Franklin Swartz

by | Dec 15, 2022 | Obituaries

Virginia Beach—Franklin Alex Swartz of Virginia Beach, and Boca Raton, Fla., died on his birthday, December 11, 2022, after a long battle with cancer.

Born on December 11, 1938 in Norfolk, to Hyman and Beulah Tonelson Swartz, “Lyn,” as he was known, was a 1957 graduate of Granby High School, where he excelled both in his classes and in athletics. He made the football team as a freshman, and played on the basketball team coached by the legendary Lefty Driesell. While a 17-year-old student at Granby, he met Ilene Shapiro, with whom he shared 61 years of marriage. Together they have three children: Jeffrey Adam Swartz (Jean), his law partner; Dr. Pamela Swartz (Billy Warwick), an audiologist; and Howard Swartz (Brooke), an Emmy award winning documentarian.

Following high school, Lyn went to the University of Virginia, earning a BA in 1961. During college, he was a handball champion and played in the Mad Bowl for three years. At UVA, Lyn was the president of his fraternity, AEPi, and served as an advocate for students in the Honor System. He earned his law degree at UVA in 1964.

Lyn entered the US Army in 1964 as a lieutenant 1st class, and was deployed to the Dominican Republic during that country’s revolution. He left the Army as a Captain in 1966, turning down an offer to go to JAG school, opting instead for the private practice of law before joining the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, where he honed his remarkable skills in front of a jury. He left the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in 1970 for private practice, and earned a reputation as one of the preeminent criminal defense attorneys in Hampton Roads. The list of his accreditations and professional honors is long and storied, and includes serving as chair of the Criminal Law Section of the Virginia State Bar and induction into the elite American College of Trial Attorneys. The May 20, 1991 Virginian-Pilot and Ledger Star article, Out of the Flock, a Few Legal Eagles, listed him as one of the Best Lawyers in Hampton Roads. He was included in the “Best Lawyers in America” since 1996, and was recognized by Virginia Business Magazine as one of the “Legal Elite” in Virginia, and as a “Super Lawyer” by the Law and Politics section of Richmond Magazine. There is no higher compliment for any lawyer than to be singled out as the one to call when other lawyers need a hand. Attorneys with such exalted reputations among colleagues are called the “lawyers’ lawyer.” Lyn Swartz was that lawyer.

He was a lifelong member of Temple Israel, the synagogue founded in 1952 by his father and other members of the Jewish community. He served as the first cantor of the fledgling congregation, and it was there that he became a bar mitzvah and later a husband. Lyn’s Jewish faith instilled in him a sense of fair play and integrity that informed every decision he ever made and every action he ever undertook.

He had a whip-smart sense of humor and a finely tuned wit, which he used to great effect on friends, family, judges, and juries alike. Sharply intelligent, with an innate sense of timing, he was a case study in effective communication, whether he was cracking a joke or explaining intricate matters of fact and law.

In addition to his wife Ilene, he leaves his three children and their spouses, and the grandchildren he loved, mentored and cherished: Michael Henry Swartz (Forest), Rachel Swartz Pulsifer (Parker), Joseph Scott Swartz, Joshua Brent Swartz and Benjamin Max Swartz. He is also survived by his sister Betty Lou Swartz Siegel (Barney) and sister-in-law, Elaine Shapiro. He will be mourned by the incalculable host of family, colleagues and friends whose lives he touched, and who universally thought of him as one of their favorite human beings. Everyone could—and did—count on Lyn.

One of the last and greatest joys of his life was officiating at the September 10, 2022 marriage of his only granddaughter Rachel to Parker Pulsifer. It was always his family who were his reason for living. They were the light in his eyes and the joys of his heart. Lyn Swartz was truly the best of men.

A funeral service was held at Temple Israel. Donations may be made to Temple Israel or a charity of your choice. Condolences may be left for the family at