Sen. Robert Griffin, 1923-2015
When Sen. Robert Griffin died on April 17, much of the news coverage that followed focused on his filibuster against the nomination of Abe Fortas to be chief justice of the United States and his political alliance with Gerald Ford, a fellow Michigan Republican who rose through the House ranks to become minority leader, vice president and eventually president after Richard M. Nixon resigned.
Lost in the ether, perhaps, was the Griffin who was an indefatigable partisan for his home of Traverse City, Mich., particularly its signature event, the National Cherry Festival. This certainly comes through in a CQ Roll Call photo from the archives. Griffin, who was elected to five terms in the House from 1956 to 1964 before being appointed to the Senate in 1966, was a good sport as he allowed Julie Ann Hamilton, the 1968 festival’s National Cherry Queen, to feed him the fruit by hand.
Griffin got his children into the act when he ran for a full term in the Senate in 1966, as can be seen in this archive photo taken in Griffin’s Bethesda, Md., home. He won that race, and another in 1972 and rose to become Senate minority whip. He was defeated by Carl Levin, D-Mich., in 1978.
Griffin’s friendship with Ford sometimes found its way into the news of the day when Griffin was in leadership and Ford occupied the Oval Office. Riffing on a stumble Ford took that led to jokes about the president’s clumsiness (most pointedly from a new program on NBC called “Saturday Night Live”), Griffin gave it back to the media at a Republican Party event, the old United Press International wire service reported. “Griffin said he found it amusing to see ‘chain smoking, stoop-shouldered columnists and cartoonists’ to be making fun of the president’s athletic capabilities and believed ‘the people have reacted to this stumble bum campaign by saying if that’s all they can criticize Jerry Ford for then he must be doing a good job.'”
Funeral services for Griffin will be held Tuesday at noon at the First Congregational Church in Traverse City, Mich.
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