Wednesday, January 07, 2009

In memoriam, Griffin B. Bell, 1918-2009

The Russell Library mourns the loss of Griffin Bell, one of Georgia's most respected, influential, and beloved legal and political figures.

Griffin Boyette Bell was born October 31, 1918, in Sumter County, Georgia. After attending Georgia Southwestern College for a time, Bell left to work in his father's tire store in Americus. He was drafted in 1942, serving in the Army Quartermaster Corps and the Transportation Corps at Fort Lee, Virginia. Upon his discharge in 1946, he enrolled in Mercer University Law School, and became city attorney of Warner Robins before graduating or passing the Georgia bar exam. Following his graduation he worked in Savannah and Rome before joining in 1953 what would become King and Spalding in Atlanta. His interest in politics led to his appointment to chief of staff for Governor Ernest Vandiver and his subsequent involvement with the Sibley Commission, organized to oversee desegregation of Georgia's public schools. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed Bell to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and he spent 14 years on the bench, returning to King and Spalding only to be nominated U.S. Attorney General by Jimmy Carter in 1976. He served in that position from 1977 to 1979, returning to Atlanta to practice law. He led investigations of E.F. Hutton in 1985 and the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, and also served on the Commission of Federal Ethics Law Reform at the request of President George H.W. Bush. Griffin Bell died January 5, 2009. He was ninety years old.

In 2004 the Russell Library asked political writer Bill Shipp to
interview Griffin Bell. Click here to view this interview.
Article by Craig Breaden

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