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Samuel Marvin Griffin, Sr. (September 4, 1907 – June 13, 1982) was an American politician from the U.S. state of Georgia.

Marvin Griffin
Marvingriffin.gif
72nd Governor of Georgia
In office
January 11, 1955 – January 13, 1959
LieutenantErnest Vandiver
Preceded byHerman Talmadge
Succeeded byErnest Vandiver
2nd Lieutenant Governor of Georgia
In office
November 17, 1948 – January 11, 1955
GovernorHerman Talmadge
Preceded byMelvin E. Thompson
Succeeded byErnest Vandiver
Member of the Georgia General Assembly
In office
1934–1936
Personal details
Born
Samuel Marvin Griffin

(1907-09-04)September 4, 1907
Bainbridge, Georgia, U.S.
DiedJune 13, 1982(1982-06-13) (aged 74)
Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Mary Elizabeth "Lib" Smith
Laura Jane Gibson "Lollie"
ChildrenPatricia Ann Griffin (daughter)
Samuel Marvin Griffin, Jr. (son)
Alma materThe Citadel
ProfessionNewspaper publisher
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/serviceSeal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service1941–1947
RankUS Army O7 shoulderboard rotated.svg Brigadier general
Unit Georgia National Guard
CommandsAdjutant General of Georgia
Battles/warsWorld War II

A lifelong Democrat, Griffin was a native of Bainbridge, Georgia and publisher of the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight. He served as the 72nd Governor of Georgia from 1955 to 1959, where he supported educational segregation and opposed the integration of Georgia schools. After the end of his gubernatorial tenure, he returned to his native Bainbridge and entered the real estate business, helping to found the Bainbridge College in 1970. He worked on the college's board of directors and died from lung cancer in 1982.

Contents

Early life and educationEdit

Griffin was born in Bainbridge, Georgia and graduated from The Citadel in 1929. At The Citadel, Griffin was a battalion commander and also played on the baseball team.[1] He taught in Virginia for a short time before moving back to Bainbridge.[1]

CareerEdit

Georgia assembly and cabinetEdit

In 1934, Griffin, a lifelong Democrat, was elected to the Georgian general assembly. Two years later, he failed in an attempt to be elected to the House of Representatives. After that, he served in the administration of Governor Eurith D. Rivers, rising to the post of executive secretary. He also owned the Bainbridge radio station, WMGR, which was established in the late 1940s. The call sign was for Marvin Griffin Radio.

Military serviceEdit

When the United States entered World War II, Griffin commanded a Georgia National Guard anti-aircraft battery sent to New Guinea. Griffin was a major for most of World War II and was honorably discharged as a lieutenant colonel in 1944. The next day, Governor Ellis Arnall appointed Griffin adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, where he served until 1947. During his tenure as adjutant general, Griffin was a brigadier general in the Georgia National Guard.[1]

Lieutenant Governor of GeorgiaEdit

Griffin became the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia to win office in a special election, in 1948. The first person elected as Georgia's lieutenant governor was Melvin E. Thompson, who took office in January 1947, but also claimed the office of governor after the death of Governor-elect Eugene Talmadge in December 1946. Griffin was elected to a full term in 1950.

Governor of GeorgiaEdit

1954 electionEdit

Griffin was seen as the successor to Governor Herman Talmadge, and he won the governorship in 1954 before runoff elections were required in Georgia. Griffin received a plurality of 36.3 percent of the ballots cast. Melvin E. Thompson, Griffin's predecessor as lieutenant governor, trailed with 25.1 percent.[2] Another primary candidate was the later Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. As governor, Griffin was a staunch segregationist. He spoke out against the Brown v. Board of Education decision and pledged to keep Georgia's schools segregated "come hell or high water."[3]

Springhill mining disasterEdit

In 1958, Griffin, who was a segregationist and accused of being racist, took advantage of the intense media coverage surrounding the Springhill mining disaster in Springhill, Nova Scotia, Canada to promote tourism to his state by offering a group of survivors free vacations to Jekyll Island. However, to the segregationist governor's chagrin, one of the rescued miners was black, resulting in a public relations nightmare.[4]

1956 Sugar BowlEdit

Much controversy preceded the 1956 Sugar Bowl, where the Pitt Panthers, including African-American player Bobby Grier, were scheduled to meet the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. There was controversy over whether Grier should be allowed to play, and whether Georgia Tech should even play at all due to Governor Griffin's opposition to integration.[5] In anticipation of Bobby Grier's presence, in December 1955, Griffin publicly sent a telegram to his state's Board of Regents. Griffin implored teams from Georgia not to engage in racially integrated events which had black citizens either as participants or as spectators.

A large contingent from the New Orleans community, as well as many related to Georgia Tech, openly fought to bar either Grier, Pitt, or the Yellow Jacket team from the game. However, students and football players from the Atlanta-based school, civil rights leaders, as well as a large number of the Pitt community, succeeded in ensuring that the game took place.

