Editor’s note: Sen. Robert Griffin, RIP
If you hit 91, there’s a risk that you’ll outlive the news value of your obituary.
That shouldn’t happen to former U.S. Sen. Bob Griffin, who died last week at that age at his home in Traverse City.
The Michigan Republican served his state with distinction in the Senate, and after that sat for a term on the state Supreme Court.
As a loyal member of the GOP, it’s ironic that Griffin’s Senate tenure is perhaps most remembered for a letter he wrote to his old friend Richard Nixon, as his presidency was collapsing, urging him to resign before impeachment.
He also led the filibuster of President Lyndon Johnson’s attempt to name his old buddy Abe Fortas as chief of the U.S. Supreme Court, considered the opening round of the judicial appointment blockades that continue today. Fortas later resigned from the court in an ethics scandal, so Griffin inadvertently spared LBJ some embarrassment.
He also co-authored landmark legislation to protect workers rights against union strong-arming.
Griffin, a Detroit native, served 10 years in the House from a west Michigan district before being appointed to the Senate by Gov. George Romney to fill the vacancy created by Patrick McNamara’s death.
He served two terms, fending off tough challenges from former Gov. Soapy Williams and former Attorney General Frank Kelley, and initially opted not to seek a third term in 1978. But he waffled and launched a late campaign that fizzled against Carl Levin, whose career just ended in retirement.
Google his name today and the first several pages are filled with links to stories about Robert Griffin III, the professional football player. It takes a while before you get to Sen. Griffin.
Though Griffin has been out of the public spotlight for 20 years, in his time he was a political powerhouse in Michigan who should not be so quickly forgotten.