John Richard Griffin, extraordinary, special, intelligent, respectful, thoughtful, grateful, modest, determined, devoted, courageous, strong-willed, eternally optimistic – that’s how anyone who knew Richard would describe him.
Born on September 23, 1914 at Crew Lake, Louisiana in Richland Parish
Griffin was born the youngest of three boys, to Eugene H. and Jessie Boucher Griffin. He went to be with his Lord on January 26th, 2020 in Sarepta, LA. His father died when he was two and one-half years old and his mother moved them to a 120-acre farm near Start, a small community located in Richland Parish in northeast Louisiana. His Uncle Will Griffin, his father’s brother, helped the family survive.
His father and his brothers were jacks of all trades – they could carpenter, cook, cut hair, farm, work on the railroad, manage very large farms for big landowners, treat sick cows and horses and do just about anything else they turned their hands to. Growing up on a farm taught Richard that hard work and planning were the basics necessary for survival. Chores didn’t come with “his” or “her” labels.
They learned to do anything and everything from keeping a clean and orderly home, cooking, sewing, tilling the soil and marketing the produce, to taking care of the farm animals (horses, mules, cows, hogs, chickens, etc.). They raised several crops for sale and most of what they ate. Life on the farm was hard, but there was also some fun time. They played games, participated in sports and read for learning and for pleasure. There were community dances attended by whole families, community hog killings with a big barbecue following and, of course, country weddings and funerals.
His mother was a fun-loving person and she sometimes rode the almost-grown calves with him and his brothers. On Sundays, they, as a family, attended services at the Methodist church (Crew Lake Methodist), although he often visited other nearby churches, both black and white, where he was welcomed anytime he showed up. His mother died when he was 16. He regretted that she never got to know his children and they never got to know their grandmother.
1934 Graduate of Start High School
In 1934, he graduated from Start High School. In 1936, he went to work for International Paper Company in Bastrop, was transferred to the Camden, AR mill in 1938 and then to the Springhill mill in 1939. That same year, on July 1, he married the love of his life, Vasser Singletary, a young teacher who grew up on a farm located north of Rayville, approximately three miles, as the crow flies, from his home place in Start. He and Vasser chose to live in Sarepta because it was similar to the area where they grew up. It was also downwind from the mill.
Richard loved music, gardening, animals and enjoyed spending time with family and friends. In 1942, he had to leave his wife and a new baby girl named Vasser Catherine behind in Sarepta while he served our country in the newly created Army Air Force. Like many of Sarepta’s men and women, he traveled and saw and learned a lot about the rest of the world during that time.
In 1946, he returned to Sarepta and resumed his work at the paper mill, got to know his family again, did a little gardening, bought a milk cow, played some dominoes and fathered a son named John Richard Griffin, Jr.
He was content to be “a small frog in a small pond.”
However, because Sarepta was not incorporated, some of the citizens who had experienced more modern amenities from the war front and workforce, began to research who and what it would take to incorporate. To put it bluntly, not many homes even had running water and indoor toilets. Each homeowner had his own water well of sorts and disposed of waste and wastewater as he or she chose.
Governor Kennon Appoints Griffin as first Mayor of Sarepta
On July 1, 1955, the Governor of Louisiana (Kennen) appointed Richard to be the first mayor of the Village of Sarepta shortly after it was incorporated. In 1964, when Mr. Griffin left office after nine years as mayor, much had been accomplished, including a new municipal building, a public water system, street lights, a city park with baseball diamonds and room for other activities, a new post office, a new subdivision, up-to-date grocery store and a branch of the Minden Bank and Trust. Mr. Griffin was proud to have the opportunity to take part in the accomplishments of the village of Sarepta during this period.
In 1976, he retired from International Paper Company after almost 41 years of service. Then he ran for mayor again and served another two and one-half years as mayor of Sarepta. In addition, he served as a board member on the Webster Parish Council of Aging, four years as district board member for the Louisiana Association of the Council on Aging and two years as vice president of the Louisiana Association of the Council on Aging. Then he served one year as Commander of the Springhill Banks-Strong American Legion Post No. 166.
Richard was preceded in death by his wife Vasser, daughter Vasser Catherine, son John Richard Jr., brothers, parents and grandparents. He is survived by a son-in-law, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren as well as cousins, nieces and nephews. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather and will be greatly missed.