Corruption chargesEdit

Griffin's term was marred by charges of corruption. According to Atlanta historian Frederick Allen, Griffin was "a man of prodigious charm and wit and also one of the most corrupt public officials ever to hold office in Georgia."[citation needed] Several administration members were found guilty of crimes and Griffin was investigated in 1960 by a grand jury, which returned no true bills.

1962 electionEdit

In 1962, Griffin ran once more for governor but lost in the primary to a moderate candidate, Carl Sanders. Griffin received 332,746 votes (39 percent) to Sanders' 494,978 (58.7 percent).[2][6] Part of the factor in Griffin's defeat was the abolishment of the county unit system, though one study found that Sanders would have won even if the county unit system had still been in place.[2][7] Thereafter, Griffin largely retired from politics. After his loss, Griffin commented, "I retired for reasons of health: the voters were sick and tired of me."[1]

In the 1966 gubernatorial race, Griffin supported Democratic nominee Lester Maddox, an Atlanta businessman known for his segregationist views. Maddox's opponent, Republican U.S. Representative Howard Callaway, had supported Griffin in the latter's 1962 campaign. As the publisher of the Post Searchlight in Bainbridge, Griffin at first indicated that he would repay Callaway for the earlier support, but he instead held firm for Maddox. "I consider Bo Callaway one of my best friends, but I can't go with him in the governor's race," Griffin said.[citation needed] Conversely, former Governor Ernest Vandiver, who as lieutenant governorfrom 1955 to 1959 had frequently quarreled with Governor Griffin, dismissed Maddox as "a pipsqueak" and endorsed Callaway.[8]

In 1968, Griffin was a stand-in candidate for Vice President of the United States on George C. Wallace's American Independent Party ticket. Griffin was thereafter replaced in the second slot by United States Air Force General Curtis LeMay although Griffin's name stayed on the ballot in 27 states, mostly concentrated in the Midwest.[9]

Later life and deathEdit

In 1946, Griffin's 14-year-old daughter, Patricia Ann Griffin, died in the Winecoff Hotel fire.[10]

After the end of his gubernatorial tenure, Griffin returned to his hometown of Bainbridge and went into the real estate business. His first wife died in 1970, and Griffin, who was devastated by her death, remarried to Laura Jane Gibson.[11] Griffin and his second wife both led active lives. He helped to found Bainbridge College in 1970, where classes began in 1973. He was a leading advocate and member of the college's board of directors. He also oversaw and directed the Decatur County Sesquicentennial in 1973, at which Georgia governor and future President Jimmy Carter was the honored guest. A lifelong smoker, Griffin was diagnosed with lung cancer, the disease which would eventually kill him, in the early 1980s. He was heartbroken by the death of his second wife, who also passed away from lung cancer, and died on June 13, 1982, less than a week after her death.[11]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Buchanan, Scott E. (2011). Some of the People Who Ate My Barbecue Didn't Vote for Me: The Life of Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin. Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 978-0-8265-1759-3.
  2. ^ a b c Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, p. 1677
  3. ^ The Strategists. Time magazine, July 12, 1954. Quote:Lieut. Governor S. Marvin Griffin of Atlanta: let city and county school boards assign each student to a school. Griffin also suggested a residency requirement to keep "foreign agitators" out of the state. "Social equality," said he, "is impossible. The schools are not going to be mixed come hell or high water."
  4. ^ Fay Greene, Melissa (2004). Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster. Harvest Books. ISBN 978-0-15-602957-5.
  5. ^ Mulé, Marty – A Time For Change: Bobby Grier And The 1956 Sugar Bowl Archived June 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Black Athlete Sports Network, December 28, 2005
  6. ^ Bullock, Charles S.; Hood, M. V. (2015). "The Damnedest Mess: An Empirical Evaluation of the 1966 Georgia Gubernatorial Election". Social Science Quarterly. 96 (1): 105. doi:10.1111/ssqu.12132. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  7. ^ Buchanan, Scott E. (1997). "The Effects of the Abolition of the Georgia County‐Unit System on the 1962 Gubernatorial Election". Politics and Policy. 25 (4): 687. doi:10.1111/j.1747-1346.1997.tb00462.x.
  8. ^ Billy Hathorn, "The Frustration of Opportunity: Georgia Republicans and the 1966 Election", Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South, XXXI (Winter 1987-1988), p. 42
  9. ^ David Leip, "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections", https://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?year=1968&f=0&off=0&elect=0
  10. ^ Heys, Sam; Goodwin, Allen B. The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America's Deadliest Hotel Fire.
  11. ^ a b Buchanan, Scott E. (2011). Some of the People who Ate My Barbecue Didn't Vote for Me: The Life of Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin. Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 9780826517616.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Melvin E. Thompson
Lieutenant Governor of Georgia
November 17, 1948 – January 11, 1955
Succeeded by
Ernest Vandiver, Jr.
Preceded by
Herman Talmadge
Governor of Georgia
January 11, 1955 – January 13, 1959