Our Town: Off Duty: Swanson Clock Collection

“They hang because of their beauty.”

–Jim Swanson, inherited clock collector

When FBI agent John W. Swanson retired from the agency after 25 years of service, he delved more deeply into his passion for clocks: he ultimately collected 600 of them. Today, half of Swanson’s collection hangs in the Raleigh home of his son, Jim Swanson.

John Swanson was born and raised in Southern California. He interrupted his college education to enlist in the Navy during World War II, rising to naval officer rank. After the war, he finished his college degree in California and was recruited by the FBI as a special agent. He moved to Fairfax, Virginia, where he raised his family during his assignment with the Washington field office. Since then, son Jim Swanson and his wife, Lynn, have made their home in Raleigh.

Jim Swanson says his grandparents told him that his father was adept at fixing things, at “just being good with his hands,” from the time he was 14. Today, if you stroll through the Swansons’ home, you can see and hear the results of those “good hands.” John Swanson left to each of his two children an astonishing collection of 300 clocks.

Jim Swanson remembers the day his father brought home his first clock. “I was in junior high at the time and saw from his enthusiasm how hooked he was on those devices.”   

John Swanson came by his clocks in many ways. He bought some, he was given others, and some he “rescued” from the junk heap and restored their beauty. Many of his father’s timekeepers are on display in Jim Swanson’s home, but especially rare or delicate ones “are hidden away for safekeeping.”

The hidden ones come out sometimes: “Each year, we display on special holidays – Christmas and the Fourth of July – commemorative clocks that add to our celebration.” For Jim and Lynn, every tick-tock, every chime, keeps alive the love of a father. They provide timeless memories. 
–James Daniels