Mallory McSwain ’57

Mallory Logan McSwain died peacefully in the early morning of September 29, 2022 at his Durham N.C. home after a long illness. His beloved wife of sixty-four years, Wanda McSwain, was at his side. Mal’s indelible legacy of love was his love for Christ, his love for Wanda and their family, and his uncanny ability to share Christ’s love with so many people in so many dedicated ways for decades upon decades.
For Mal, out of sight was never out of mind, following his motto to “get to know people as if you are going to know them for the rest of your life.” Not only did this mindset bring genuineness into first encounters with others, hundreds of Mal’s friends can attest to his faithful and unconditional correspondence through years of letters and phone calls. Many of these friends got to know Mal when he was their Young Life leader in high school, leading their weekly Young Life clubs and taking them on memorable camp adventures like his brainchild month-long Western Tour. When many faced hardships and doubts after high school, Mal’s actions of grace and truth demonstrated to them a God who would never let them go. In 2020 a book was written about Mal’s distinctive principles of ministry entitled Friends for Life: Mal McSwain’s Ministry of Accompaniment.
Mal was born in Shelby, NC on July 2, 1935, graduating from Shelby High School in 1953 and Davidson College (where he majored in history and played basketball) in 1957. Mal came to faith in Christ through Young Life in his sophomore year at Shelby High, and in 1951 he met Young Life founder and future mentor Jim Rayburn. At Frontier Ranch in Colorado, under the influence of Rayburn and others like Andrew Delaney over the next six summers, Mal felt the call to attend Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. It was in Colorado at Young Life Institute in 1957 that Mal met Wanda, the love of his life. When the two wed in 1958, a ministry team was forged that would model for over 64 years an inside-out priority of marriage and family over vocation.
For Mal and Wanda, ministry was a lifestyle, so even after leaving their fifty-year career with Young Life in 2008, they never really retired. Some of their richest years of friendship and ministry alongside others in Atlanta, their home since 1967, came in the next decade. Mal and Wanda’s move to North Carolina in 2016 afforded them more time to connect with friends from Charlotte, where Mal started the first Young Life club at Myers Park High while a student at Davidson (1956), and where he and Wanda returned to lead the area ministry after graduating from seminary in 1961.
During his earthly sojourn, Mal was by all accounts an outstanding person. This is reflected in awards such as outstanding senior at Shelby High, one of the “5 Outstanding Young Men of Charlotte” (1965), and one of the “5 Outstanding Young Men of Atlanta” (1970). He held many leadership positions (including Vice President) with Young Life over the years. Seemingly unaffected by accolades or titles, Mal’s disposition was consistently one of humility, generosity and love, always growing in his relationship with Jesus and focusing on Wanda, his family and others.
Mal is survived by his wife Wanda, son Jeff McSwain and daughter-in-law Susan McSwain (Durham), and daughter Melissa Gully (Cedar Springs, MI), along with grandchildren Emily McSwain, Caroline McSwain Ryskiewich and husband Alex, Malissa McSwain, David McSwain, Sam Gully, Emmett Gully, and Olivia Gully. Mal wanted his body donated to science.
A service celebrating Mal’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, October 14th at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, with a reception following. All are welcome; for those who are not able to attend in person, the service will be livestreamed (for details go to In lieu of flowers, tax-deductible memorial gifts in honor of Mal may be made to the new retreat center vision at or mailed to Experience Reality Inc., 309 Northwood Circle, Durham, NC, 27701