Visitation will be held at Bailey Funeral Home on Friday, January 30th from 5-7 PM. With funeral services taking place on Friday, January 31st at 1:00 PM at Bailey Funeral Home. Interment will follow the service in Old Sarepta Cemetery under the direction of Bailey Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Richard’s memory to the charity of your choice. – Obituary
News clips of interest covering Griffin’s 105 years.
Start High School To Graduate Nine
The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana. 25 May 1935, Sat • Page 1
The Senior Class of the Start High School will hold their graduating exercises next Wednesday evening. May 29th, at 8 o’clock. The class is composed of nine members, as follows: Myrtle Aulds Moore, Nobie Taylor, Nellie Lyons, Virginia Means, Aubry Hinton, Richard Griffin, Theo. Griffin, Othneil Mitchell and Eunice B. Halley.
This is probably the largest graduating class the Start High School has turned out and is representative of the remarkable growth this institution has made in recent years. Myrtle Aulds Moore will deliver the valedictory address, and Eunice B. Halley will deliver the salutatory. Hon. Warren H. Hunt, local attorney, will deliver the commencement address, and Dr. D. R. Hinton, member of the Richland Parish School Board from ward three, will present the diplomas. The baccalaureate sermon will be delivered Sunday, May 26th, at 11 a. m. Rev. Williams, of Alto, will make the address, which will be in the high school auditorium. On Wednesday afternoon, about 1 o’clock, the seventh grade will hold their graduating exercises. We are unable to obtain a list of the graduates at this time.The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana. 25 May 1935, Sat • Page 1
The Richland Beacon-News. Rayville, Louisiana, 22 Jul 1939, Sat • Page 3
A wedding of interest to a large circle of friends of the popular young couple was that of Miss Blanche Sin- gletary to Mr. Richard Griffin, which was solemnized in Bastrop on Saturday, July 1st. Only a few intimate friends were present at the ceremony. The bride is the elder daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. R. Sineletarv.
She is a graduate of the Rayville high school and the Louisiana State Normal College, and since leaving college, has been engaged in teaching in Richland parish as a member of the faculty of the Holly Ridge grammar school. The groom is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Griffin, of the Wynn Island community. He is an ambitious young man, and holds a responsible position with the big paper mill at Springhill, La., where the young couple will make their future home.The Richland Beacon-News. Rayville, Louisiana, 22 Jul 1939, Sat • Page 3
W.L. “Will” Griffin Funeral Rites (Richard Griffin’s Uncle, Who Helped Raise Richard)
The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana. 14 Jul 1951, Sat • Page 4
GRIFFIN RITES Funeral services for W. L. Griffin, 80-year-old life long resident of Rich- land Parish who died last Friday were held at the Crew Lake Methodist Church Saturday at 2 p. m.. Rev. Cagle and Rev. J. S. Deal officiated. Interment was in the New Salem cemetery. Surviving are one brother, B. F. of Malvern, Ark.; two sisters-in-laws, Mrs. B. F. Griffin, of Malvern and Mrs. John R. Griffin of Monroe. Pallbearers were Hamp Henry, Henry Cole, Archie Fuller, Walter Fuller, Garrett Sullivan, Jim Hill, Garland Head, Edward Lyons. Honorary pallbearers were close friends of the family.The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana. 14 Jul 1951, Sat • Page 4
Mayor Richard Griffin Checks Vote Lists
The Shreveport Journal, Shreveport, Louisiana. 26 Mar 1960, Sat • Page 9
City Hall Dedicated In Sarepta
The Times, Shreveport, Louisiana. 28 Oct 1963, Mon • Page 18
SAREPTA – The town of Sarepta drew high praise Sunday tor its rapid development as some 3.50 persons gathered for the dedication of the new city hall. Shreveport Mayor Clyde Fant, the principal speaker for the dedication, said the new building was “one of the finest city halls I have ever seen.” Government officials from throughout the area were present for the dedication, along with state officials and Louisiana Municipal Association dignitaries.
Fant spoke on home rule and government in his dedicatory address. Heading up local officials at the dedication was Sarepta Mayor Richard Griffin. Sarepta was incorporated in 1955, and Fant noted that a new community center and bank have been built in addition to the city hall. The town has also developed its water and sewer systems. Mayor Frank Norman of Min- den, first vice president of the Louisiana Municipal Association, introduced municipal officials present from the area. In addition to Mayor Griffin, council members include E. Felix Cochran, J. Hollis Houston, and A. L. Rice.The Times, Shreveport, Louisiana. 28 Oct 1963, Mon • Page 18