Jean Donald Swiggett was born in Franklin, Indiana. Swiggett first studied at the Chouinard Institute of Fine Arts, Los Angeles from 1930 to 1931. He then moved to the San Diego State College where he graduated with an A.B. in 1934. He went on to receive his MFA from the University of Southern California in 1939. During this time, he became involved in the California art scene and received prizes and recognition for his paintings. Swiggett became involved in WPA projects in Indiana and in California. His major mural projects in his home state were commissions received in 1939 for the Ada County Courthouse, Boise Indiana and the Franklin, Indiana United States Post Office. In California, he executed murals for the University of Southern California and the Polytech High School in Long Beach.
Swiggett participated in exhibits throughout California. He took part in the Golden Gate Exposition on 1939. He also exhibited regularly at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1935 to 1941, and again in 1946. Swiggett won prizes for his work at the art exhibitions of both the California State Fair, Sacremento and the Los Angeles County Fair, Pomona in 1938. Swiggett continued to exhibit and receive awards throughout California for his work up into the 1970s, including the California State Exposition Art Exhibition in 1972 and annual exhibitions at the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery in 1971 and 1972.
As a mark of recognition Swiggett was invited to become an assistant drawing teacher at the University of Southern California in 1940. He went on to being a painting instructor at Washington State College until 1942. He then became a professor of painting and drawing at the California State University, San Diego from 1946 until his death in 1990. These teaching positions kept Swiggett abreast of new ideas and materials as well as an assured living with some influence and position within California's art scene. His work is in the collections of the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego.