Lt. James Habersham Swiggart
James Habersham Swiggart died on December 18, 2015, in a private plane crash in bad weather near Greenville, FL. He was 31 years old.
James was born to Mrs. John A. Wayt III (Swiggart—Carolyn C. Rudisill) and William Swiggart on August 14, 1984, in Boston. Known as Jamie, he grew up in Darien, CT, where he became an Eagle Scout and served as an EMT with Post 53, a volunteer ambulance corps staffed by high school students. He sailed during his summer vacations out of Indian Harbor Yacht Club, and competed in numerous regattas. After graduating from Darien High School in 2002, and The Hill School in 2003 (having received a United States Naval Academy Foundation Scholarship to attend the preparatory school), he was appointed to the Class of 2007 at the United States Naval Academy.
Sailing was Jamie’s passion while at the Naval Academy, and he participated in the Newport-Bermuda Race aboard Lively, winning its class in 2004; several New York Yacht Club Race Weeks; Key West Race Weeks; Marblehead-Halifax Race; and many others as a member of the Varsity Offshore Sailing Team. Upon graduation from the Naval Academy, he was awarded the Office of Naval Intelligence Harry E. Ward gold medal for excellence in French, and was elected a member of the Phi Sigma Iota honor society. Jamie pursued aviation, and was designated a Naval Aviator (pilot) in January 2010 at NAS Corpus Christi. He qualified on the E2-C Hawkeye and was assigned to his operational squadron, VAW-117 (“The World Famous Wallbangers”) out of Point Mugu, CA. He was deployed in 2013 for nearly nine months aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68), becoming a Trusty Shellback and one of the top five pilots of Carrier Air Wing 11 in the process. He accomplished over 1,700 flight hours and 160 carrier landings. At the time of his death, he was a jet pilot instructor with VT-7 (“Eagles”) at NAS Meridian, MS, with the rank of lieutenant.
Childhood trips to France for skiing and touring instilled in Jamie a lifelong love of France and the French language. During his junior year at the Naval Academy, he selected a summer session at the École Navale in Brest, France, and learned to operate the French training vessel Leopard during a cruise from Brest to Porto, Portugal. After graduation, he was able to spend part of his summer before aviation training as an intern to the Defense Attaché at the United States Embassy in Paris. Jamie had accumulated many French friends and a “micro-appartement” in the heart of Paris, to which he escaped for long vacations and which he shared with friends who visited. During his 2013 deployment, the USS Nimitz rendezvoused with the French frigate Chevalier Paul in the Mediterranean Sea. Because of his fluency in French, Jamie was selected to go aboard Chevalier Paul by helicopter for joint training purposes. Upon landing, he was greeted with a beer, then wine with lunch. He was absolutely delighted; the United States Navy is “dry” except for a designated “beer day” when the ship has been continuously at sea for more than thirty-five days or so. When he was ready to leave the Chevalier Paul, the officers asked what they could offer, and Jamie suggested a couple of baguettes from the wardroom. When he got into the helicopter, he was amazed to find two huge “Postes Françaises” mail sacks filled with fresh baguettes!
Jamie lived life to the fullest, and along the way had great times with good friends. If Jamie was near water, he could be found on someone’s race boat helping out as a bowman. If he was near a mountain, he would be skiing the double black diamonds with whoever could keep up with him. A good mechanic (possibly due to owning a 1977 MGB), he was always happy to lend a hand to his fellow aviators with their private planes at Key Field. His blog about becoming an aviator was widely read and appreciated.
Jamie loved people, and his life was marked by service to his country and his community. He was a worthy descendant of founders and patriots, and was a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants; Sons of the Revolution; and Sons of the American Revolution. Sailing was always a big part of his life, and he was a member of the New York Yacht Club and the Storm Trysail Club.
He is survived by his mother, Carolyn, and his stepfather, John A. Wayt III of Greenwich, CT, and Jamestown, RI; his father and stepmother, William and Janet Swiggart, and their children, Abigail and William, of North Andover, MA. His ashes were inurned at the United States Naval Academy with full military honors.