Obituary Details

James "Jim" B. Griffith Sr.

(12/31/1880 - 09/05/1962)
Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 09/13/1962

Jim Griffith, Colorful Former Herald Publisher, Dies in Lusk Last Wednesday

James B. Griffith, Sr., 81, publisher of the Lusk Herald for 30 years and through his vigorous and colorful leadership in Republican politics for over two decades one of Wyoming's best known men, died in the Spencer Hospital last Wednesday evening about 9:30.

He had been in the hospital since Monday before for removal of a cyst but was planning to return home Thursday. Death was the result of a general deterioration since a heart attack in 1958.

Funeral services were held Saturday afternoon at 2:00 from the Peet Chapel and burial was in the Lusk Cemetery.

Mr. Griffith was born December 31, 1880 near Ironton, Ohio to Amos and Mary Griffith. His family moved to the blue grass region of Kentucky when he was young. His father, a life-long Republican, had gone through the Civil War on the Union side and was prominent in Kentucky politics for a generation.

J. B. was the third youngest of a family of seven sons and one daughter. Three other brothers gained positions of high recognition in the printing and publishing industry. C. H. Griffith was vice-president of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in charge of typography. Louis, for many years was with the Inland Printer, and earlier as a ship's printer visited almost every country in the world. A third, D. H. had charge of the printing department of the University of Kentucky and lectured there in journalism.

Self Educated

Jim Griffith never completed a formal eighth grade education, and at 19 left home to begin a wide experience in printing and publishing. Newspapers on which he worked included the Lexington Leader, Lexington Herald, Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Sentinel, Greenfield (Ind.) Democrat, Pittsburgh Gazette, Pittsburgh Post, Louisville Courier-Journal, Wheeling (Va.) Register, Columbus (Ohio) Citizen, Cincinnati Inquirer, Cincinnati Times-Star and Post, Nashville Tennessean, Memphis Scimitar, Memphis Commercial-Appeal, a Jackson Miss. Paper, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis County Watchman-Advocate.

It was while working as linotype operator at Mitchell Printing Co. in Greenfield, Ind., publisher of James Whitcomb Riley books, that he became well acquainted with the famous poet and often discussed work with him over a mint julep or old fashioned. He also worked for the Bobbs-Merrill Co. in Indianapolis, Publishers of many college text books, histories, geographies, and novels by famous authors. While on the Courier-Journal he worked under "Marse" Henry Watterson, one of the now legendary editors of the Old South.

Mr. Griffith and Myrtle Woodyard were married about 1900 in Kentucky. She died September 21, 1921 in Casper.

To Wyoming in 1914

In 1914 he first came to Wyoming working on the Natrona County Tribune, now the Casper Tribune-Herald. He was associated with the Hanways when they established the Tribune in 1916 and for many years was mechanical superintendent and later wrote editorials and features. In 1926 he and J. E. Hanway went to Laredo Tex., on the Laredo Times but a year later Mr. Griffith was back in Wyoming.

He married the widow, Nellie Agnew, in April 1926 and after returning from Texas they took over The Lusk Herald with which she had been associated for several years. He was active publisher until 1939 when he was appointed to the position of State Land Commissioner and moved to Cheyenne. In 1941 Gerald Bardo became his managing editor and two years later joined the Griffiths as a partner.

Following the death of Nellie Griffith in May 1955, Mr. Griffith retired from the business and turned his interests over to his son, Jim Griffith Jr., who is now co-publisher with Bardo. However, J. B. Sr. has continued to return to the shop when in Lusk and help with the linotype work, and as recently as last summer set much of the type for the historical section of the Diamond Jubilee edition of the Herald.

Jim Griffith's interests in politics and its many ramifications began early, and he first applied them in participation in labor movements. In fact, he took pride in his long membership in the Typographical unions. He was a personal friend of the late Samuel Gompers, founder and for many years president of the American Federation of Labor, who appointed him to an important post in the 1908 AF of L convention.

He was a strong advocate of arbitration and conciliation in labor disputes, was a member of several important boards of arbitration which settled strikes of national scope including a big brewery workers strike in St. Louis.

