Mack Buckley Swearingen was a native of Mississippi and received his B.A. there from Millsaps College. He studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He taught history at Elmira College for 24 years until 1966, then at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio for two years. From 1955 to 1957 he taught in Turkey on a Rockefeller Foundation grant.