well as educating the public on the fellowship and satisfaction gained from playing checkers.  It was common to stage special checker attractions and exhibitions into their larger State and District Tournaments.

Each "Checker Celebrity" had his own showmanship techniques to amuse and entertain the public by playing blindfold, or playing multiple boards, sometimes into the hundreds of boards moving down the tables in a slow walk making his moves.   Impressionable memories were created in these special tutorial sessions at local checker clubs with a Grandmaster of Checkers validating their group, and in deed a privilege to improve ones game, or gain the bragging rights to a rare draw or much less likely a win.  It has been said, "occasionally these Grandmasters would pick out the most unsuspecting good player and offer a draw or even concede a win so they could award one of their books, a cherished and valuable keepsake indeed!"

Tommy Wiswell would always have checkerboards & checker sets for sale, checker books, and naturally promoting his newest checker publications, since Grandmasters / World Checker Champion Title holders usually authored their own checker books.  I recall hearing John Webster talk about as a boy when Newell Banks arriving with 3 or 4 big heavy leather suitcases packed with more books than clothes.  The later Grandmaster Marion Tinsley, and long time World Title holder, is the only great player who actually never authored a book but is featured in several books with his donated games and annotations. These two books come to mind, World Class Checkers and Checkers The Tinsley Way, both published in '50 & '82 respectively by Robert L. Shuffett, M.D.  

I was told later by Dr. John Webster that Newell Banks mostly stayed at his parent's home when he was growing up and later he opened his home to Newell when he come to the Winston-Salem and Reidsville area.  Some of John's earliest memories as a boy of Newell Banks was his world traveling stories and his political opinions. Understand John is talking about things that happen 65 years ago, he must have been 6 years old, but interested in checkers. Banks drove an old blue Plymouth and knew all about who were communist, I also remember that subject and the Russians where going to bomb us when I was growing up. We had fire and boom drills at school, for the boom drill you would run out into the school yard holding a reader over your head screaming and down into the basement & boiler room.  It seems silly now but it was real scary back then.  John said, “Banks was a talker.”  Banks' father was a doctor (dentist) so he probably didn't have to scrape as hard as some of the checker experts (Ryan) who toured and incurred travel expense.  John's father Jeff Webster was a country store owner who bought a farm on NC-135 in 1924 which run between Eden and Mayodan. He built his new and larger store near Shiloh crossroads which is long gone, but Jeff Webster, John's nephew still lives on part of that farm which he inherited.  The Rockingham Co - Shiloh Airport is on some of it also and NC Hwy 135 is named Webster Hwy.

Grover promoted and supported checkers throughout his life, and credited for getting John Webster started in checkers. John being a good friend later bought and sold his and Ed Scheidt's checker libraries. His son Albert Swinney of Elon College occasionally plays checkers at the Burlington Checker Club at the John Robert Kernodle Senior Activities Center.   Albert and John related this information to me over the times we talked about yesteryear checkers.

Deceased Tournament Players

Burlington Checker Club

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