David Swank was born in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and raised in Stillwater. He earned his B.A. at OSU where upon graduation, he was awarded the Drummond sabre as the outstanding ROTC graduate. After graduation, he entered the U.S. Army, serving in the 11th and 101st Airborne Divisions and Special Forces. He received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma.
He practiced law in Stillwater with his father and brothers and then served as the Payne County Attorney. In 1963, he moved to Norman where he became an assistant professor of law at OU. Over the next half-century at OU, he served as the legal counsel, the director of clinical legal education, associate dean, dean, director of the law center and the interim president of the university. For his distinguished service and teaching, he was named a David Ross Boyd Professor of Law. Earning many honors for academic service and teaching, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2011.
While at OU, he established the Cleveland County Legal Aid Office, wrote the Oklahoma Discovery code and was the principal drafter of the Oklahoma Code of Judicial Conduct. For his service as an attorney, he received the Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Outstanding Service Award, the Oklahoma Bar Association outstanding performance and significant contribution award, and twice receiving the Oklahoma Bar Association’s President Award for outstanding service.
In athletics at OU, he was the faculty representative to the Big Eight Conference and the NCAA. He was the chair of the conference twice and for seven years, he served as vice president of the NCAA. He chaired the NCAA Infractions Committee for nine years and was a member of the NCAA Executive Committee for two years.
Presently, he is the dean emeritus and David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus at the OU College of Law. Swank believes in long-term commitments, having been happily married to his wife, Ann, for 66 years. However, their commitment goes back further since they dated for five years before they were married. They have two children, David II and Ami, and two grandchildren.