For several terms he was president of the Casper Typographical Union No. 735, and of the Casper Trades and Labor Assembly. Also while in Casper he served as Natrona County commissioner.

G.O.P. Chairman in 1938

Soon after becoming publisher of The Lusk Herald, Mr. Griffith also became identified with local and state politics. His potent editorials became widely quoted and through the years he was involved in many editorial battles over politics.

He served many years as state committeeman from Niobrara County, was elected secretary of the Republican State Central Committee in 1936 and in 1938 became Republican State Chairman to head the successful campaign of Nels Smith for governor against Leslie A. Miller. He served as state chairman through Smith's tenure of four years, and attended several national G.O.P. conventions. In the 1960 election the Republican party honored him by designating him one of Wyoming's three presidential electors.

He served as State Land Commissioner during Smith's term from 1939 to 1942, then returned to Lusk to be actively engaged in The Herald again until 1953 when he was appointed director and organized the newly established Cigarette Tax Division. He served there until 1958. The Division was incorporated in the Department of Revenue the following year.

Served Lusk Well

During the time he lived in Lusk he served in many other capacities than political. He was at one time a member of the Fair Board, president and long member of The Lusk Lions Club, past master of Harmony Masonic Lodge, member of Korein Temple of the Shrine, Rawlins. He was a member of the committee that raised funds and built the Congregational Church in 1931, although he did not become an actual member until many years later. He was one of the organizers of and a member of the Board of Directors of the Stockman's National Bank of Lusk.

He was a vice-president of the National Editorial Association, and president of the Wyoming Press Association. For many years he was considered "dean" of Wyoming newspapers.

Mr. Griffith had a very active interest in the preserving of western history. He was a life member of the Oregon Trail Association, spent many months locating and erecting a monument at the site of the Buffalo Bill-Yellow Hand dual, and was the prime mover in building the George Lathrop Monument two miles west of Lusk.

Mr. Griffith married Mabel Edmondson August 29, 1957. He became a member of the Episcopal Church with her. They established a winter home at Youngstown, Ariz., but continued to spend summers in Lusk.

Surviving besides his widow are four daughters; Mrs. Dorothy Fitzwater, Tucson, Ariz. Mrs. Mary Bruner, Washington, D.C.; Mrs. Lyle M. Tysor, Cheyenne; Mrs. Robert F. Canady, Arlington, Va.; one son Jim Griffith Jr., Lusk; 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were conducted by the Rev. Theodore Foster of St. George's Episcopal Church. Music was provided by Mrs. J. P. Watson, organist, and a quartet composed of Mrs. Walter Fernau, Mrs. Robert Bramlet, Harry Lyon and Dr. Richard Collins. Masonic rites were conducted at the grave by Hugh Bower, Casper, Grand Master of Wyoming.

Pall bearers were U.S. Judge Ewing T. Kerr, Cheyenne; Lewis Bates former editor of the Wyoming State Tribune in Cheyenne; Gerald Bardo; Walter Fernau, staff member of the Herald for 30 years; Earl M. Criss; and Max t. Bird.

Honorary pallbearers were former Gov. Nels Smith, Sundance; Repuplican National Committeeman, Harry Thorson. Newcastle; former Atty. Gen Thomas O. Miller, Cheyenne; William (Scotty) Jack and Walter Hudson, members of the State Board of Equalization; Dr. Francis E. Barrett, T. Joe Cahill, Russell Thorp, State Examiner, Norris Hartwell, Glen Cates, C. P. Owens and Richard Luman deputy State Treasurer, all of Cheyenne; Ed McClean of Hardin, Mont., former Wyoming revenue director; Judge Vernon Bently, and State Se. Andrew McMaster, C. E. Marvin, George Earl Peet, Roscoe Kilmer, Hans Gautschi, Dale M. Bardo, Joe Kuhn, James E. Barrett, Roy Chamberlain, Dr. Walter E. Reckling, J. P. Watson, George Dixon, Huck Baldwin, Glenn Willson, and George Kuns of Lusk.

Images & Attachments

James B. Griffith Sr.
James B. Griffith Sr.

Gravestone photos courtesy of Joshua Brackett's Eagle Scout Project

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