Griffin had been in declining health for several years but finished out his term as a council member last fall after having served 17 years.
In a message informing City of Groveland employees, City Manager Mike Hein said, “In a time when it seems people are quick to draw lines and find ways to differentiate themselves from others, Councilman Griffin showed us how we are better off working to find commonalities and shared purpose,” adding “To the end, he was full of grace.”
Griffin was a Groveland native, born Oct. 30, 1944. He attended Edgewood Elementary School in Groveland and was one of the first graduates of Lincoln Park High School in Clermont. He served in the U.S. Army from 1965-1967, where he developed his talent for graphic design. After serving in the military, he was a drummer in a popular band called the TCB Express. He played for 14 years with longtime Groveland friend, Joey Gilmore. More recently, he devoted his talents to playing in praise bands at several south Lake County churches.
Griffin was a successful cattle rancher and was founder and president of Tamjo Signs. He had a lifelong love of history and was one of the area’s most respected authorities on black and Seminole history, lecturing across the state. He was a close friend of tribal leaders. For years, he played the role of a Seminole warrior at the annual Dade Battlefield Re-enactment.
Among his many other interests were collecting comic books and a lifelong fascination with the American Wild West and cowboys.
But it was his love of family and community where Griffin found his true devotion. He took pride in representing all people and encouraged kindness and inclusiveness. During the 17 years he served on the city council, including as vice mayor, he supported many initiatives and improvements, including: the James Wyche Senior Center, the John Wesley Griffin playground, the David Blanks playground, the Ronald Gaffney dog park, the Elese Tomlin Community Center, Eagle Ridge Shoppes, the Trilogy development and the Groveland Historical Museum.
Last October, the City of Groveland honored Griffin with a reception, where he was presented commemorative plaques from the Groveland Police Department and Groveland Historical Society. Congressman Daniel Webster presented Griffin with an American flag that had flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Former Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam sent a letter of commendation, and the city presented Griffin with a virtual Honor Flight to the nation’s capital.
Griffin’s fellow Council members expressed sorrow upon learning of his death:
“Mr. Griffin set an example for all to follow, especially when it comes to serving others,” said Mayor Evelyn Wilson.
“It was a privilege to serve with Mr. Griffin,” said Vice Mayor Mike Radzik, who worked with Griffin on a number of projects, including the Elese Tomlin Community Center. “Our hearts and prayers are with his wife and family. His passing is a loss to our entire community.”
“I appreciated Mr. Griffin’s support for the veterans in our community,” said Council Member Dina Sweatt. “He was compassionate and wanted peace for everyone.”
“I extend my sincere sympathy to the Griffin family. John Griffin was untiring in his efforts to improve the lives of others in the Groveland community. We have lost a friend and an invaluable link to the city’s history,” said Council Member Mike Smith.
Council Member Jeff Shoobridge, who was elected to Griffin’s vacant seat said, “I am deeply saddened to learn of Mr. Griffin’s passing. I had the utmost respect for him and am dedicated to living up to his legacy.”
In addition to his wife, Laverne, Griffin is survived by his daughters, Joanie Griffin and Tamu Griffin; his adopted son, Joseph Griffin; his stepson, Mike Dozier and brother, Sam Griffin (Alice).